Most endurance athletes (at least those of us in the Northeast) will likely have some off-season time over the next few months – unless of course you’re training for a winter or early spring marathon, or a destination race. But no matter what time of year you take your off-season, a few helpful nutrition tips can maximize the benefits of that time and ensure you start your next training season refreshed, healthy, and in good shape.
1. Cut back on calories and carbs.
When you’re in the peak of training, your body needs those extra calories – most in the form of carbohydrates – to supply your muscles with energy. However, in the off-season, your training load is greatly reduced. You may be cutting back on the intensity or length of your workouts, you may take time off completely for a few weeks, or you may try other activities that you don’t normally have time for. Any way you look at it though, your overall calorie burn is likely much less than in-season, which means you need to eat fewer calories to avoid weight gain.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re a runner and you’re putting in about 40-50 miles per week in your training season. For a 150 pound person, that’s somewhere in the range of 4000-5000 calories burned each week through running. If that person cuts down to 20 miles per week in the off-season (about 2000 calories burned), they’ll need 2000-3000 fewer calories from food each week – or about 300-400 less each day.
2. Eat cleaner.
During the training season, you may rely on some engineered sports products (like bars or shakes) to help meet your nutritional needs – and that’s fine because that’s when your body may need that! But during the off-season, try cutting back on those and focusing on eating cleaner with whole foods. Avoid foods that have a laundry list of ingredients and additives. Instead, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
3. Work on weight loss if needed.
If you’re an overweight athlete and are concerned about the impact your weight is having on your health/performance, the off-season is a great time to try to work on weight loss. During training, the level and intensity of activity can increase your appetite significantly, and it can be quite difficult to meet your fueling needs for maximum performance while trying to lose weight at the same time. In the off-season, though, the lighter training volume means a smaller effect on appetite, and you don’t have to worry as much about the impact of under-fueling on your training sessions.
Try keeping a food journal (either pen and paper, or online) and see what your current habits are – and then aim to make a few small changes each week to cut back on calories to support weight loss. For example, maybe in the first week you cut your portions of grains at dinner. Maybe in the 2nd week, you only have one glass of wine instead of two each night. You get the idea. Think about what your personal challenges are and work on those.
4. Get some blood work done.
Several athlete groups may struggle meeting certain vitamin and mineral needs. For example, African American athletes – especially those who are vegan – may fall short in Vitamin D. Young female athletes may need additional iron. With a busy training schedule, setting aside time to see a doctor can feel overwhelming. But with more flexibility and free-time in the off-season, it can be easier to find a day to stop by your MD. Get quick round of blood work done to check for deficiencies. You may need to start adding certain foods to your diet or taking a supplement – and it’s much easier to focus on implementing these changes now rather than later.
4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat.
That’s the amount that an average person consumed on Thanksgiving Day, according to reports from the American Council on Exercise and the Calorie Control Council!
This amounts to double to triple the number of calories someone should be eating per day – not to mention all the leftovers and family events you may be having after Thanksgiving. If you’re not careful, you could easily end the weekend feeling bloated and yucky, possibly with an extra pound or two on the scale.
But don’t you worry, my friends – I’m going to stock you up with some great tips for making healthier choices this Thanksgiving. And I’m not going to tell you to skip your favorite foods and cut out desserts – I know it’s the holidays and you want to enjoy them! But I will give you a few ways to make better choices and practice portion control so you can walk away from the Thanksgiving table feeling fit and fabulous – and not feeling “I’ve got to unbutton my pants” full.
A few tips that you might find helpful for the whole day…
- Consider starting the day with something fun and fit, like a turkey trot! There's lots of benefits - you get to support a good cause, you burn calories, and it propels motivation to make healthy choices throughout the rest of the day.
- If you like to snack while you cook (or while you wait for someone else to cook!), chop up some fresh veggies or fruit to munch on ahead of time.
- Only choose what you love. It sounds like simple advice, but many people pile their plates with every single food even though they may not even really like certain items. No matter what’s on the table, only take the foods you like and leave some white space on your plate!
