Tag Archives: nutrition

PSA: Eat Dairy Responsibly

I am constantly on the fence about dairy. Try as I might to focus my diet on what is included rather than excluded, dairy is one food item (along with nuts) that I often have to ask myself: am I eating this now or staying away from it?

To begin with, what dairy and nuts have in common in this case is that they’re both major domino foods. How familiar does this sound: after buying the economically-sized tub of Greek yogurt with intentions of eating only reasonable, well-measured portions, half of it is gone by the next morning. Don’t get me started on this phenomena with nuts (my newest, strictest rule: no more buying in bulk). And cheese? Forget it. I’m pretty sure cheese is supposed to be more of a garnish than an entrée, but it is pretty stinking easy to put back a thousand or so calories of cheese, especially when eating it in front of the TV.

However, in pursuit of more energy, increased athletic performance, and stable blood sugar, is dairy actually a good addition to the diet? I know lots of CrossFitters who swear by the Icelandic yogurt Siggi’s (or the new one that is exclusively at Whole Foods, Smari). Incidentally, the CrossFit-favored Paleo diet does not include diary. Cheese, milk, butter, and yogurt are among the agricultural products that, along with grains and legumes, don’t fit the Primal lifestyle. But what makes the Icelandic style special (and, Greek, German, Australian…there are more to be found) is that it is strained so many times that it bulks up the protein while straining off the lactose, minimizing the sugar and carbohydrate content. While a typical serving of regular yogurt only takes about one cup of milk, a serving of Greek takes something like two or three , while Icelandic can take up to five. So, when following a low carbohydrate diet, Paleo or otherwise, this is a high-five. These types of yogurt also have the whole homesteading thing going for them – it’s a traditional food that has sustained a culture for generations. Plus, the two Icelandic brands that you can find on your store’s shelves are rather unadulterated as these things go: very few ingredients, no added sugars or preservatives. Bingo. In the end, this quality trumps an extra carbohydrate here or there for me (though I still aim low.) Besides, does anyone else remember the Chobani-GMO-mold mess that got them dropped from Whole Foods? I do.

So, yogurt aside, what about cheese?

The bacteria in cheese eats up the lactose as it ages, so any cheese aged longer than three months, generally speaking, has lost most or all of its lactose, leaving the cheese to be a high fat, high protein, low-or-no-carb snack. But again, the domino effect strikes: the last time I invited cheese into my diet I found myself eating it at almost every snack and meal, and most of my feel-good markers (energy, performance, blood sugar) were thrown way off as a result. Don’t forget that cheese (again, along with nuts) is one of the most allergenic foods. Even if you don’t have a bona-fide intolerance, just because your GI can tolerate 1 oz of something doesn’t mean it can tolerate 10 oz of it. I see alcohol the same way: one drink? Fine! 10 drinks? No bueno!

As for butter: I won’t give up butter. High quality, grass fed, real pretty yellow butter. The picture above illustrates before your very eyes the difference between conventional butter (left) and grass fed butter (right). Even organic butter can be that sad white color, if the cows are fed organic grains! When it comes to butter, yellow means go. That being said, I also don’t use that much of it. Sometimes – rarely – I make myself a nice bulletproof coffee in the NutriBullet with 1 tbsp coconut oil and 1 tbsp butter for a smoother, easier, longer lasting caffeine fix instead of a sharp spike. But I also use butter to cook with and have just started using ghee. Another traditional food (this could be the final lesson learned here today: if you’re going to eat dairy, make sure it’s produces from a centuries-old traditional method) ghee is frequently used in Indian and southeast Asian cooking and is clarified butter from which the lactose and casein have been cooked away. The smoke point is also much higher than vegetable oils, which is a very good thing when trying to avoid free radicals and AGEs in your cooking.

So, like the title says, eat your dairy responsibly. This PSA could actually apply to all food in general, but when you’re on the fence about a particular food and are experimenting with adding it in or taking it out, your best chance at getting it to work for you and your goals is to get the highest quality available, and even better if it’s been made from traditional methods. And for the love of cows (or goats, or sheep), eat that dairy mindfully!

