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Vegetables And Stuff

gym-diet

We tried this whole clean eating thing for a week, well, five days…OK 4.5 days. It was hard as heck. The goal was to not consume any refined sugars, simple carbohydrates, alcohol, meat, and dairy. Two reasons why we wanted to do this: 1) To inspire healthier than usual eating habits (we eat vegetarian during the week, but the food choices aren’t always healthy. 2) Force us to try new recipes and be more creative with staples we have around the house.

I wouldn’t say we noticed any significant changes. We didn’t all of sudden start running faster and our skin didn’t turn Jay Lo-esque, but there was a feeling that eating this diet made us more superior than most people…j/k! It was guilt free eating.  What we were ingesting was actually good for our body. We felt good. My farts didn’t smell and I know that has to be a good thing.

Unless you’re rich and can afford to constantly buy prepared food from Whole Foods or M Cafe, then you have to cook the stuff yourself. I will say that eating a strict vegetarian diet is less costly than eating animals and processed foods. For a week’s worth of produce and fruits we spent about $35 at Super King. This was for three meals a day with snacks! Although organic would be ideal we can’t all the time because rent and financial aid payments.

If you decide to do this clean eating thing you’ll also notice that the recipes will be very simple and more emphasis is on combing ingredients to create certain tastes. Garlic is magical and chili peppers don’t always have to taste spicy. Spices are key. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

So, big takeaways: 1) Cheaper to eat fruits and vegetables specially if you eat with the seasons. 2) Planning and effort. You have to plan your meals and make time to prepare them. 3) Farts won’t smell. Junk in. Junk out.

Here are some recipes of food we ate during the 4.5 days:

Kale and Quinoa Fry
Cook 1 cup quinoa in 1 3/4 cup water for 15 minutes. Fluff and set aside.
Mince 3 garlic cloves and half an onion. Chop as much kale as you’d like. If you don’t like it as much, 2 cups is good. f you love it then 6-8 cups is plenty.

Saute the garlic and onions in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil until the garlic is close to browning. Add 1/4 tsp. chili flakes then add kale. Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water and cover until kale is a bit wilted. Add quinoa and turn up the heat a bit. Continue to stir and make sure most of the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Wheat Berry Waldorf Salad
Soak 1 cup hard wheat berry overnight in the refrigerator. Boil wheat berry in 5 cups of water for 40 minutes. Strain while runnign cold water over wheat berry. Set aside.

Dice 1 apple (Fuji or Gala), medium onion, 3-4 stalks celery. Add 1 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans.

Whisk 1/3 cup safflower oil, 1/4 cup apple juice, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons honey, pinch salt and pepper.

Combine apple mixture with wheat berries. Toss with oil mixture. Refrigerate for an hour. Eat.

Breakfast Smoothie
Blend 1/2 cup oatmeal until it’s a powder. Add 1 1/2 cup coconut milk (we use the drinking kind from Trader Joe’s), 1 banana, 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup frozen pineapple, and 1 tablespoon honey. Blend until smooth. Drink.

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Nii Bar Product Review

IMG_2089This is an unsolicited product review. I did not receive this product directly from the manufacturer or any PR firm. In fact, I snagged these from the volunteer goodie bags at the race.

I managed to get a few bars that were provided as samples at the Hansen Dam Triathlon: Berry Cashew, Peanut Butter, Cherry Coconut, and Almond Chocolate Chip. I had mixed reviews among the four I tasted, preferring the Berry Cashew and Cherry Coconut. Listed below are my remarks regarding the flavor and digestibility of each flavor:

IMG_2072Berry Cashew – The bar has a distinct cashew and walnut taste. (Note that walnuts are used in all of their bars, but for some reason is most evident in this flavor pairing.) The berry flavor is subtle and is masked by the stronger nut flavor (cashew butter and walnuts), which I actually like. The package I ate was stored inside a backpack I normally use during my bike commutes to and from work. The bar itself was very limp and oily from the heat that had built up inside the bag, which made it undesirable to look at, but tasted good. It had been squished by some of the stuff I keep inside the bag, so it didn’t hold its shape well and made for a challenge in handling it while on the move. I liked this flavor best because of its distinct nuttiness and mild berry flavor.

Cherry Coconut – This is my second favorite. I love coconuts and cherries, so this all made sense to me. There’s a definite coconut flavor which is derived from coconut nectar (whatever that is) and shredded coconuts in the bar. There are little bits and pieces of dried cherries with every bite, which gives just enough tartness to counter the sweetness from the dates and what I’m guessing to be the coconut nectar. This bar, along with the Peanut Butter and Almond Chocolate chip was stored in a refrigerator (I learned after my first experience to do this to avoid an oily and misshapen bar). Take note new food developers: Cherries and Coconut IN EVERYTHING!

Peanut Butter – By far the most intriguing bar of the bunch and not in a good way. It says peanut butter on the package, but taste more like unsweetened raw coffee. I’m not a coffee fan, so this could be a reason I didn’t enjoy this bar at all. There is no peanut butter flavor whatsoever and the bar tasted bitter, which made it hard to swallow. Only with some water was I able to finish the entire thing. The sprouted quinoa and walnuts (found in every flavor bar) made for a good contrast of texture, but that’s about the only good thing I can say about this particular bar.