- Use small portions, and remember that if you’re truly hungry after finishing your plate, you can always go back for seconds. Piling on too much on the first go causes us to eat more, regardless of whether we’re hungry for it or not.
- Eat slowly and savor the food. You’ll enjoy your meal more and likely eat less overall because you’ll recognize that you feel full.
- Consider wearing fitted clothes. It sounds silly, but it can be a subtle reminder not to eat so much that you feel bloated.
And a few tips specific to your favorite turkey-day dishes…
- White meat is better for you than dark meat, although contrary to popular belief the difference isn’t monumental – but whether you like light or dark meet, skip the skin. It’ll help cut the calories and saturated fat. And as always, remember portion control - a 3-4 ounce serving of turkey should be about the size of the palm of your hand.
- Topping the turkey with some gravy or cranberry sauce? Skim the fat off the gravy before serving it, and make your own homemade cranberry sauce so that you can cut back on the sugar.
- Cook stuffing separately. Not only is it better for food safety (cooking it inside the bird is risky because the turkey may reach proper temperature before the stuffing does), but it also cuts down on calories since the fat drippings don’t enter the stuffing.
- If your mashed potato recipe calls for cream, whole milk, or sour cream, consider using skim milk or greek yogurt as a substitute to cut calories and fat.
- Try mixing half your mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower.
- Leave the marshmallows off of the sweet potatoes. Instead, try mashed sweet potatoes with a little milk and cinnamon. Or try roasted sweet potatoes: simply peel, chop, toss in olive oil and herbs, and roast in the oven.
- Pies are by no means a ‘health food’ - but some are certainly better for you than others! Pumpkin pie is a winner because it’s much lower in calories and fat than other varieties, plus supplies a hefty dose of Vitamin A for healthy eyesight. One piece of homemade pumpkin pie generally has about 310 calories, compared to over 500 in the same size serving of pecan pie.
- For desserts, choose one favorite or seasonal item. If your brother brings over a frozen store-bought apple pie that’s always available, you can probably live without a slice. But if there’s a special family dessert recipe that’s only made once or twice a year – go ahead and dig in with a portion-controlled slice. Enjoy every bite, but skip keeping the leftovers or bringing them home with you.
Share with us: How do you plan to take care of your health on Thanksgiving?
- Think before you drink! When the soda and alcohol are being passed around freely, it can be easy to rack up over 500 calories over the course of a few drinks. Skip the soda – if you like bubbles, go for seltzer instead. For alcohol, light beer or wine spritzers (half wine/half seltzer) are good options.
You may have come across some articles online or in popular training magazines recently talking about tart cherry juice for athletes. It’s been promoted to help with muscular damage and recovery after both endurance and strength exercises. But does the product live up to the hype?
The short answer is yes, it can help with muscle pain and recovery – but there is an important factor to consider before going crazy for cherries.
But first, let’s look at the research. There is actually very little research that has been done in peer-reviewed journals on tart cherry juice (in this realm – there’s some other research on sleep and whatnot). In fact, I really only found three studies relevant to athletes.
The most interesting study – in my opinion, since I love running – was on tart cherry juice and pain after running
. The study looked at 54 runners who were competing in a team-based 24 hour relay. Twice a day for a week before the event, runners drank either a tart cherry juice or a placebo cherry juice. The research was double blinded, so the runners and the investigators looking at endpoint data did not know who was getting which drink.
The results? Runners who drank the tart cherry juice experienced less pain post-race compared to the placebo group. This is pretty cool, since we don’t want athletes taking tons of NSAIDS or pain relievers, which carry some risks. For example, runners who take NSAIDS before or during a race to prevent later pain have an increased risk of hyponatremia, a potentially serious drop in blood sodium levels. Another study looking at runners
found that 48 hours post marathon, those who drank tart cherry juice before and after the event had reduced inflammatory markers and better return of strength indices (though no difference in muscle soreness).
