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Enlightening You about Food and Nutrition

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Bone Health for Female Athletes Across the Lifespan

Good bone health affects your ability to stay active and healthy throughout life. However, when female athletes, especially those training for recreational or elite athletic competition, knowingly or unknowingly exercise too much and eat too little, they may be at risk for low bone mass and fractures.

The incidence of low bone density and stress fractures, is increasing among competitive and recreational female athletes of all ages, and leads to pain and lost time from training and competition. Osteoporosis, a bone disease caused by weakened, porous bone, occurs silently and progressively over time, often with no symptoms until a fracture occurs. It’s currently estimated that one in three women over the age of 50 will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture www.iofbonehealth.org.

Bone is a living tissue that is constantly changing. Nutrition, physical activity, and certain hormones all play a role in the development and maintenance of healthy bones. With adequate nutrients, in particular calcium, Vitamin D, and protein, as well as weight-bearing exercise, most people achieve a peak bone mineral density by their late 20’s. During the normal aging process, both bone mass and bone strength decrease, with increased declines related to the lack of estrogen, such as with menopause or in female athletes with amenorrhea. Therefore, bone disease prevention begins during childhood and adolescence, as well as lessening the extent of bone loss that occurs during the aging process.

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock.com

To optimize bone health, female athletes need to:

  1. Consume foods that provide adequate calcium and vitamin D
  2. Eat enough calories to support their training
  3. Include high quality protein at meals and snacks
  4. Participate in strength or resistance exercises that provide an mechanical force on the bone
  5. Recognize that menstrual irregularity is a warning sign for low bone mass – and for postmenopausal women, consider having a DEXA bone density scan done to measure your bone density.

The Role of Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is an important mineral in the body for maintaining bone strength, regulating muscle contractions, maintaining blood pressure, and transmitting nerve impulses. Most of the body’s calcium is stored in our bones (and teeth); and, without enough calcium each day from the diet, the body will use what it needs from the bone to keep blood calcium levels normal. If more calcium is removed from the bones than is consumed in the diet, the bones may become fragile or weak.

The calcium recommendation for women ages 25 to 50 is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day and 1,200 mg/day for women after age 50. Good sources of calcium include dairy products (milk, yogurt, kefir, and cheese), calcium-fortified juices or plant milks, some types of tofu, certain vegetables (collard greens, kale, broccoli, bok choy), oranges and almonds.

Vitamin D is also vital to bone health as it is needed for the absorption of calcium from the intestines and plays a key role in bone mineralization. The recommended daily allowance is 600 international units (IU) for those women under 70 years of age and 800 IU for those over 71 years of age. Vitamin D is present in only a few foods including fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified foods, like milk and cereal. It is also made in the skin when exposed to sunlight. For those unable to get sunlight or consume sufficient Vitamin D from foods, 2,000 units of Vitamin D daily may be recommended, but you should consult with your doctor before taking any supplement.

Photo courtesy: Adobestock.com

Other Key Nutrients for Bone Health

Consuming enough calories to fuel activity and other body functions is critical. Eating a variety of foods at three meals and two to three snacks throughout the day according to your hunger and fullness will generally meet the energy demands of your sport.

Including a source of protein (lean meat, fish, dairy products, soy foods, beans, legumes and nuts) at each of your meals and snacks will provide the building blocks necessary for building a strong matrix of protein fibers in bone. Achieving peak bone mass during childhood and adolescence, as well as preserving bone mass with aging, is dependent on the body having enough protein available for bone development.

Many other nutrients are needed for healthy bones. Although research is still evolving on their role and benefits, Vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc also have a role in bone health. 

I’m often asked if there is a way to reverse bone loss or if a supplement, like collagen, will help prevent bone loss. There are medications that can help slow bone loss, however these come with side effects. Osteoporosis is not reversable. At this time, there is no evidence to support taking a collagen powder to prevent bone loss. Collagen powders only provide three amino acids that are components of collagen in the body, but there is no way to direct those amino acids to specific tissues in your body (in this case bone) to aid in collagen synthesis. A better strategy would be to consume adequate amounts of high quality protein (such as those foods highlighted above) or include a protein powder that provides the body all of the amino acids (i.e. whey or soy protein).