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#nationalpancakeday

Apparently, that exists! Always one to celebrate a national holiday (usually when it comes to taking the day off) I decided today would be a great day to play around with one of my recent favorite recipes, the Paleo Pancake.

This pancake adventure started on Valentine’s Day when I wanted to make my man-candy some heart-shaped paleo pancakes. The heart-shape didn’t happen, but I added cacao powder and raspberries and that made up for everything. Of course, I couldn’t make these without finding a replacement for flour, and I first read about Nom Nom Paleo using coconut flour to make their own Savory Pancakes. In a surprising twist, though, the only coconut flour I could find (Bob’s Red Mill, a favorite brand) has been “defatted” which is not on the list of things I want to happen to my coconut products, so I went with the amazingly high fat hazelnut flour instead.

And then it’s time to play around. Both on Valentine’s Day and today, National Pancake Day, I made two or three batches of mini (OK, they were pretty much regular sized) pancakes to try out what worked best…and because they’re such a treat in this barren pastry-desert we call diabetes…and because they make a pretty great post-workout snack or meal.

First, the basics:

  • 1 extra large egg
  • 2 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill Hazelnut Flour
  • 2 tbsp Bob’s Red Mill Ground Flax meal
  • 2 tbsp coconut milk

And from there the possibilities are endless. I mixed in coconut flakes for a more savory pancake, chia seeds which give it a little bit of that gelatinous texture in the center (which is a little weird, but not a bad way to get your chia seeds in), cacao powder which was a total hit, and applesauce which may have been my favorite – it added a little moisture and that delicious fruity taste. All of the above ingredients could be used at around 1 tbsp – add a little more coconut milk or another egg if things get too thick. And of course, top with pastured butter, fresh or frozen berries, and/or organic maple syrup or Trimax’s favorite, local organic Yacon Syrup. Or one other secret killer topping: full fat greek or icelandic yogurt. Touchdown!

Playing with Food – Meatloaf Muffins and Homemade Ketchup

I’m lucky to have a hands-on kitchen-helper of a man in my life for a) those nights where I can’t lift a finger and he makes one of his man-specialties, like  (grass-fed) burgers and (organic) guac and b) when I’m making something that involves tons of chopping and/or supervising. But some nights, I just like to look up a few recipes, get some ideas, then take out my ingredients and start playing. And when my helpful man pops his head and asks, “Can I do anything to help?” I say, “No thanks, I’m just playing.”

Tonight, I got some inspiration from Quick and Easy Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie and Charles Mayfield but, only having certain ingredients, spun it my own way and it turned out super-duper delish. Here’s the Trimax recipe for MEATLOAF MUFFINS!!!!!!:

  • 2 lbs ground meat (we used 1 lb grass fed beef and 1 lb elk, which we recently discovered in one of our local grocery stores – eee!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-1/2 cup flax meal (a Trimax favorite substitute for breadcrumbs or flour)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 generous pinches of Himalayan salt
  • 3-4 turns of fresh ground pepper

The best part about this recipe was using my underused muffin tin – I’ve experimented with paleo baked goods in the past but this was my first muffin-shaped triumph. So, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease the cups of your muffin tins with coconut oil. Throw all the ingredients into a bowl, then get your hands in there and mix everything together (this part is a great project for the kitchen-helper. I imagine kids would love doing this.) Once everything is well mixed, drop hand-shaped balls of the meat mixture into the cups. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes.

And what’s meatloaf without ketchup?? Last time I looked at a bottle of Heinz I was chagrined to find that it’s crammed full of high fructose corn syrup, so I knew it was time to try making my own at home. This homesteading stuff sure looks awesome but was never something I thought I’d get myself to do…that is, until I had some awesome meatloaf that needed some ketchup. So, courtesy of PaleoGubs, I played with one of their recipes and wound up using a lighter hand with the tomato paste and a much heavier hand with the vinegar and spices.

Here’s the Trimax recipe for HOMEMADE KETCHUP!!!!!!!

