Healthify Your Comfort Food

As the colder months roll in and slowly envelop us in frigid air, our food choices start to change.  Our penchant for salad goes by the wayside and we start craving more comforting foods: warm, creamy soups; toasty, gooey casseroles; and oodles of noodles.  All the delicious foods that, if eaten with abandon, help create the lovely padding around our midsection– a thermal layer that keeps up warm through these chilly months.

But as an athlete, training and performance are always in the back of your mind.  And though your season is just over, you’ll soon start building back up.  Your A Race is waiting.  The New Year brings with it new challenges, new training blocks, new goal times.  So stuffing ourselves with all these delicious foods may not be moving us towards these aspirations. 

I would be remiss in telling you that you should not eat these foods, after all they are mighty delicious and we only live once.  I will say, however, that there is a way to have the best of both worlds; a way of ‘healthifying’ these foods to keep their delectable flavor and yet offer better nutrition in preparation for your season.  Healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad (I promise!).

Below is a recipe for a healthier version of stuffed shells using blended reduced fat cottage cheese instead of full fat ricotta.   If you’re really adventurous, you could try replacing the cottage cheese with 1 block of firm tofu plus 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast (which imparts a great cheesy flavor!).  I know, it sounds strange… but don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

Creamy Stuffed Shells with Spinach – Healthified!

Ingredients:

  • 12oz box jumbo shells
  • 2 cups 2% cottage cheese
  • 4oz (1/3 less fat) cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 packages (9-10oz) fresh baby spinach (or 1 box frozen, defrosted and drained)
  • 3 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1/3 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt

Directions:

{Makes about 30 stuffed shells}

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook shells according to the package.  Cook until al dente, not fully done (about 10 minutes).   Gently drain and set on a plate in a single layer to prevent them from sticking together.
  3. In a food processor, blend together cottage cheese, cream cheese, egg, and spices. Set aside.
  4. In a large sauté pan, sauté onions, garlic, and olive oil over medium heat.  Cook until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, stir and let wilt – about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  5. Stir together the cottage cheese and spinach mixture, adding the panko crumbs until combined.
  6. Spray a large rectangular casserole dish with olive oil, then spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce on the bottom.  Spoon about 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of the filing into each shell and place them in a single layer in the casserole dish. 
  7. Once all are filled, drizzle the remaining 2 cups of spaghetti sauce on top and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes – or until sauce is bubbling.

Enjoy!!

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Leucine: Improving Muscle Gain & Maintenance

As a triathlete, you work your tail off throughout the season to perform your best in that A race.  The first part of your season consists of building a solid base; gaining strength in the gym that will transition to power on the bike and in the run.  The second half of your season is devoted to speed and continued aerobic improvement.

For some athletes, performing their best means losing fat mass to get to a lean, healthy race weight.  Yet without proper nutrition, not only will fat be lost, but muscle mass as well.  This could lead to substandard performance via decreased strength and aerobic capacity.  Not ideal. 

Read Full Story

Ten Nutrition Tips for the Traveling Triathlete

It’s Monday afternoon and your boss has just informed you, that despite your best efforts to excuse yourself from business travel plans, you’re going anyway.  Before you know it, you’re booked on the 6am flight across the country.  Panic sets in.  My workouts! How am I going to get those key workouts in?  Frantically, you call your coach and somehow, you manage to work out the details. Ok, run a while I’m there, before meetings, after meetings, try to work in a swim, find the local YMCA, got it.  We’re covered. 

Crisis… averted?  What about nutrition?  Oh yeah, got that covered too – grab a snack in the airport, mini bar in the hotel room, the conference must have lunch, and if all else fails – room service.  You work hard to devise a “plan B” training configuration, but no preemptive planning goes into nutrition.  Why should nutrition take the back seat? 

Read Full Story

Food Logging: Is it a stress worth taking?

Logging your intake. I can’t tell you how important it is. The number one piece of advice I give to my athletes, regardless of if they are just starting out, or a seasoned triathlon veteran, is to start keeping track of what they eat! Even if you have (or think you have) control over nutrition, logging intake is a great learning tool. Besides tracking calories, one can monitor grams of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber. All of which can make or break your training session, or race!

So here is a list of five things one can learn by keeping a detailed nutrition log (even for just a short period of time):

Read Full Story

The Triathlon Fueling Window

I continue to get asked by athletes and coaches about taking a lower carbohydrate approach to fueling long course events. This concept sounds great on the surface, like Total Immersion-style swimming in triathlon, but as you dig deeper, you discover its pitfalls. I’ll sum this concept up as “Metabolic Efficiency Training – By Nutrition Modification” (low carb approach). I add the nutrition modification piece, as training via proper intensity ranges provides “Metabolic Efficiency” without tinkering with nutrition and is a proven concept. In my mind, there are two major components to the low carb approach: training nutrition modification/impacts and race day modification/impact. The first I discussed in pretty good detail here as “Starvation Workouts” – and the second I’ll discuss in more detail here. I’ll preface this discussion with the experience QT2 has with race fueling. Each year we do about 300-400 detailed race fueling plans for athletes from around the world of all levels. We’ve been doing this for about seven years. I have personally done fueling plans for over 40 PROs (many of whom I don’t coach).