Bottom line: A food first approach is a superior way to ensure your body is getting all the key nutrients needed for bone metabolism. For advice on customizing a fueling plan, consult a Registered Dietitian who specializes in sports, particularly a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).

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Overcoming GI Distress During Exercise

shutterstock_runner stomach problemsMost individuals are familiar with the lure and appeal of endurance activities. In fact, people seem to be coming out in droves to be a part a weekend marathon race, Ironman triathlon, or 100+ mile ultra-endurance events. However, what most of these people don’t hear about as they venture away from their comfy couch in hopes of a stronger, healthier body are some of the common side effects of gastrointestinal reflux (or heartburn), stomach cramps, nausea, bloating, vomiting and/or diarrhea. In fact, the majority of endurance athletes experience some gastrointestinal (GI) discomfort in their training or racing. Of course, these symptoms can be distressing and may affect performance. But, in some cases can be quite severe and result in needing to drop out of a race or discontinue the activity all together.

To keep your training and racing season enjoyable, check out some of the common causes of GI distress along with simple suggestions to help reduce symptoms.


The main causes of GI problems during exercise include:

  • Mechanical – The vibration or “jostling” of organs during strenuous activity, such as running or riding on rough pavement, may contribute to intraabdominal pressure and reflux, for example.
  • Physiological – Exercise reduces blood flow to the gut while directing blood flow to active tissues, such as the muscles, heart, lung and brain. Consequently, GI functions, such as the emptying of food and fluids from the stomach are affected.
  • Nutritional – A number of nutrition factors are known to contribute to greater GI distress, including too much fat, protein, and fiber; high concentrations of carbohydrate, especially fructose, lactose, and artificial sweeteners; caffeine and dehydration.

Additional factors such as anxiety, stress, and pre-race nerves can be a problem. Also, frequent consumption of aspirin, NSAIDS (ibuprofen) and antibiotics can negatively affect gut permeability and contribute to GI problems.


Most important is to practice your nutrition plan during training! It’s common for recreational athletes who decide to challenge themselves by training for longer events to neglect the role of nutrition in their preparation.  Too much focus on activity and exercise for weight loss rather than adequately preparing the body for the rigorous nature of the sport can backfire.  Athletes, who are not accustomed to fluid and food ingestion during exercise, struggle more with GI symptoms compared to those who consume fluids and food regularly during exercise.

To stay on track with your favorite activity, check out the following tips:

  • Limit intake of high-fiber foods the day before or morning of your activity or event. Fiber in foods, such as beans, lentils, high-fiber cereals/bread, and fruits and vegetables increases bulk and reduces transit time. Of course, consuming adequate fiber on a regular basis offers a number of health benefits; however, for athletes managing transit troubles, it is recommended to consume a low fiber diet the day or two before a race. Therefore, foods such white bread, white rice, plain bagels, canned or well-cooked fruits and vegetables may be more easily tolerated. A few fruits and veggies that are lower in fiber such as zucchini, cucumber (with skin removed), asparagus, tomatoes, grapes and grapefruit may also be tolerated.
  • Limit intake of fat and protein prior to activity or event. Foods containing fat and protein take longer to digest and can contribute to delayed emptying and stomach cramps. Try to consume meals at least 3 to 4 hours before an event.
  • Reduce or eliminate foods containing sugar alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol, erythritol, etc). Often found in “low carbohydrate” or “low sugar” foods, such as gum, candy, nutrition supplements or bars, this type of sugar can cause diarrhea.
  • Limit highly concentrated carbohydrate concentrations in foods or beverages. To avoid the accumulation of carbohydrate in the intestine, glucose (6%) or glucose plus fructose (8% to 10%) beverages are recommended. It can be especially important to avoid excessive intake of fructose, most notably in drinks or gels that are exclusively fructose. The ability of the human intestine to absorb fructose is limited, with 80% of people found to incompletely absorb 50 grams of fructose when ingested without other food (JADA, 2005). When fructose is consumed in the presence of glucose, absorption is enhanced.
  • Avoid dehydration. Start the race well-hydrated and ensure adequate fluid intake throughout the duration of the event. Dehydration as a result of loss of fluid from sweating is often associated with athletes struggling with GI complaints. This can especially be of concern during events when an athlete reduces intake because of being concerned or worried about suffering from GI problems.
  • Avoid trying any new foods or beverages the day of the event. Especially for individuals with a sensitive stomach or who frequently complain of problems, avoid consuming any unfamiliar foods or fluids the day of a big race.