  • 6oz can organic tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (unpasteurized!)
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp curry
  • 1 tbsp Himalayan salt

Toss all ingredients into a saucepan over medium-high heat and stir until the water starts to boil, then reduce to medium heat and continue to stir. Add a bit more water if your ketchup is looking too thick. Keep stirring until ingredients are well mixed, which shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes. Gently transfer into a mason jar and allow to cool – then schmear some on your muffins!!!

A Reluctant Chef Figures it Out

For two days now I’ve had this nagging, lingering annoyance with…I’m about to say it…cooking. When this happens, I start grazing, which is never good. Hard boiled eggs, beef jerky, cans of tuna – my veggie intake goes way down and my training schedule (or anything schedule) gets super cramped as I’m always sort of half-digesting the last snack but still hungry for the next. A year and a half ago I never cooked. Breakfast cereal was a staple in my diet, a completely acceptable choice at any time of day and for any meal. A health crisis got me to start cooking and caring for my health, but how good I felt and how fun and creative and empowering I found it kept me going. I lived in New York City at the time, so even at those moments when I didn’t feel like cooking or didn’t have the “time” or ingredients I could easily – as all things are meant to be in New York – swing by Whole Foods or a health food store and visit their carefully labeled salad bar and find something to fit my dietary needs du jour.

As of two months ago, John and I left NYC and moved to a suburb in Southern California. Everything about this move has improved our health and happiness, as well as our opportunities for training, but it is missing one single thing that I know I got very used to after six years in New York: convenience. We’re not really walking distance from much, especially not an organic prepared salad bar, and I’m still getting used to driving again. What this really means, though, is that when I’m not in the mood to cook, there better be some leftovers in the fridge because, like it or not, ordering pizza stopped being an option awhile ago. I long for the days when a bowl of cereal was a viable meal, and as that sort of thinking takes over, I start to resent having to cook almost every meal, every day of my life. I start to blame the “diet” that I’m on – if only Paleo, or HFLC (high fat low carb) weren’t so “limiting” then I wouldn’t be having this problem. And I stare begrudgingly into our fridge full of fresh, cook-able meats and produce and lament that none of them look very appetizing raw.

Today, I walked into the kitchen after a short run, already pissed off since it was supposed to be a long run, and felt that same resentment starting to mount. Another moment where a friggen bowl of cereal would just be perfect, if only. Then I noticed a half-empty box of cherry tomatoes on the counter starting to shrivel slightly. Those are ready to be chopped up and thrown in a skillet, I thought. With some onions, and kale. And any protein would go with that. So that’s what I did, scrambling it all up with some eggs and throwing some avocado on top. Somehow, through that process of using tomatoes before they went bad, and pumping up the vegetable ratio of my meal, and making something that tasted delicious instead of resentfully gnawing on raw carrots, that resentment dissolved. I stopped waging war on reality, and on myself. It’s cooking, not filing taxes, and it’s a gift we give ourselves and our bodies every time we do it. Not only did I stop being ticked about the short run, but I remembered that breakfast cereal, while sugary and convenient, was just a way of ignoring myself and my health, and all of that is just not a part of the equation anymore.

More on high fat-low carb eating

How many avocados can I eat in a day?  How much red meat?  How many uses for coconut oil do I have in my kitchen (and do I get bonus points for putting it in my coffee?)? These are all questions from the mind of a Paleo eater. I say “eater” and not “dieter”, because we all hate the word “diet” by now as well as everything it implies: restriction…perfection…control. And I use the word “Paleo” because it has become the mainstream label for the high fat, low carbohydrate way of eating that has taken hold in many corners of the world, not least of which is the endurance sport world/Tim Noakes fan club (see yesterday’s post about Prof. Noakes and his discoveries.)

The question at the very core of every athlete’s search for the right way to eat is: what will make me perform at the top of my ability, and feel good doing it? I heard today on a favorite podcast of ours, Paleorunner.com, an interview with trainer Debbie Potts that when she used to compete in triathlons following a carbo-load session, she would often vomit off the side of her bike and think to herself, well, I guess I just didn’t need those calories. Honestly, not such a misguided thought, especially while competing in such a mentally and physically taxing sport. But upon further thought, a body in motion should not have to vomit out unneeded fuel to stay in motion. So – and this is for those of us who are finding out one way or another that carbohydrates are not tolerated well or perhaps aren’t the best fuel source for endurance exercise – maybe the answer is FAT. It’s called Metabolic Efficiency and it refers to improving your body’s ability to use fat as fuel. Yes, it is possible, and it might even be the most optimal way for your body to operate under stress (i.e. exercise). And once that warm, satisfied feeling of self-discovery has washed over your body, you might feel another question arise: …so where do I get all the FAT?