I found one other study that focused on strength training
, and used a similar regimen of 12 ounces of tart cherry juice twice a day for 8 days and compared it to a placebo. This study focused on strength loss after a session of intensive eccentric strength exercises. There was less loss of strength over a four day period among the group that drank cherry juice compared to the group who drank the placebo – a 4% versus a 22% decline.
Some pretty awesome research, right? Now here’s where that important consideration comes in.
In the relay running study and the strength study, the participants drank two 12 ounce servings of cherry juice per day (unfortunately, I don’t have access to the full study on marathon running, so I’m not sure the amount consumed in that example). Most commercial cherry juices are around 130 calories per 8 ounces. That means those athletes were taking in almost 400 calories per day from tart cherry juice!
That’s a pretty significant amount of calories, and if you took in that much every day without changing your diet, you’d be looking at about 3 pounds gained in a month. The bottom line?
Yes, tart cherry juice may help reduce pain after long runs or intense strength training sessions. But the benefit comes from drinking the beverage consistently leading up to that training session or event. With the standard amount of juice used in research clocking in at about 400 calories per day, it’s something to consider carefully. It’s unknown right now if smaller amounts of tart cherry juice will provide any benefit.
If you are an athlete that struggles consistently with muscle pain and soreness, I think it could be worthwhile to try leading up to your next long/intense workout. Just be sure to balance the rest of your dietary intake to prevent gaining weight if that’s a concern. Substituting out some other less nutritious items and drinking tart cherry juice instead would be a good plan. Share with us – have you used tart cherry juice? What were your experiences?
As we kick off the start of two months full of holiday festivities, delicious meals, and busy days – you don’t want to forget all the healthy small changes you’ve been making (or thinking about making) throughout the year.
The purpose of the holiday hold’em challenge is to maintain your weight over the next two months. In the stressful holiday times, let’s not focus on losing lots of weight or trying to make huge changes. Instead, let’s aim to maintain weight. It’s a more reasonable goal and less likely to leave you frustrated at the end of December, but at the same time it encourages you to focus on making smart choices. Plus, when New Year’s Resolutions roll around, you won’t be setting a goal to drop the holiday weight you gained!
Holiday Weight Gain
Let’s get real for a second. There are tons of misconceptions floating around the internet about people gaining 10-20 pounds over the holidays. This isn’t true. You see, most people only gain a pound or two on average over the holidays. But the problem is many have a hard time losing that weight the next year. If this happens every holiday season, it adds up and becomes really detrimental over time (think an extra 10-20 pounds every 10 years).
Plus, those who are already overweight may be more likely to gain additional weight over the holidays compared to those who are normal weight (and this applies to children as well). About 15% of people gain 5 pounds or more each holiday season.
And last but not least, even if weight doesn’t change, some studies show that body composition changes. People stop working out as much during the busy holiday season, so they lose muscle mass and gain fat mass. Their weight may be equal, but their body composition becomes significantly less healthy.
The National Weight Control Registry tracks individuals who have successfully lost weight, and more importantly, maintained that loss over time. But even individuals who have been successful over years with weight loss still often struggle to maintain weight over the holidays. In fact, one study reports that about 38% of previous successful weight losers still ended up gaining more than 2 pounds over the holidays. Those who are successful at maintaining their weight over the holiday period use several strategies that you may find useful:
Create a better exercise routine. This can come in several forms, like exercising more minutes per week or incorporating high intensity intervals into your normal workout time to increase calorie burn.
Pay attention to your weight if you’re concerned. Many individuals regularly weigh in on the scale (for example, once a week) so they notice early if their weight is starting to creep up. While I don’t recommend weighing in everyday – especially if that number on the scale tends to affect your mood and causes you to “shame spiral” – a once a week weigh in can be useful for staying accountable.
Stay tuned into your eating habits. Be aware of the often oversized portions served at the holidays, as well as the abundance of super sugary/fatty treats that are high in calories. Remember mindful eating – eat when hungry, and stop when you are full. Along the same lines, don’t eat something if it’s not delicious to you. Also, you may want to keep a food journal to have a better awareness of your eating habits during this time.