If you follow the above recommendations and still have problems, try to keep a food and symptom journal to identify potential triggers. Eliminate suspicious foods for a week or two and then slowly re-introduce small portions and note whether the GI symptom resolves or persists. Continue to experiment with a wide variety of foods during training, allowing time for your gut to adjust. Learn what foods or fluids are most tolerable for you, and for best results, stick to your plan!

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Shamrock Shake (that doesn’t taste like a shamrock!)

IMG_9595There are many recipes for “green smoothies”. However, it seems they are either loaded with extra calories and sugar (to sweeten them up) or they taste like, well you know, something green. An added bonus for athletes is this recipe features Tart Cherry Juice concentrate, known for its anti-inflammatory and melatonin properties.


1 scoop (31 grams) vanilla protein powder or 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt   

1 cup milk (your choice…cow, soy, almond, coconut, etc.)

2 cups fresh spinach leaves

1 ounce Tart Cherry juice concentrate

1 cup chopped ice


  1. Place all ingredients in a blender.
  2. Blend until smooth.


* Note: Tart cherry juice is either available in a concentrate or 8 ounce “juice” serving. The juice is from a specific variety of sour cherries (prunus cerasus) and include the Montgomery or Morello Cherry. The tart cherry has received a lot of press over the past few years as a powerful anti-inflammatory and natural sleep aid.  


Cycling Nutrition: Fueling a Long Ride

Cycling nutritionI love cycling! My happy place is getting out for a long ride on a nice summer day. But without proper fueling, even my recreational joyride can come to a screeching halt real fast!  Whether you are competing in an endurance race or heading out for an all day ride, proper nutrition and hydration can make the difference between fully enjoying or barely enduring a day of riding. Just as you wouldn’t take off on a road trip without enough fuel in your car, the same is true for your body’s fuel tank when you embark on a long ride. Eating the right foods before, during and after your ride will help provide for an enjoyable ride and optimal performance.

Carbohydrates: The Fuel of Choice

The body’s fuel of choice for an endurance sport like cycling is carbohydrate. Carbohydrate-containing foods, such as fruit, potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, milk, yogurt, honey, etc. are broken down in the body to glucose and stored as glycogen in the muscle. Therefore, for the recreational or competitive cyclist, eating enough carbohydrates at each meal and snack (not just the night before) is essential to ensure your “gas tank” (glycogen) is ready to go. The well-fueled cyclist should have enough energy stored as glycogen in muscles to support 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

Fueling Before You Ride

The ideal time for a carbohydrate-rich, pre-exercise meal is three to four hours prior to your ride. The amount of carbohydrate depends on a number of factors, such as body weight. For a 150-lb cyclist, aim for 80 to 100 grams of carbohydrate (i.e. 1 cup oatmeal, 6 oz Greek yogurt, 1 cup berries and a slice of whole wheat toast). In addition, consuming 100 to 300 calories of a low-fat, carbohydrate-rich snack (fruit and crackers) an hour before your ride will also provide muscles additional glucose to be used for energy, while sparing glycogen and delaying fatigue. Fluids are as important as food in preparing for a long ride. Prepare by drinking enough water the day before the ride (evidenced by pale colored urine) and sipping on a 16-oz sports drink the hour before going out.

