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One of my favorite things about summer in Boston is the farmers markets all around the city. I’m a big supporter of eating locally produced foods – shopping at farmers markets is a great way to support our environment, our American farmers, and our health. I’m fortunate enough to work near the Government Center market, and I love walking over there on my lunch break and meandering around the farmers’ tables, checking out their latest harvests. Last week, on a whim, I bought zucchini, summer squash, an heirloom squash, a big bunch of bright green swiss chard, and some garlic scapes, which I’d never cooked with before. I also bought a dozen fresh farm eggs from Silverbrook Farms. These eggs are amazing – definitely pricier than a cheap dozen from the grocery store, but the taste and texture is so superior that I find myself savoring them in a way that I never do with “regular” eggs. Some research studies have suggested that the nutrition content of free range grass-fed eggs is also better than their factory-farmed counterparts – providing more healthy fats, less saturated fat and cholesterol, and higher amounts of vitamins.
When I got home, I threw together all of my farmers market bounty into a frittata, which came out great. Below is the recipe I conjured up. The beauty of the frittata is that you can put in whatever you want, though, so it’s a perfect base to experiment with as the seasons and available produce changes.
Farmers Market Fritatta
6 eggs (preferably farm fresh!)
1 cup skim milk
Dash of salt and pepper
Sliced zucchini and summer squash, one of each
1 bunch of chard, de-stemmed and torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon chopped basil
3 chopped garlic scapes
2 sliced shallots
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper, and basil. In a cast iron skillet, or a large saucepan, sauté shallots in some olive oil until browned, then add garlic scapes and sauté about a minute longer. Add zucchini and squash and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add swiss chard and sauté about a minute. Preheat over to 400 degrees. Pour egg mixture into the skillet, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until it has mostly set. Sprinkle with cheese and breadcrumbs, and place in oven for about 10 minutes, or until the top has browned.
What are your favorite finds at farmers markets?
I had a new experience last Friday night. My friend Carolyn had organized a small group for drinks and snacks—a fun weekend gathering. When I met up with everyone, I found Carolyn’s friends and colleagues as charming and interesting as usual, and we all quickly started chatting. As can happen when a table full of medical professionals, gym instructors and fitness-conscious individuals come together, the conversation turned to recent news of obesity epidemics and health concerns. There was much discussion over the high percentage of Americans who are obese, about the enormous portions served in American restaurants, and about the lack of pedestrian-friendly cities in the U.S.
It was at this point in the conversation that I realized I was one of only two Americans at the table, and I had the unique opportunity to hear the observations of my acquaintances from Singapore, Greece, and Morocco. One of the women noted how accustomed she has become to her large coffee with cream and Splenda each morning. Now, when she visits her home country, she is surprised by the tiny coffee cups and notices the normal servings of everything from coffee to dinner entrees in Morocco seem small compared to the average in the U.S. I really could not refute any of the negative commentary about Americans’ eating habits, because the observations were scarily true about the enormous frozen coffee drinks packed with sugar, the gigantic platters of nachos and fried finger food for appetizers, and desserts large enough to satisfy the entire group seated around our table. Of course the problem is, because we are so used to the more-is-better portions, we are often not satisfied with less, or smaller, or what is actually appropriate. None of this is news, but it struck me anew when told from a different perspective.
I began feeling a little depressed, honestly. I felt proud knowing that the two American representatives in this wonderful mix of nationalities were both healthy, fit examples of people who enjoy life in moderation. But I suddenly felt weighed down by the huge task in front of us as a nation of food-lovers. I realized again the long road ahead of many people who join the gym after years of over-indulging. It’s a lot of work to get back in shape, and it’s even harder work to shed pounds and change long-standing habits. But we need to do it. It’s important and, though it can definitely be made more fun with fabulous music and a motivated group of fellow exercisers in the studio, we do all need to get to work!
On this day I am grateful to my mother who always served colorful meals with lots of fruits and veggies (on small dinner plates), who locked us out of the house and told us to run around in the yard as children, and who recently put herself through rigorous fitness testing so she can improve her health. I have learned from the best!