Control your environment as much as possible. This helps set you up for success. For example, if you lose all willpower around cookies and pies, keep them out of the house the majority of the season. Indulge in your favorite treats on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but then send the leftovers home with your guests. If you find yourself subject to great portions at the holidays, try using a smaller plate to help control that. Skipping the gym often after work? Change into your workout clothes before you leave the office and head straight there before going home. The list goes on and on.
My challenge to you is to avoid weight gain throughout November and December! If you want some accountability, email me your weight this week. Then I’ll follow up with you the first week of December and the first week of January via email to ask for your latest weigh in. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with your goals when you know you’ll have to check in with someone later!
I made this for lunch today, and realized I haven’t shared it here with you all yet! This dish is delish – plus it’s super simple to make, so it’s great for a quick at-home lunch or dinner. And the ingredients boast tons of nutritional benefits:
- Mangoes are rich in Vitamins A and C to support your eyesight and immune system
- Avocados are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats
- Tomatoes contain lycopene, which could play a role in cancer prevention
- Chicken breast is an excellent source of protein, helping you stay full and satiated longer.
Grilled Chicken with Mango Avocado Salsa Makes 2 large servings
For the chicken:
10 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast (10 ounces uncooked or approx. 8 ounces cooked)
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lime
For the salsa:
1 mango, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
½ of a small red onion (or ¼ of a large red onion), diced
½ pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Nutrition analysis (approximate per serving):
- Season chicken breasts using cumin, salt, pepper, and lime juice. Grill until cooked through. (I love my George Forman grill for the winter time – it’s quick and easy).
- While chicken is cooking, combine all ingredients for salsa.
- Top chicken with salsa and voila! A quick healthy meal that takes less than 20 minutes.
450 calories, 17 grams of fat, 39 grams carbohydrate, 12 g dietary fiber, 36 grams of protein, 35% DV for Vitamin A, 120% DV for Vitamin C (plus rich in many other vitamins/minerals!)
With many athletes considering different eating styles to support health, vegan and vegetarian lifestyles have become more popular in the last 20 years. Choosing this type of diet can certainly be beneficial to overall health and reduced chronic disease risk when structured properly. However it can make it more challenging - but certainly not impossible - to meet certain nutrient needs among athletes.
I felt inspired to write a blog post on this after hearing an excellent presentation on this topic by Roberta Anding, the sports dietitian for the Houston Texans, at the conference I went to a few weeks ago. So a big thanks to her for some of the information discussed here!
What’s the difference?
Though some may use the terms interchangeably, there are differences between a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle:
Nutrition tips:1) Protein is essential
- Vegan: Does not consume any animal products.
- Lactovegetarian: Does not consume meat, fish, or eggs but does consume dairy products.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Does not consume meat or fish, but does consume eggs and dairy products.
for both endurance athletes and strength training athletes, with the specific recommendations based on your training regimen and weight. Most vegan and vegetarian athletes do well meeting their carbohydrate needs, since grains, vegetables, and fruits are good sources of carbohydrates. Meeting protein needs requires a bit more planning. Be sure to include plant-based sources of protein at each meal
, including tofu, beans, soy milk, protein-fortified almond milk, nuts, seeds, and quinoa, all of which are vegan/vegetarian friendly. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can also incorporate dairy and eggs as a protein source.2) If you decide to use a protein supplement, choose wisely
. The most common protein supplements are made from whey, which comes from dairy - so it’s generally appropriate for vegetarians but not vegans. However, some whey proteins are made using calf rennet as an enzyme, so if you are a vegetarian concerned about that you’ll need to check the label (not all use this). There are vegan protein powders on the market that are produced from soy, hemp, rice, pea, or other plant-based proteins. Keep in mind that if you are a competitive athlete that goes through drug testing, or are in the military, there are some concerns about using hemp since there is a very slim chance it may cause a false positive on a drug test. While unlikely, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry and use a different source of plant protein.3) Leucine is particularly important for muscular recovery