Foods and Fluids during Long Rides

Dehydration is the leading cause of fatigue for the endurance athlete. Staying well-hydrated during a long ride is essential for having a good ride. A general rule of thumb is 20 ounces of fluid for every hour, ideally ingested in small frequent intervals for better absorption and utilization by the body (about 5 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes). Electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are lost in sweat and essential to maintain proper water balance in your tissues. Therefore, consider carrying two bottles, one with water and one containing an electrolyte solution. For rides longer than 4 hours or in very hot or humid weather, cyclists need to plan to include additional sodium and potassium-containing foods during the ride, such as bananas, tomato juice, pretzels, salted nuts or broth.

If your ride will include some high intensity riding, strenuous hill climbing, or will be more than 90 minutes, then you will also need to fuel with additional glucose during the ride. When glycogen stores get low you “hit the wall” and consequently run out of energy. For this reason, it is beneficial to consume easily digestible carbohydrates from a variety of sources, such as sports drinks, bananas, energy gels, etc. and see what works best for you. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 50 grams of carbohydrate for a 150-lb cyclist each hour (again in small, frequent intervals). Unfortunately, some novice riders limit their consumption of carbohydrate calories during exercise for fear that a sports drink or carbohydrate gel “contains too much sugar” or “will cancel out the calories burned from training.” A study completed at Colorado State University demonstrated that this approach actually backfires. Researchers discovered that subjects who restricted carbohydrate intake during exercise ended up consuming more calories the rest of the day than subjects who ingested carbohydrate during activity (Melby et al., 2002).

Some basic tips for carrying and consuming fuel while riding:

  • Be sure your fuel will hold up to weather conditions, such as heat and humidity.
  • Partially open any small packages for easy access.
  • On unsupported rides, carry snacks in a jersey or jacket with multiple easy-to-reach pockets.
  • Portion your hourly food into separate baggies and consume one bag per hour.
  • Carry powdered sports drinks and reconstitute when you have access to water

Restore, Replace and Repair from Your Long Ride

The goals of recovery nutrition are to: 1) Restore fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat during a long ride, 2) Replace glycogen stores (muscle fuel) depleted during activity, and 3) Repair muscle tissue broken down from high intensity activity.

Rehydration is vital to recovery following a long ride. Ideally, you have replenished water (sweat) lost during your ride. However, when you get off your bike, continue to drink water or a sports drink to quench your thirst or until urine is pale.

Within 30 to 60 minutes, have a snack that includes carbohydrates (to replace glycogen) and protein (to repair muscle tissue). Aim for a 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, i.e. 60 grams of carbohydrate along with 20 grams of protein. Examples of good recovery snacks include low-fat chocolate milk; fruit and yogurt smoothie; graham crackers with peanut butter and low-fat milk; apple or banana with nut butter and low-fat milk.  Finally, follow-up with a healthy meal that includes a balance of protein-rich meats, vegetables and whole grains that will continue to restore, replace and repair those essential nutrients lost during activity so you will be ready to ride again soon.

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Breakfast for Champions!

BreakfastPlenty of research demonstrates that a healthy, balanced breakfast has many benefits (i.e. better weight management and increased focus and concentration are a couple).  If you aren’t convinced, read “Reasons to Not Skip Breakfast”.

This is especially true for the student athlete, who typically endures a long, demanding school day, with limited opportunities for fueling before a rigorous afternoon training or workout.

Unfortunately, there are 3 potential pitfalls for student athletes who skip or skimp on breakfast: 

1) Athletes have higher cravings for sweets (a sign that your body is too hungry) and seek out candy or other less healthy sources of quick energy before practice.

2) A cycle of under-eating and over-eating results in the majority of the athlete’s calories being consumed in 1 or 2 meals, late in the day, versus the recommended 4-5 meals throughout the most active time of day. This pattern is very hard on the body resulting in increased cravings, compromised immune health, more fatigue, disruption of sleep, and increased storage of visceral fat (unhealthy fat stores around organ tissues).

3) Decreased endurance and stamina during afternoon practices resulting in less than ideal performance.  Athletes who are well-fueled with breakfast, lunch and a pre-exercise snack have better mental focus, balance, and overall performance.