Last weekend I watched Food Inc. for the first time, a documentary that came out in 2008 (I’m a little behind) which goes behind “the veil” of the food industry, exposing a lot about the way our food is produced and how sick it can potentially make us. A lot of the information wasn’t new to me, having read Omnivore’s Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (both are great sources of information on these subjects). But watching footage from the film really reinforced the importance of this subject for me. I was aghast to see some of the facts and figures on the screen, which included the startling number of children born after 2000 who are likely to contract the largely preventable early onset type II Diabetes as one in three. Among minorities the number is likely to be one in two! If you haven’t seen Food Inc. already, I urge you to rent it and start to get acquainted with some facts about the American food system. There are a lot of choices that we can make as individuals to help with the burden that the current system places on our environment, our tax dollars, and our bodies. One of the ways we can help is to eat a more vegetarian diet. While I’ve only been eating meat very sparingly already, I decided that from now on I’m going to renew my commitment to sticking mostly vegetarian, and when I do eat meat, choosing animal products that are organic, grass fed, and not processed in a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation). That being said, everyone’s diet and beliefs are very personal, and I wouldn’t want to make anyone feel badly about their choices. But if you are interested in going meatless more often, know that there are a bevy of great cookbooks, recipe blogs, etc. that offer tons of vegetarian recipes, with no shortage of flavor and variety. Below is a black bean burger recipe to help get you started:
Black Bean Burgers
2 cups cooked black beans
1 tbsp. tomato paste
½ cup bread crumbs
1 whole egg + whites from another egg
½ finely chopped onion
2 gloves minced garlic
2 tsps. Chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
Optional add ins:
¼ cup corn kernels
½ diced, cooked red bell pepper
Smash black beans in a bowl, using a fork, until they are mostly smooshed (for lack of better description). Add in the rest of the ingredients and gently stir until combined. Form six patties by dividing the mixture, rolling into balls and gently pressing flat. Cook over medium heat in a large pan, about 5 minutes on each side.
Top with delicious healthy ingredients like sliced avocado, salsa, tomato, lettuce, and red onions, and serve on a whole wheat bun. Who needs McDonalds??
Happy Cinco de Mayo! The fifth of May celebrates the Mexican victory over the French in the 1852 Battle of Puebla, and is most commonly observed in the form of a fiesta. Mexican food is not usually considered “health food” but there are some easy ways to lighten up some of the dishes usually served at Cinco de Mayo parties. EatingWell.com has some delicious sounding alternatives including Blueberry-Lime margaritas (for antioxidants, of course), vegetarian tortilla soup, and even avocado ice cream.
Other options for a leaner fiesta include:
- Lightening up regular tacos using leaner ground beef, or turkey, adding on lots of lettuce and fresh pico de gallo, or turning it into taco salad by ditching the taco shell and serving on top of a bed of greens instead.
- Steering clear of margarita recipes made from mixes, which tend to have a lot of sugar and can be very acidic. Opting for fresh lime juice and agave syrup with your tequila can cut calories and save you the heart-burn.
- Adding healthy sides to the mix. My recipe for Citrus Jicama salad is light and refreshing, and makes a great complement to anything spicy.
Enjoy this fun holiday and our beautiful Boston weather!
So yesterday was my 61st birthday. I had a goal of 210 by my birthday day and missed it by two pounds but that’s okay. I’ve come a long way and have even longer to go, so I’m fine with my progress. Besides, I am trying to measure success by more than just the scale–a fickle friend to say the least. I have so much more energy–fit in some size 16 clothes–and generally feel optimistic about myself and my life–so what the scale says is (almost) inconsequential.
I was taken to dinner at Sorellina by family and friends. It’s a lovely place and the food was fabulous. I had already told myself that I could eat whatever I wanted. The most difficult part was deciding what I would order. In the end, I had a fabulous raw tuna appetizer, pasta with meatballs for the entree and chocolate mousse for dessert. I also ate their delicious bread, drank champagne and shiraz–my favorite wine. Like most fine restaurants, Sorellina doesn’t serve mammoth portions–it certainly wasn’t the Olive Garden’s endless pasta bowl. So there was less than cup of pasta and while there were four delicious meat balls they were quite small. In the end, I was very full and a bit tipsy (I usually don’t drink much) but felt satisfied and not gluttonous.