and protein synthesis after workouts (see a blog post from a while back on this topic here
). Dairy is one of the biggest sources of leucine in our diets, so vegetarian athletes can meet their needs a bit easier than vegans. Vegan athletes need to rely on other sources. Soy, nuts, and wheat germ are some of the better sources of leucine for vegans.4) Vitamin D may be a concern for vegan athletes
, particularly those who are not Caucasian (darker skin reduces Vitamin D production from sunlight in the skin). Consider getting your Vitamin D levels checked and if needed add a vitamin D supplement to your daily regimen. Vitamin D2 is an acceptable vegan dietary supplement, and you might consider supplementing between 1000 to 2000 IU per day – potentially more for low current blood levels or for African American athletes.5) Vegetarian and vegan athletes may also fall short in the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA
, since fish is not eaten. While flax and chia seeds are two commonly consumed plant-based sources of omega-3s, they predominately contain ALA. However, the body is not overly efficient at converting ALA into DHA and EPA. There is no doubt that these can be healthy to include in the diet, but in order to meet DHA and EPA needs for optimal health, an algae-based supplement may be a more reliable and better utilized source.6) Iron is important for transporting oxygen to muscles
, so vegetarian and vegan athletes should make sure they’re getting enough iron each day as well. Add plant-based sources of iron like beans, legumes, certain dried fruit, tofu, and dark green vegetables to your meals. Combine these with a food rich in Vitamin C – like citrus or tomatoes – to help to increase the absorption of the plant-based iron. Share with us: Do you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet?
After an inspiring session last week at FNCE (the biggest food and nutrition conference in the US) on food blogging, I’m making it a goal to get back to doing some recipe development. I got my inspiration for this dish from Half Baked Harvest.
I decided to switch up a few things and cut back the ingredient list significantly for the sake of simplicity. Her version definitely contains a wider variety of flavors, but I like this one for a quick & easy healthy vegetarian dinner.
I love this dish because it’s easy and doesn’t require a lot of cooking knowledge or skill. Plus, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals, including at least 30% of Vitamins A,B6, C, K, folate, and potassium. In fact, you’ll get your whole day’s requirement (and more) of Vitamin A in this dish because of all the bright orange veggies rich in beta carotene.
A quick note on the serving size: I did the nutrition analysis for this dish based on two servings, but it probably makes closer to three for many people. I tend to eat a smaller portion and the hubby eats a bigger portion, so what might make us dinner for two would really make me three meals. So just keep that in mind – if you’re watching your weight or your budget, you may consider dividing into three servings for a lower calorie count and cost per serving. Believe me, because of the veggies, fiber, and satiating fats – you’ll feel plenty full! Coconut Rice & Curried Vegetable Bowl
Servings: 2 to 3, depending on how hungry you are
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 cup butternut squash, chopped
10 baby carrots or 2 medium carrots, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp curry powder
0.25 tsp cayenne pepper (more to taste if you like spicy!)
2/3 cup lite coconut milk
1/3 cup water
1 cup instant brown rice
Lime juice (optional)Directions:
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Mix chopped vegetables in a bowl with olive oil, curry powder, and cayenne pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and cook for 25 minutes, or until tender.
- Meanwhile, heat coconut milk and water over medium-high heat until it reaches a boil. Add rice and cook for a few minutes partially covered. Remove from heat and cover completely for 5 minutes.
- Mix rice with vegetables and top with avocado. I liked my dish this way, but if you prefer a squeeze of lime, you can add that too!
*If you’re looking for more protein in the dish, consider adding some tofu or chicken and cutting back a bit on the rice. Nutrition analysis per serving (based on 2 servings):
526 calories, 28 grams of fat, 7 grams saturated fat, 85 mg sodium, 69 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams fiber, 7 grams protein, 511% DV Vitamin A, 63%DV Vitamin C, 9% DV Calcium, 15% DV Iron
Even if you don’t have children, you probably will be involved in some sort of Halloween festivities. Whether it’s a friend’s party, passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, or pumpkin-themed treats at the office – Halloween is full of tasty temptations. Consider these scary statistics when it comes to candy consumption and Halloween:
- Consumers spend over $2 billion dollars each year on Halloween candy, according to the National Confectioners Association.