So, for those who want the benefits from a wholesome breakfast, but aren’t sure what to eat or struggle with time in the morning, check out these simple tips and recipes to get you on the road to success.

3 basic ingredients for a balanced breakfast: 1) Protein, 2) Complex carbohydrate, and 3) Healthy fat

 Protein, such as eggs, yogurt, lean meats, fish, cheese, and nuts, at breakfast is vital for overall growth and repair of muscle tissue, while also helping slow down the absorption of carbohydrates and keeping you satisfied until the next meal event.

Complex carbohydrates include foods such as oatmeal, whole grain breads, quinoa, fruit and vegetables. Try to avoid highly processed foods (things with more than 5 ingredients on the label) as they can lead to increased cravings before the next meal or snack.  I also recommend including a fruit or vegetable when choosing oatmeal or other wholesome grains at breakfast because fruit and veggies are natural sources of anti-inflammatory chemicals, called antioxidants.  Foods with anti-inflammatory properties are crucial for athletes to consume at each meal as they help manage the stress of exercise. So, as the saying goes, “Get some color on your plate!”

Healthy fats include nuts and seeds (specifically walnuts, almonds, and chia, sunflower or ground flax seed), nut butters, avocado, canola oil, olive oil, etc.  Common toppings for breakfast foods often include butter, cream cheese, etc. These are also acceptable in moderation. Include a variety of fats in your weekly breakfast meals as they add flavor, increase satiety, and you will be adding important vitamins, such as vitamin E – also a powerful antioxidant!

Check out the “Sample Meals” and “20 Easy and Quick Breakfast Ideas” below for simple examples of incorporating these 3 important nutrients in your breakfast:

Sample Meals:

Protein Complex Carbohydrate Healthy Fat
6 oz. Greek yogurt ½ whole wheat bagel                  ½ cup mixed berries 1 Tbsp nut butter
Hard boiled egg ½ cup cooked oatmeal                ½ small banana 1 Tbsp walnuts
1-2 eggs scrambled 1 slice whole wheat toast              1 cup spinach 1 tsp. butter
Smoothie:  1 scoop whey protein powder                                            1 cup milk 1 cup frozen berries 1 Tbsp ground flax or chia seeds

20 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas:

Smoothies that satisfy!  It seems everyone has their favorite smoothie recipe. Smoothies can be very quick, nutritious, and flavorful but to ensure your savory concoction keeps you satisfied without excessive calories, consider these tips: 1) combine 1-2 servings of fruit and/or veggies with a liquid (milk, water, juice, coconut water); 2) add a source of protein (Greek yogurt, protein powder, peanut butter); and 3) maybe a couple extras (ground flax, chia seeds, nuts, or spices).  Just in case you don’t have your own favorite recipe, here are a couple quick and easy ideas.

  1. Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie.  Blend 1 cup plain Greek yogurt with 1 cup frozen fruit (banana and berries work very well) and 1/2 cup liquid (milk, juice, coconut water, etc.). Freeze overnight and thaw throughout the day to enjoy in the afternoon, or blend up in the morning.
  2. Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie. Blend 1 small frozen banana, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup crushed ice (option – add 1 scoop chocolate whey protein).
  3. CIB Smoothie. For an extra boost of calcium and protein, combine one packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast with 1 cup milk. Add 2 Tbsp. peanut butter and one small ripe banana. Blend with crushed ice.
  4. Tart CherryBerry and Kale Smoothie. Feeling sore and tired? Try adding this smoothie that uses Tart Cherry Juice, known for its benefits of fighting inflammation and aiding in sleep. Start by liquefying ½ cup 100% tart cherry juice blended with handful baby kale. Add 1 cup plain Greek yogurt and 1 cup frozen berries. This recipe uses Tart Cherry Juice available at a variety of health food stores, such as Trader Joes.

iStock_cherry smoothie

Yummy Yogurt.  Yogurt is great for breakfast because it’s easy to grab and packed with protein to help you stay satisfied longer. Try some of these tasty variations to ensure your breakfast is easy…and well-balanced.