Of course then this morning I had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to training by 7. I came within a whisker of canceling, but decided that I would feel like I’d really let myself down if I did. I did allow myself to take a taxi–I always walk, but it was raining and I was hung over. I did the training and am now waiting for the Zumba class to begin. I had promised myself that I would be ready to take classes by my birthday. So here I am.
The past few mornings I’ve been enjoying a healthy green smoothie as a mid-morning snack. It’s the first time I’ve tried incorporating greens into a smoothie, and my first venture turned out really well! By combining fruits with greens like spinach and kale, I’m getting a healthy liquid dose of fresh produce and vitamins. Normally I snack before lunch, but when I bring this concoction to work and sip throughout the morning, I’ve found that I’m not hungry before lunchtime – another bonus! Some of you might be skeptical when you take a look at this bright green smoothie, but I hope you’ll at least give it a chance. My boyfriend cringed when he saw me approaching with a frothy green glass, but had to admit that it was “actually pretty good” after taking a sip. This is my “mojito” recipe, named after the combination of citrus and mint, which gives it a nice refreshing flavor. Feel free to play around with this recipe, and come up with your own fruity substitutions.
Mojito Green Smoothie (makes about 2 servings)
1 apple, cut into chunks
1 pear, cut into chunks
1 sliced banana
1-2 glasses of water
Juice from 1 lemon
Large leaf of kale, de-stemmed, broken into small pieces
1 handful of baby spinach leaves
3-4 tbsp chopped mint
Combing the apple, pear, banana, water, and lemon juice in a blender; blend until smooth. Add the small pieces of kale, baby spinach, and mint. Blend until smooth – the drink will be a bright green color when it’s done!
What’s your favorite healthy smoothie recipe?
I scream, you scream! We all scream for ice cream!
Ice cream is a cool treat from the scorching summer heat, but before enjoying your scoop, keep in mind these waistline-saving strategies.
- Simplify your cone: Waffle cones, especially those dipped in chocolate, have as many as 350 calories– and that’s without ice cream in it! Order your ice cream in a cup, dish, or plain cone. A cake cone, for instance, has only about 20 calories.
- Stick to the classics: Select classic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or coffee instead of the “loaded” ones like “chocolate peanut butter cookie dough.” You’ll save quite a few calories without depriving yourself.
- Order a kiddie size: Do you really need 3 scoops of ice cream to satisfy your craving? A kid’s size scoop will likely do the trick and is often pretty close to the recommended half-cup serving size. If a kid’s size is not available, order a small. You want your serving to be about the size of a tennis ball.
- Watch your toppings: It’s easy to get carried away with delicious ice cream toppings, especially the chocolate sprinkles, cookie dough, and candy bar pieces. For fewer than 50 calories, fruit toppings, such as fresh berries, contain healthy fiber and nutrients instead of partially hydrogenated oil. Nuts, in moderation, are also a nutritious ice cream topping.
Limit the extras: Think of ice cream as a treat all by itself. There’s no need to add extra sugar and calories with chocolate and caramel sauce or whipped cream. Enjoy your cone as is!
What is your favorite “guiltless” ice cream order? Leave your comments!
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD July 2009
Sports Nutrtion News from the American College of Sports Medicine
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the world’s largest sports medicine and exercise science organization. At ACSM’s annual meeting in Seattle, May 27-30, 2009, over 5,000 exercise scientists, sports dietitians, physicians and health professionals gathered to share their research. Here are a few of the nutrition highlights. More highlights are available at www.acsm.org (click on “news releases”).
• Many athletes believe protein supplements are needed for building muscle. Yet, a study with college football players indicated no performance or muscle-building advantages from taking recovery protein in the form of a commercial supplement instead of standard food.
• Fruits and berries, including tart cherries, have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Runners who drank two 10.5 ounce bottles of tart cherry juice for one week before the 192 mile Mt. Hood to Oregon Coast relay race reported less post-race muscle pain than the placebo group.
• Black currants may also help reduce oxidative stress. Cyclists who consumed a pre-hard ride dose of black currant extract (the equivalent of about 1.2 cups of currants), experienced less oxidative stress.