Almond Chocolate Chip – Again, not the kind of flavor profile you would expect from a bar called Almond Chocolate Chip. Neither the almond (or any kind of nut flavor) and chocolate flavor can be picked up. Even the chocolate chips weren’t visible and not detectable during the chew. There are definitely chunks of nuts in the bar, but it’s hard to pick up whether they are almonds or walnuts. They taste more like raw peanuts to me. On the back-end of the flavor profile is a bitterness. The bitterness of dark chocolate bars I’ve tasted is usually up front which smooths out to a sweetness. The opposite is true for this flavor. I wasn’t able to finish this bar since I took a while to go through the first half that the heat made it oily and became unpalatable.

Overall Impressions
All bars are either 220 or 240 calories and 7-9 grams of protein. Total carbs. ranges from 20-23g with saturated fat from 11-14g. There is a low sodium profile, the Peanut Butter and Almond Chocolate Chip actually have no sodium. So, these bars definitely make good in-between-meals snacks and not snacks during a long run.

I’d stick to the two fruit flavored bars and leave your chocolate and peanut butter cravings to other bars that use peanut butter and more conventional forms of chocolate ingredients. The bars are oily because of the oil in the organic butter that are used. While providing some flavor and binding properties, the oils break down with some heat and the bars become limp and oily.

While I enjoyed the two fruit flavored bars, I personally would wait until a lower price point to purchase the bars. I understand the cost of producing new food items isn’t just about the cost of quality ingredients, but also in other overhead and variable costs associated with not only the bar, but with getting the product to market. Start-ups specially have higher costs of entry in the competitive organic whole food nutrition market with added higher expenses for marketing and PR. In the end a great tasting product will always lead me to choose one over another.

This is a commendable attempt at using new organic ingredients for people looking for an alternative to more established brands. I believe there is a growing niche market among endurance athletes looking for something that not only aligns with their athletic lifestyles, but with their environmental and social beliefs also. Kudos to Nii for recognizing that and attempting to fill that void.

Get their story and visit them at www.niibar.com.


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Making Time For Good Nutrition

I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy junk food. I love Mexican food and indulge in some McDonald’s dollar menu items. I also love beer! Those things are convenient and inexpensive. I can see how someone who is constantly busy and can’t cook can live off of junk food.

I noticed that I was sliding my way into becoming one of THOSE people so I made it a point to at least have a healthy breakfast and a healthy dinner. I mostly run in the afternoon and since I can’t stomach too much food pre-run, lunch would be optional.

For breakfast I mostly eat oatmeal or granola with some kind of fresh juice. I try all sorts of juice/vegetable combinations. So far my favorites are: carrot and apple; cucumber, apple, and lemon; and carrot and beets. I feel that the grains and juice fill me up enough but doesn’t make me feel stuffed. Pre-run I usually eat a banana with some kind of sugar drink (Tang or Gatorade) and this is enough to get me through an hour of running. Anything more than an hour and I take a Clif Shot every half an hour.

Dinner prep for me is time consuming because I like to cook whole foods. An example of whole food cooking is when I cook beans. I use dried beans and make my own broth to cook them in. Most of the dishes I’ve been cooking have been mostly vegetarian. I guess I’m preparing for my move to Indianapolis and my vegetarian girlfriend:-) I’ve chosen to cook mostly stews and soups because these type of foods store easily and can last a few days. Good for popping in the microwave for a quick snack – I LOVE to snack! Below are a couple of recipes.

It’s hard to say my diet has helped in my running because I’ve had some pretty challenging runs that were the result of a combination of bad weather and poor hydration. There hasn’t been a consistency in those things to gauge the improvement of my running since being more mindful of what I’ve been putting in my body. If anything, I feel better knowing I’ve eaten something healthy. Yes, I still sneak in some King Taco, McD’s, sliders, and fried junk – just not as much.

Southwestern Black-eyed Peas Salad
1 cup dried black-eyed peas
1 cucumber
1 large bell pepper
1/2 white onion
1/4 cup green onions
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
salt
pepper

Soak dried peas in at least 3 cups of cold water for one hour. Boil 6 cups of water. Before adding peas into boiling water, rinse with fresh water 4 times. Boil for one hour or until beans are tender, but not mushy. Take off of heat and rinse with cold water to stop cooking process. Set aside.
Cube cucumber and bell pepper. Chop onion, green onion, and cilantro.
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients before adding vinaigrette.

Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, and honey. Mix into the salad mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Vegetable Omelette
2 tsp. olive oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup of zucchini
1/2 bunch spinach
2 cloves garlic
1/4 onion
1/2 tomato
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. dried basil
salt
pepper

Again, measurements are estimates. Lightly saute onions and garlic in one teaspoon of olive oil until onions are translucent. Add zucchini, spinach, basil, and oregano. Cook until spinach are wilted down. Add tomato, salt, and pepper to taste. Cook until tomato is heated through. Take off heat and set aside in a plate. Using the same pan scramble eggs in one teaspoon of olive oil. Flip when the egg is somewhat firm, but not completely cooked through. After turning over add vegetable mixture and fold egg over in half. Add cheese if you like (support Oregon dairy farmers and use Tillamook sharp cheddar).