  1. Yogurt Parfait. This is one of the easiest breakfasts that provide a great balance of protein and carbohydrates for athletes on the go. Choose a variety of toppings, such as ¼ cup unsweetened granola, 1 tbsp chopped almonds and 1 cup frozen berries. Try choosing fruits that are in season, such as yummy, sweet berries in the summer, flavorful apples or a dollop of pumpkin puree come fall.
  2. Tropical Yogurt Parfait. Top vanilla or plain Greek yogurt with ½ cup crushed canned pineapple (drained) and ½ sliced banana. If using plain, unsweetened yogurt, you may want to drizzle with a couple teaspoons of honey and top with shredded raw coconut.

Eggs…not just for the weekend.  For many, the idea of an egg breakfast and “eating on the run” doesn’t seem to go together. Considering that eggs are the highest quality protein…and very cost effective, it’s worth it to experiment with some of these quick and easy ideas to start your day off right.

  1. Microwaved Scrambled Eggs With Veggies. Yes, it is possible to make really good eggs in the microwave. And it’s easy! Beat 2 eggs, throw in a microwave-safe container, add 1 handful of your favorite veggies (spinach leaves, mushrooms, onions, cherry tomatoes are a few ideas), and a sprinkle of cheese. Zap the mixture for 30 seconds, stir, and cook another 30 seconds, or until eggs are solid. Prep the night by storing the raw mixture in a fridge until ready to heat and eat in the morning.
  2. Breakfast Burrito.Breakfast burritos are full of good nutrition and easy to grab and go. Scramble 2 egg whites, 1/4 cup black beans, 2 tablespoons salsa, and 2 tablespoons shredded cheese, and wrap in 1 small whole-wheat tortilla. Make ahead by preparing a few at a time, wrap in foil, and keep in the freezer until ready to reheat.
  3. Super Special Scrambled eggs.  This tasty breakfast is packed with good nutrition for the stressed athlete! Simply lightly sauté handful of spinach with 1 ounce smoked salmon. Toss in 1-2 beaten eggs with the spinach mixture and cook through. If desired, melt in ½ Tbsp. cream cheese and season lightly with salt and pepper. Serve on top of lightly toasted whole grain baguette – Yum!!
  4. Egg Sandwich.  Who doesn’t love a classic egg sandwich? I remember my father-in-law adding a dollop of salsa to his! So use your creativity with this one. Simply prepare 1-2 eggs to your liking. Place between 2 whole-wheat English muffin halves (or toast) with 1 slice of cheddar cheese. Pile on some veggies or salsa, if you wish. Wrap in foil so the cheese melts evenly, and enjoy!
  5. Egg Muffins.  Another great do-ahead that is easy to heat up before running out the door. Simply beat 10 eggs, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 3 handfuls of spinach, 1 shredded zucchini, 1/2 a bell pepper (chopped), 4 slices cooked bacon or ham, chopped, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Divide egg mixture evenly in a greased muffin tin, and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 F. Store in refrigerator or freezer. Zap it for a few seconds in the microwave before serving. (See another recipe featured below)

Muffin MadnessMuffins seem to get a bad rap for being only these sweet, carb-laden morsels of goodness. Well, as I like to say, you can have your “muffin” and be healthy too. Home baked muffins made with a variety of wholesome, natural whole grains can be a great way to manage portions and get high quality nutrition on the go.

  1. Pumpkin protein muffins with oatmeal.  These muffins are packed with a healthy balance of whole grain carbohydrates along with protein to make a perfect morning breakfast or snack. Make a batch the night before and zap in the morning for a warm, tasty meal. (See recipe below)
  2. Whole-Wheat Banana Muffins. These hearty, wholesome muffins were developed by one of my dietetic interns and make the perfect portable breakfast. The Greek yogurt allows for a slight reduction in fat, while adding a punch of protein. (See recipe below)
  3. Zucchini Muffins.  Make a batch of your favorite zucchini bread or muffins to easily fit a serving of veggies into a delicious baked goods. Toss in some ground flax for a healthy dose of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
  4. Raisin Bran Microwave Muffins. One of my favorite things for breakfast as a kid was these easy muffins from the microwave. Yup, muffins in the microwave! Prepare the batter ahead of time and leave in refrigerator. Scoop batter into ramekin or muffin cup and microwave on high for 1 minute, remove to take a look, and keep cooking for 30 seconds at a time until the muffin looks firm.  (See recipe below)