• Research suggests food tends to be more health-protective than supplements. Taking high doses of C (2000 mg), E (800 IU), A (3000 IU), and selenium (200 micro-g) for six weeks offered no benefits to trained cyclists in terms of antioxidant effects and suppressing oxidative damage.
• Almonds (and all nuts, for that matter) are a positive addition to a sports diet. For four weeks, elite cyclists enjoyed about 60 almonds a day (~450 calories) prior to meals. They increased their anti-oxidant capacity 43% after a time trial as compared to the group who ate an equal number of calories from cookies. They also improved their time trial distance by 5% compared to the cookie group.
• Just rinsing your mouth with a sports drink may help you run faster! After an overnight fast (13-15 hours without food) and before and during a one hour time trial, 10 trained runners rinsed their mouth for five seconds with a sports drink or a placebo, and then spit it out. With the sports drink mouth rinse, they were able to run 365 meters longer in the time trial.
• An effective sports drink needs to be rapidly absorbed. Adding sodium (40-165 mg) to the beverage does not significantly slow absorption. (1973)
• Athletes who exercise in the heat might wonder if they can “hyper-hydrate.” Yes; more fluid is retained when a sports drink has a higher sodium content. Drinking a sports drink with double and triple the standard amount of sodium contributed to retaining 25% and 35% more water (12 and 17 ounces; 340 and 480 ml) than the standard sports drink.
• About 25% of athletic trainers use pickle juice to treat muscle cramps. Some report 1 to 2 ounces of pickle juice relieves cramps within 35 seconds. The mechanism is illusive because rapid relief must mean that pickle juice empties from the stomach very quickly. Yet, research indicates pickle juice empties very slowly from the stomach.
• “LactAway” is a sports supplement that claims to reduce blood lactate. A study with highly trained kayakers does not support that manufacture’s claim.
• Chocolate milk is a good recovery choice. Cyclists did an exhaustive bike ride, recovered with equal amounts of carbs in chocolate milk or a commercial recovery drink, and then the next day did a time trial. The commercial drink offered no additional benefits. Save your money!
• Glutamine is reported to enhance recovery by reducing post-exercise inflammatory responses. A study that compared a carbohydrate+essential amino acids beverage with or without glutamine taken during and after exercise offered no additional recovery benefits.
• Of 153 female soldiers starting basic training, 37% were iron deficient (serum ferritin <12 ng/mL). The women who took an iron supplement (100 mg ferrous sulfate) improved their two-mile run-times by 86 seconds as compared to the iron deficient women who were given no iron pills. Low ferritin is associated with feelings of depression and fatigue.
• During endurance exercise, consuming carbs in the form of an energy bar, a gel or a sports drink are all equally effective. That is, they all get used for energy at a similar rate.
• Many youth swimmers spend hours training for relatively short competitive events. A six-week study with 9 to 12 year olds suggests high intensity/low volume training offers the same benefits as lower intensity/high volume training (27 vs. 57 km/six weeks)—but in far less training time.
• How may calories are burned when lifting weights? Female subjects burned ~100 calories and the males ~ 210 in the half-hour session with two sets of 10 reps and 8 different exercises. But, if you subtract the calories for the resting metabolic rate that they would have burned just sitting quietly, they burned only ~70 (females) and ~160 (males) additional calories.
• Participants in the Western States 100 Mile Run burned about 15,850 calories in about 27 hours. This averaged about 600 calories/hour. That’s a lot of food!
• Severely obese people may need about 1800 calories just to be alive, and about 3,200 total calories a day. They don’t gain weight just smelling cookies…
• Exercise improves learning. Movement and physical activity in third graders has been linked with higher scores on tests involving problem solving. Among college students, those who spend more than three hours/day studying or have a grade point average of at last 3.5 are more likely to be physically active than students who study less and get lower grades.
• While American college students tend to exercise for weight control, fitness and physical attractiveness, Chinese college students tend to exercise for health and enjoyment—sustainable reasons to exercise!
• The Female Athlete Triad refers to the common problem of inadequate calorie intake, loss of menses, and stress fractures. The first line of treatment is to increase calorie intake or reduce expenditure by exercising a little less.