Read Full Story

Detoxing Your Holiday Toxins Away

As we spend the last day of 2013, I bet many people are pondering about the changes they will make in 2014, and they will surely include some sort of health goal. For some, it can be easy to wake up tomorrow and start off on the right foot. But for others, it can be daunting to take that big leap.

Although one of the big reasons the Core Diet is so successful (besides the fact that we focus on real, nutrient dense foods) is that it is realistic. We allow “windows” for those foods that are not on the top of the “eat this” list, as well as a non-Core meal every once in a while (determined by your RD). However, some individuals can go a bit overboard during the holidays!

Read Full Story

Running In Cold Weather: Why You Need To Do This

It’s hard for me to think about bundling up in layers for a run when its still in the 80’s down here in South Florida. But as I pack for my upcoming New England trip, I am reminded of the weather reports in the rest of the country. Snow is trickling down on branches, and runners are seeing their breath before the words “hello” come out of their mouths as they pass a local running buddy. It’s also hard for many to imagine that sweat loss is going to occur when you are about to endure a run in 35-degree weather. But guess what? You still need to hydrate!

Read Full Story

Spooky & Spicy Carrot Salad

Dress up your Autumn dish with this antioxidant packed vegetable! Last week I suggested a new seasonal dish if you were getting bored with your day to day meals, and this colorful salad can do the same thing! Many of us don’t enough raw veggies in our diet, and carrot sticks dipped in hummus can get very old… Try this as a snack or with any lunch or dinner!  It's perfect for this Halloween season! 

Read Full Story

Autumn Fun Recipe

Bring on the pumpkins, Autumn is officially here! Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler, many of you have not yet reached the end of your triathlon season. At this point in the game, you might be a bit tired of your day-to-day foods. This is the perfect time to bring out those “hearty” meals that are still packed with good nutrients to ensure your body stays in peak condition.



Read Full Story

Your Tool Box For Health

People typically eat to satisfy hunger or because it tastes good. But food can serve another purpose. The substances in the foods that you eat can drive different physiological functions. In an effort to understand this, I like to envision the following analogy. Think of your body as a "tool box" and the foods you consume as the "tools". Your body uses the tools in the tool box to "tune it up" and help it run efficiently. So it is important, especially as an endurance athlete, to make sure your tool box is equipped with a large variety of useful tools! Just think, you can't repair a car if the only tools available in the tool box are a hammer and a screwdriver. You might need a wrench, crow bar, blow torch, several different sizes of screws, etc to fix the car.

Read Full Story

As the colder months roll in and slowly envelop us in frigid air, our food choices start to change.  Our penchant for salad goes by the wayside and we start craving more comforting foods: warm, creamy soups; toasty, gooey casseroles; and oodles of noodles.  All the delicious foods that, if eaten with abandon, help create the lovely padding around our midsection– a thermal layer that keeps up warm through these chilly months.

But as an athlete, training and performance are always in the back of your mind.  And though your season is just over, you’ll soon start building back up.  Your A Race is waiting.  The New Year brings with it new challenges, new training blocks, new goal times.  So stuffing ourselves with all these delicious foods may not be moving us towards these aspirations. 

I would be remiss in telling you that you should not eat these foods, after all they are mighty delicious and we only live once.  I will say, however, that there is a way to have the best of both worlds; a way of ‘healthifying’ these foods to keep their delectable flavor and yet offer better nutrition in preparation for your season.  Healthy food doesn’t have to taste bad (I promise!).

Below is a recipe for a healthier version of stuffed shells using blended reduced fat cottage cheese instead of full fat ricotta.   If you’re really adventurous, you could try replacing the cottage cheese with 1 block of firm tofu plus 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast (which imparts a great cheesy flavor!).  I know, it sounds strange… but don’t knock it ‘til you try it!

Creamy Stuffed Shells with Spinach – Healthified!

Ingredients:

  • 12oz box jumbo shells
  • 2 cups 2% cottage cheese
  • 4oz (1/3 less fat) cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 packages (9-10oz) fresh baby spinach (or 1 box frozen, defrosted and drained)
  • 3 cups spaghetti sauce
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1/3 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt

Directions:

{Makes about 30 stuffed shells}

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook shells according to the package.  Cook until al dente, not fully done (about 10 minutes).   Gently drain and set on a plate in a single layer to prevent them from sticking together.
  3. In a food processor, blend together cottage cheese, cream cheese, egg, and spices. Set aside.
  4. In a large sauté pan, sauté onions, garlic, and olive oil over medium heat.  Cook until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, stir and let wilt – about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  5. Stir together the cottage cheese and spinach mixture, adding the panko crumbs until combined.
  6. Spray a large rectangular casserole dish with olive oil, then spread 1 cup spaghetti sauce on the bottom.  Spoon about 1.5 to 2 Tablespoons of the filing into each shell and place them in a single layer in the casserole dish. 
  7. Once all are filled, drizzle the remaining 2 cups of spaghetti sauce on top and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes – or until sauce is bubbling.