- The average child collects between 3500 calories and 7000 calories worth of candy on Halloween according to Dr. Donna Arnett, chair of the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Public Health.
- 90% of parents sneak candy from their kids’ trick-or-treating stash.
- Americans consume 24.7 pounds of candy each year.
In light of those frightening facts, here are some tips for you, followed by some tips for those of you who have children…
Tips for you...
Tips for the kiddos…
- Wait until the night before or the night of Halloween to purchase candy. The less time the candy is sitting around the house, the less likely you are to eat it.
- Stick to fun size or miniature candy bars. If you start eating multiples, leave the wrappers in front of you to remind you how much you’ve eaten and hopefully encourage you to not overindulge. Avoid stocking up on full size bars - let’s be realistic, if you open up a big one, you’re probably going to eat the whole thing.
- Better yet, buy a type of candy to pass out that you don’t like!
- Keep candy where you can’t see it, and preferably where you can’t easily reach it. A high cabinet that requires a stepstool is perfect.
- Practice moderation. An occasional fun size treat won’t break the calorie bank, but one or two fun size treats everyday can lead to a pound or two of weight gain in a month’s time span.
- Freeze leftover candy. You’re more likely to let a craving pass if you know it’s going to take time for your treat to defrost. You can also use the frozen candy later in December to decorate gingerbread houses.
- After Halloween, avoid the discounted candy. It might be cheap, but is the discount worth weight gain and detrimental impacts on your health?
- Keep the house stocked with ready-to-eat healthy snacks, like pieces of fruit, string cheese, or portion controlled servings of nuts. If you don’t have the healthy choices readily available, you’re more likely to reach for the unhealthy candy.
Share with us: How will you stay healthy this Halloween?
- After your child goes trick-or-treating, have them sort their stash into two piles – favorites and not-so-favorites. Allow them to choose 1 small piece from the favorites pile each day or two, and toss or donate the other pile. Don’t let candy be a substitute for normal, nutritious snacks and meals.
- Keep the remaining candy somewhere out of sight – you might be surprised that some children forget about the remaining candy after a few days.
- Consider trading in the candy at a “buy-back” event. Participating dentists will “buy” children’s candy in exchange for cash, prizes, or coupons for goods at local businesses. The dentists then donate the candy to Operation Gratitude to support U.S troops.
- Or be the “Halloween Fairy!” After your kids choose 5 or 10 candies they want to keep, have them put the rest in a bag on their door handle when they go to sleep. At night, exchange the candy for a small gift.
- Don’t use the candy as punishment or reward – i.e. “if you clean your room, you can have more Halloween candy.” This sets up negative relationships with food and overrides a child’s natural signs for regulating hunger and satiety.
You may have seen some magazine articles or advertisements about using chocolate milk as a recovery drink. While many products are promoted without scientific backing, chocolate milk actually has a lot of evidence surrounding its use for recovery in endurance athletes! Studies have shown equal or better recovery and subsequent endurance performance when comparing chocolate milk to fluid replacement drinks and carbohydrate recovery beverages.
That’s because it contains the ideal 3:1 to 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio – meaning mostly carbohydrates with some protein. Many endurance athletes mistakenly reach for pre-made protein shakes after a workout, which are truly meant for strength training athletes. Endurance athletes need more carbohydrate to replace the glycogen in their muscles after a long workout.
Note that says after a long workout – longer than 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on intensity. Sometimes people get a bit crazy reaching for recovery food or drinks after a 30 minute workout, when there’s really no need.
Some athletes have looked at me like I’m crazy when I suggest chocolate milk, because it obviously has added sugar. But that’s what gives it the ideal carbohydrate to protein ratio. For example, Nesquik Reduced Fat Chocolate Milk contains 29 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein per cup, for a carb:protein ratio around 4:1 (3.6 to 1 to be exact). Unflavored skim milk, on the other hand, contains 13 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein, thus giving us a carb:protein ratio of less than 2:1. While the regular skim milk would certainly be a healthier choice for everyday nutrition, for recovery we need that additional boost of carbohydrate.