Strength training can help reduce the risk of stress fractures. Athletes with more muscle mass tend to have higher bone density. Dense bones are healthy bones!
• Fitness is more important than fatness. Unfortunately, only about 9% of Americans are “fit but fat” as compared to 30% who are “fit and not fat”.
What is your favorite work out food? Comment Below!
Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes in her private practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-383-6100). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and food guides for new runners, marathoners, or cyclists are available via www.nancyclarkrd.com. See also sportsnutritionworkshop.com.
(image: flikr, fotonics)
When I was a little girl, I dreaded recess at school. Most of the kids would run to the playground and immediately start a game of kick-ball or soccer. But I preferred to look for four-leaf clovers and show off my new pink skirt.
My only physical activity consisted of weekly ballet classes and lifting the occasional box of Barbie accessories. In a nutshell, fitness was not in my future.
Then, I gained a lot of weight in college. I enjoyed too much junk food and too much beer, and suddenly I realized that I needed to burn some calories and boost my metabolism.
More than anything, I wanted to be healthy. But how? Flash forward ten years, and countless gym memberships, and the truth is I still struggle with this very question. I’ve tried everything. I’ve kick boxed, run miles and miles, practiced yoga, shown a severe lack of coordination in step class, and even braved the world of weight training. I wish I could say that today, I am a sporty, toned babe. I’m not. But I have grown to realize that it’s really important to stay active anyway. It’s not always fun, but it’s important. I think the key for me has been accepting where I am coming from. I am girly. I like wearing cute gym clothes, and I like aerobics classes that blare pop music. I adore yoga, because it lets me focus on flexibility and meditation. I like weight training at Healthworks because I am not intimidated by men who are much stronger than me, (and who keep checking me out.) And finally, I love taking long walks and going hiking. Finding activities that fit your personality is critical. And even though it can be a struggle to get motivated sometimes, choosing the right exercise will increase your chances a thousand-fold.
My personal blog: naturallynina.com
My Boston Examiner blog: http://www.examiner.com/x-7305-Boston-Friendship-Examiner
Change is hard. Before I started the RESULTS program in September, I hadn’t done a food journal since college, and I had no idea what my daily caloric intake was. To be honest, I don’t think I want to know all the junk I was putting into my body; suffice it to say, my diet was rife with saturated fats and processed sugars. My best guess is that I was consuming somewhere around 2700 to 3000 calories a day, and in one fell swoop I cut my diet down to 1800 calories. Of course, a lot of the junky food was still in my diet, I was just eating less of it, and I was always a little hungry! When I started meeting my RESULTS trainer, she took a look at my diet and set it straight. The weight had come off quickly at first, but now even though I was exercising more, I wasn’t losing like I expected to. The culprit was that I was eating too little!
I had always gotten angry when people told me that weight loss was as “simple” as consuming fewer calories than you burn. While it is true that your body will lose a pound a week if you cut out 3500 calories, it starts to get a little more complicated when you try to lose more, and faster. Many commercial diets claim that if you take their supplements or eat nothing but cucumbers and grapefruit for two weeks that you can lose 10, even 20 pounds almost instantly. The truth is, while such extreme weight loss can be achieved, it is always short term, and it is rarely healthy. In fact, doctors and trainers suggest that you do not try to lose more than a pound a week unless you are under observation, and you should never consume less than 1200 calories a day. Sometimes when you cut your calories to extreme levels, your body reverts back to its hunter-gatherer instincts. It assumes times are tough, and it may be a while before you see another cheeseburger, so it slows your metabolism down. This is exactly what you DON’T want to happen when you are trying to lose weight!
My RESULTS trainer convinced me to eat around 200 more calories than previously, especially on days when I exercised, and she also encouraged me to cut some sodium out of my diet and increase the amount of fruits and veggies I was eating. I wasn’t hungry anymore, and neither was my body. Even though I had small plateaus of weeks where I didn’t see any loss, on average the weight fell away at two pounds a week! So, if you’re struggling with hunger or you’re cutting calories and still not seeing weight loss, consider talking to a nutritionist to make sure you’re not sending your body into starvation mode!