But pasta is just so easy! And bagels!! And cookies!!! Does this mean I need to grill a burger every time I want a snack? And only ever have Slim Jim’s to take with me in my bag/purse/car? Well, only if you want to.  One of the exciting things about high fat-low carb eating is the change in hunger signals. Fat and protein increase satiety, to begin with. Second, the blood sugar swings. Let’s avoid those at all costs. So, eating this high fat diet might actually change your relationship with food – ever wake up in the middle of the night, during a high volume training season, famished and sleepily in need of a bowl of breakfast cereal? Our bodies have a lot more fat stored on them than carbohydrates (specifically 80,000 of fat to 1,500 of carbs, give or take), so you’re hard-working, calorie-torching body will be able to make it through the night without running out of fuel to keep your organs working while you sleep. If you shift your macronutrient load from carbohydrates to fats,  you’d do well to note how often your body gets hungry, the intensity of that hunger, and the timing.

A sample Trimax meal plan (an alternative to the Ironman eating plan, which – no offense to the great Ironman – seemed a little grain heavy at breakfast):

Breakfast: 3 eggs with sliced 1/2 avocado (in a rush? Hardboiled eggs and any portable veggies: carrot sticks, grape tomatoes, 1/2 cucumber)

Snack: Celery with almond butter (don’t go too crazy with the nut butters – keep it to 2 tbsp)

Lunch: Green salad with tons of veggies and seeds (sunflower! hemp! pumpkin!), plus protein of choice (i.e. grilled chicken, turkey, salmon, hardboiled eggs, etc)

Snack: Handful (or two) of berries

Dinner: Grass-fed beef or bison with steamed kale and mashed cauliflower (use coconut oil or grass-fed butter in your faux-tatoes!)

Food for…trial and error

A few of us here on Trimax staff are certified nutrition coaches and/or certified health coaches, which means that we are authorities on the matter of trying every diet and reading every book and doing every form of exercise known to human kind and coming to the foregone conclusion that it’s all left up to a very personal journey of trial and error. Nutrition is the singular science in which two opposing theories can be proven and both still be right.  Frustrating, isn’t it? Thus, trial and error is almost mandatory, if not at least a handy tool in everyone’s quest to figure what to eat to look and feel their best, and furthermore, what to eat to perform their best.

One major, and majorly public, trial and error that we’ve recently seen came courtesy of the sensei of ultra running himself, Professor Tim Noakes. His Lore of Running, which is now in its 4th edition published in 2002, is a bible to many endurance athletes and casual runners alike. And as of very recently, Tim has instructed everyone who owns a copy to find the chapter on nutrition and RIP IT OUT! Have you ever heard such a thing? We admire and applaud Noakes for outing the archaic advice of carbo-loading to fuel endurance activities that is heavily advised in his book and was omnipresent in the world of endurance sports at the time. If you – literally – wrote the book (nay, the bible!) on carbo-loading, then it takes one steely nerve to say that, after 30 years, it was indeed bad advice. Good thing this is Tim Noakes, and not someone who hasn’t done their research.

Now many of you out there (and many of us in here) have definitely enjoyed a carbo-load or two in the past, and maybe for many of you it works like the Dickens and you haven’t the slightest reason to change it. As it turns out, Noakes had his health to wake him up to his need for a change – he was diagnosed with prediabetes, which indicates insulin resistance and, more pressingly, carbohydrate intolerance. I myself have type 1 diabetes and am no stranger to the low carb diet, but the question has always been: can I train hard without the carbs? Will meat and vegetables fuel my workouts and recovery? We’ll get to that tomorrow, but in the meantime – go find your copy of Lore of Running  and start ripping!