The amount of chocolate milk that you should drink for recovery is based on your weight, but to give you an example – a 150 pound athlete would aim to drink about 2.5 cups of chocolate milk within an hour of a workout. It might sound like a lot, but that’s really just a tall glass plus a few extra sips.
If you’re going to drink chocolate milk as a recovery beverage, aim for the low fat or nonfat versions, as in that immediate post-exercise period you are most concerned about getting enough carbohydrate and protein, and you don’t want to “crowd out” those with too much fat.
And of course, this is by no means the only option – there are plenty of other recovery methods out there! You should find what works for you. But I think this is a nice practical option for many athletes, as it’s inexpensive and easy to find at pretty much any grocery store or convenience store.
Fall brings us so many delicious produce items, including pumpkins. Not just for Jack-O-Lanterns, this vegetable provides lots of nutrients and can be used in a variety of ways. Time to get creative with pumpkins!
Pumpkin is rich in Vitamins A, C, and potassium. You can roast your own pumpkin, or you can pick up canned pumpkin as a quick & easy alternative. Look for canned versions that are pure pumpkin though, and not “pumpkin pie filling” which typically contains added sugar and/or spices.
Go beyond the pumpkin pie with these great recipe ideas:
- Add pumpkin to whole wheat pancake and waffle mixes for a fall twist on these yummy breakfasts.
- Try this recipe for 30-minute pumpkin soup, which combines pumpkins with other veggies like onion, corn, and bell pepper. Or try this recipe for pumpkin apple soup which has a bit of a sweeter taste.
- Love smoothies? Try an autumn smoothie made with milk (or almond/soy milk), pumpkin, banana, cinnamon, and ice cubes. You can also add in some flax seeds or chia seeds for an omega-3 boost!
- Baked goods like muffins or quick breads are perfect places to add vegetables like pumpkin, grated carrots, or grated zucchini.
- Dice fresh pumpkin and roast with sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and/or butternut squash for a great fall veggie feast.
- The Fruits and Veggies More Matters campaign suggests stuffing the pumpkin with apples, pineapple, raisins, and spices. then baking it for a delicious dessert. Check out the recipe here.
- Add pumpkin puree to creamy pasta sauces (made with milk instead of cream, of course) for extra nutrition and flavor.
And of course, use those seeds too! Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium (which may help with migraine prevention) and zinc (involved in keeping your immune system in tip top shape). Plus, they pack a lot of fiber and protein, making them a great snack choice. Here are some basic roasting instructions: Ingredients:
1-2 tsp olive oil, depending on the amount of seeds
Pinch of salt Directions:
1) Preheat oven to 300F.
2) Remove the seeds and clean off the pulp and any stringy stuff.
3) In a bowl, toss seeds with olive oil and salt.
4) Spread on a large baking sheet and roast for 25-45 minutes (longer for more seeds), or until golden brown.
And check out these great ideas:
- You can mix up the basic roasting recipe above by using different seasonings. For example, do you want a slightly sweet pumpkin seed? Try a little cinnamon and brown sugar. Want a spicy pumpkin seed? Try some chili powder and cayenne pepper.
- Sprinkle roasted pumpkin seeds on top of your favorite salad for added flavor and crunch, like in this recipe for a baby spinach, avocado and pumpkin seed salad.
- Create a healthy trail mix using whole grain cereals, dried fruit, and roasted pumpkin seeds. This is a perfect snack to take on a fall hike to see the changing leaves!
- Instead of using pine nuts to make pesto, try substituting roasted pumpkin seeds! You can experiment with different greens besides basil too – try cilantro, parsley, or arugula.
- Grind roasted pumpkin seeds and use them to coat raw chicken or fish to make a pumpkin seed crusted dish.
- Mix oatmeal with a little canned pumpkin and cinnamon, and then top with roasted pumpkin seeds.
- Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top of roasted vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, or green beans.