Enjoy!!

As a triathlete, you work your tail off throughout the season to perform your best in that A race.  The first part of your season consists of building a solid base; gaining strength in the gym that will transition to power on the bike and in the run.  The second half of your season is devoted to speed and continued aerobic improvement.

For some athletes, performing their best means losing fat mass to get to a lean, healthy race weight.  Yet without proper nutrition, not only will fat be lost, but muscle mass as well.  This could lead to substandard performance via decreased strength and aerobic capacity.  Not ideal. 

It’s Monday afternoon and your boss has just informed you, that despite your best efforts to excuse yourself from business travel plans, you’re going anyway.  Before you know it, you’re booked on the 6am flight across the country.  Panic sets in.  My workouts! How am I going to get those key workouts in?  Frantically, you call your coach and somehow, you manage to work out the details. Ok, run a while I’m there, before meetings, after meetings, try to work in a swim, find the local YMCA, got it.  We’re covered. 

Crisis… averted?  What about nutrition?  Oh yeah, got that covered too – grab a snack in the airport, mini bar in the hotel room, the conference must have lunch, and if all else fails – room service.  You work hard to devise a “plan B” training configuration, but no preemptive planning goes into nutrition.  Why should nutrition take the back seat? 

Logging your intake. I can’t tell you how important it is. The number one piece of advice I give to my athletes, regardless of if they are just starting out, or a seasoned triathlon veteran, is to start keeping track of what they eat! Even if you have (or think you have) control over nutrition, logging intake is a great learning tool. Besides tracking calories, one can monitor grams of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber. All of which can make or break your training session, or race!

So here is a list of five things one can learn by keeping a detailed nutrition log (even for just a short period of time):

I continue to get asked by athletes and coaches about taking a lower carbohydrate approach to fueling long course events. This concept sounds great on the surface, like Total Immersion-style swimming in triathlon, but as you dig deeper, you discover its pitfalls. I’ll sum this concept up as “Metabolic Efficiency Training – By Nutrition Modification” (low carb approach). I add the nutrition modification piece, as training via proper intensity ranges provides “Metabolic Efficiency” without tinkering with nutrition and is a proven concept. In my mind, there are two major components to the low carb approach: training nutrition modification/impacts and race day modification/impact. The first I discussed in pretty good detail here as “Starvation Workouts” – and the second I’ll discuss in more detail here. I’ll preface this discussion with the experience QT2 has with race fueling. Each year we do about 300-400 detailed race fueling plans for athletes from around the world of all levels. We’ve been doing this for about seven years. I have personally done fueling plans for over 40 PROs (many of whom I don’t coach).

As we spend the last day of 2013, I bet many people are pondering about the changes they will make in 2014, and they will surely include some sort of health goal. For some, it can be easy to wake up tomorrow and start off on the right foot. But for others, it can be daunting to take that big leap.

Although one of the big reasons the Core Diet is so successful (besides the fact that we focus on real, nutrient dense foods) is that it is realistic. We allow “windows” for those foods that are not on the top of the “eat this” list, as well as a non-Core meal every once in a while (determined by your RD). However, some individuals can go a bit overboard during the holidays!

It’s hard for me to think about bundling up in layers for a run when its still in the 80’s down here in South Florida. But as I pack for my upcoming New England trip, I am reminded of the weather reports in the rest of the country. Snow is trickling down on branches, and runners are seeing their breath before the words “hello” come out of their mouths as they pass a local running buddy. It’s also hard for many to imagine that sweat loss is going to occur when you are about to endure a run in 35-degree weather. But guess what? You still need to hydrate!

Dress up your Autumn dish with this antioxidant packed vegetable! Last week I suggested a new seasonal dish if you were getting bored with your day to day meals, and this colorful salad can do the same thing! Many of us don’t enough raw veggies in our diet, and carrot sticks dipped in hummus can get very old… Try this as a snack or with any lunch or dinner!  It's perfect for this Halloween season! 

Bring on the pumpkins, Autumn is officially here! Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler, many of you have not yet reached the end of your triathlon season. At this point in the game, you might be a bit tired of your day-to-day foods. This is the perfect time to bring out those “hearty” meals that are still packed with good nutrients to ensure your body stays in peak condition.



People typically eat to satisfy hunger or because it tastes good. But food can serve another purpose. The substances in the foods that you eat can drive different physiological functions. In an effort to understand this, I like to envision the following analogy. Think of your body as a "tool box" and the foods you consume as the "tools". Your body uses the tools in the tool box to "tune it up" and help it run efficiently. So it is important, especially as an endurance athlete, to make sure your tool box is equipped with a large variety of useful tools! Just think, you can't repair a car if the only tools available in the tool box are a hammer and a screwdriver. You might need a wrench, crow bar, blow torch, several different sizes of screws, etc to fix the car.

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