pumpkin protein muffins with oatmeal

Hearty & Hot Cereals!  These recipes use a couple of nature’s most wholesome energy boosters – quinoa and oatmeal.  Both are full of natural goodness with quinoa providing a complete protein, essential for tissue growth and repair; and, oatmeal delivers a great source of soluble fiber for improving satiety as well as offering a number of important health benefits.

  1. Fruity Breakfast Quinoa. Simply prepare quinoa according to package directions, substituting milk for water. Add your favorite spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Top with fresh berries and chopped almonds.
  2. Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. Skip the pumpkin spice latte and enjoy a more wholesome autumn treat for breakfast. Simply prepare quick oats in the microwave according to package directions adding a heaping dollop of pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and low-fat milk or almond milk. If desired, drizzle with a couple teaspoons of maple syrup or brown sugar and walnuts for a quick and easy breakfast before heading out the door.
  3. Overnight Oats.This popular Pinterest pin makes a lot of sense for anyone who really has no time for messing around in the kitchen in the morning. The night before, combine 1/2 cup milk, 1/3 cup rolled oats, 1/2 a mashed banana (or fruit of choice), 1/4 cup chopped nuts (or chia seeds), and a sprinkle of cinnamon in sealed Tupperware container or 1-cup mason jar. By morning, you’ll have delicious overnight oats! These can be heated in the microwave for 1-2 minutes if in the mood for something warm.

Which “wich”?  These creative “sandwiches” combine balanced nutrition in a handful.

  1. Waffle PBJ-Wich. Try this sweet take on a classic breakfast sandwich the next time eating on the go. Prepare 2 whole-grain toaster waffles. Spread one half with 2 tablespoons nut butter and layer 2-3 sliced strawberries or ½ sliced banana on top in place of the traditional jelly. Top with other half.
  2. Apple-Wich.This is a perfect pick for apple season, Cut 1 apple in half and remove the core. Drop 2 tablespoons of your favorite nut butter between the two holes, and sprinkle in 1 tablespoon granola. Wrap up the whole apple in plastic wrap and pair with a portable serving of milk for an easy grab and go breakfast.

Featured Recipes: 

Egg Muffin Variation

See Recipe at: http://www.averiecooks.com/2014/05/100-calorie-cheese-vegetable-and-egg-muffins.html

Pumpkin Protein Muffins with Oatmeal

Makes: 18 muffins      Prep Time: 10 minutes           Cook Time: 12-15 minutes


1 1⁄2 cups Oats 1 cup Whole wheat flour

1 (15 oz.) can Pumpkin 1⁄2 cup Protein powder (unflavored or vanilla)*

3⁄4 Brown sugar, packed 1 1⁄2 tsp Baking soda

3⁄4 cup Canola oil 3⁄4 tsp Baking powder

2 large Eggs 3⁄4 tsp salt

1 1⁄4 tsp Pumpkin spice (ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon mixed together)

1/3 cup (plus 1 tbsp) Chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl beat the brown sugar, oil and eggs together.
  3. Add in the oats and pumpkin.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  5. Gently mix dry ingredients into oat mixture, mixing as little as possible.
  6. Fold in 1/3 cup nuts (if desired).
  7. Pour batter into paper lined muffin tins, filling each muffin cup approximately 2/3 full.
  8. Sprinkle tops of muffins with remaining chopped nuts (if desired).
  9. Bake about 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

* Note: If you don’t have protein powder on hand, or would rather not use it, just replace the 1⁄2 cup protein powder with an additional 1⁄2 cup whole wheat flour.

Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

Makes: 16 muffins      Prep Time: 15 minutes           Cook Time: 22 minutes


2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 large ripe bananas

1 cup packed brown sugar

1⁄4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3⁄4 cup walnut halves, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)

Turbinado cane sugar for sprinkling on muffins before baking


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, peel the bananas and mash with a fork. Add brown sugar, oil, egg, yogurt, vanilla extract. Stir well until combined. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in walnuts if desired. Fill muffin liners 3⁄4 full. If desired, sprinkle with cane sugar. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Store, covered, at room temperature.

Adapted from recipe available at www.twopeasandtheirpod.com

Raisin Bran Muffins (Microwaveable)


4 cups Raisin Bran cereal

2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

½ cup canola oil

2 eggs, beaten

2 cups buttermilk (or substitute with 1 cup milk and 1 cup plain yogurt)

1 tsp vanilla


  1. Combine first 5 dry ingredients together in a large bowl
  2. Add the remaining ingredients the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  3. Store in a covered container in refrigerator up to 6 weeks.
  4. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full and bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes
  5. If desired, fill ramekin or muffin cup (placed in microwaveable dish) with batter and microwave for 1 minute, checking every 30 seconds until cooked through.

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Making Peace with Food, Exercise and Weight

shutterstock_peace and foodFor many recreational or competitive female athletes, food seems to be the “fattening enemy.” Women often express their frustration that they “do all this exercise and are not losing weight” and wonder “what is the best diet?” The problem is that diets don’t work (or everyone who diets would be thin). They are certainly appealing, giving an illusion of control.  But sadly, the dieting cycle actually contributes to more distress. The good news is that making peace with food, exercise and weight is possible! Rediscover the joy and nourishment of eating by focusing on strategies that will help you optimize body composition and improve athletic performance.

Create a Small Calorie Deficit. Weight loss happens when there is a caloric deficit. Unfortunately, the body responds to a caloric deficit with a number of metabolic adaptations.  In the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Trexler, et al. summarize results from a number of studies indicating that the body’s response to hypocaloric diets is to increase hunger, conserve energy, and promote loss of lean body mass (LBM).  Consequently, repeated cycles of weight loss and regain ultimately result in long-term weight gain. To minimize these effects, it is recommended to utilize the smallest possible deficit, such as 10-15% of calories, to yield an average weight loss of 0.5 pound per week. For example, if you need 2000 calories to maintain your weight, create a 200-300 calorie deficit per day. This may decrease the rate of weight loss, but will also reduce unfavorable adaptations.

Manage Your Hunger.  There are many factors that affect hunger and appetite. Hunger is simply your body’s physical request for fuel, while appetite is a psychological urge for “what sounds good.” The biggest mistake made by weight conscious athletes is getting overly hungry and relying entirely on willpower to avoid eating too much. Unfortunately, many dieters skip breakfast, skimp on lunch, and blow it by “giving in” and overeating later in the day.  Giving yourself permission to eat enough at breakfast and lunch will help you control the amount of food your body needs.  Plan ahead by dividing your energy needs into about 3-5 meals/snacks and mindfully fuel up during the most active part of your day.

Increase Protein Intake.  Loss of LBM while trying to reduce body weight is obviously undesired. Research has indicated that resistance training along with sufficient protein intake will help preserve LBM during energy restriction. Increasing your intake of protein-containing foods (such as meat, poultry, fish, beans, legumes, and dairy products) will also promote satiety which delays the onset of hunger for the next meal. Protein needs vary individually, but in general, aim for about 20 grams of protein per meal or snack (20 grams of protein is the equivalent of a palm-sized serving of meat, pork or poultry; one cup of tofu; or 6 oz Greek yogurt with a couple tablespoons of almonds).

Improve Diet Quality. While I don’t recommend defining foods as “good” vs “bad”, changing your personal food environment will increase the likelihood that you will eat more nutrient dense foods regularly. Stocking up on fruits, vegetables, lean meats, wholesome carbohydrates, dairy, nuts, and seeds at home or at work will help fuel your workouts, decrease cravings and manage emotional eating. Each meal, try to balance your plate with a serving of lean protein, wholesome carbohydrates, and colorful veggies that will help you feel full and satisfied while providing important nutrients to help you exercise, train and perform at your best.