Do you eat like a sumo wrestler?

Does this sound like your average day?

Skip breakfast...eat a big lunch...wait several hours...eat a big dinner...sleep.

Did you know that following a similar routine is how sumo wrestlers gain weight? Yikes, right?

I am a big believer that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight requires eating small, frequent meals. The goal is to keep your blood sugar even, avoiding spikes and big dips. The longer you wait between meals, the lower your blood sugar will be when you finally do eat something. When you wait until your blood sugar is low and you're ravenous to eat a meal, you are more likely to:
  1. Experience sugar or carbohydrate cravings.
  2. Consume too many calories.
  3. Send your body into "fat storing" mode.
What does this look like from your body's point of view?

When your blood sugar dips, your body sends a message to your brain to, "get more fuel now! Preferably something quick-burning (aka sugar and simple carbs), please!" Those quick-burning carbs will temporarily send your blood sugar back up but, like throwing paper on a fire, they burn up quickly and leave you sluggish and craving sugary foods again. When you finally sit down to eat, you are likely to eat a large meal when because you're likely really hungry. It takes about 20 minutes for you to begin to experience the feeling of being full. If you are eating quickly, you can easily eat too much before your body can say "whoa!". Those excess calories and more will be stored as fat- your body is planning ahead for the next long period without food.

How often should you eat?

I usually eat something every 2 to 4 hours. I never skip breakfast- it is very important to literally "break" your "fast" after several hours of not eating. My average day looks something like this:

7:30am Breakfast
10:00am Snack
12:30pm Lunch
3:30pm Snack
7:00pm Dinner

Not sure what to eat? Here are some breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack ideas.

Something cool from Slim Fast:

The Slim Fast company has started an online magazine in the United Kingdom to provide their customers with access to articles on healthy eating, fitness, weight loss, and more. I am so happy to see that this information is being made available to those looking for help in these areas. I'm also honored that some of my blog posts are being included! Thank you Slim Fast team!

Slim.Fast Magazine

Green melon smoothie

I received a honeydew melon in my CSA box the other day and decided to "smoothie it". This is naturally sweet and super healthy. Perfect for breakfast on a sunny summer morning! I'll give you the basic recipe and then some options for "kicking it up a notch". Enjoy!

IMG_3526.jpg

IMG_3536.JPG


Green melon smoothie
Serves about 2
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup ice
1 cup honeydew (or cantaloupe) chunks
1/2 an orange, peeled and chopped
2 pitted dates
1-2 cups raw spinach

Optional add-ins:
1 serving protein powder (I use Vega Smoothie Infusion or Shake & Go Smoothie)
2 tsp hemp seed oil or EFA oil blend (for omega 3s)
1 tsp chlorella powder (for post-exercise muscle recovery)
1 tsp maca powder (for stamina and hormone balance)
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Asian rice with greens and pecans

I received a large bunch of chard in my CSA box last week and decided to use it in an Asian rice dish for dinner. This recipe would work well with just about any kind of greens or with broccoli in place of the chard depending on what you prefer. Green peas or snow peas would also be a great addition.

IMG_3504.JPG

Asian rice with greens and pecans

~4 cups cooked rice (a mix of brown and wild rice is excellent here)
2 inch piece of kombu (optional)
1 block of tofu (not silken), cubed
Olive oil
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large bunch of chard (or other greens), washed and chopped
~2-3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
Fresh cracked black pepper
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup toasted pecans
Sesame oil to taste

  1. Cook the rice first. I added a 2 inch piece of kombu to mine while it was cooking to add flavor and nutrients. When the rice was done, I finely chopped the kombu and stirred it back in.
  2. Heat about 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and add the tofu cubes. Stir fry until browned. Just before removing from the heat, season with soy sauce or your favorite Asian sauce (I used a teriyaki sauce from Trader Joe's). Cook a minute more and set aside.
  3. Heat another tablespoon or so of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms until they are starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook until mushrooms are beginning to brown.
  4. Add the chard and cook until it is bright green and wilted. Add about 2-3 Tbsp of soy sauce and stir in the rice. Add lots of pepper and cook for a few minutes.
  5. Stir in the green onions and pecans and cook for a minute or two more. Add the tofu cubes and drizzle with sesame oil to taste (~2 tsp). Taste and add more sesame oil, pepper, or soy sauce if needed.

Post swim/bike/run yoga

Last night's triathlon training was a hard one! We swam open water sprints then ran hill repeats on a trail by the lake. When I got home I was feeling tired and a little dizzy every time I stood up. I thought that maybe my dizziness* might be due to the blood pooling in my legs and decided to try a yoga pose, "Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose", to help alleviate the problem. It worked fantastically!

In this video from Gaiam Life (about 7 minutes), Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman demonstrate three ways of doing Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose. The pose is also shown at the bottom of the yoga sequence that I put together, below.

My hips and lower back tend to get pretty tight after running, so I used the Yoga Journal Sequence Builder to put together this short set of post-tri training poses*.




1
/HP_214_Ardha_150.jpg

Ardha Matsyendrasana
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose

Hold for 3-5 breaths on each side.

2


Marjaryasana
Cat Pose

Alternate between Cat and Cow poses with your breath for about 5 breaths.

3
Bitilasana_CowPose_150

Bitilasana
Cow Pose


4

Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward-Facing Dog

If your achilles tendons are tight, alternate pressing your heels toward the floor first, then do both at once. Hold for 3-5 breaths.

5
hp_195_02_medium.jpg

Anjaneyasana
Low Lunge

Hold for 3-5 breaths each side.

6

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
One-Legged King Pigeon Pose

Hold for 3-5 breaths each side. For a deeper stretch, fold at the waist over your front leg and hold there.

7
YIN_213_AnandaBalasana_150.jpg

Ananda Balasana
Happy Baby Pose

Hold for 3-5 breaths.

8
JanuSirsasana_150

Janu Sirsasana
Head-to-Knee Forward Bend

Hold for 3-5 breaths each side.

9
Paschimottanasa_150

Paschimottanasana
Seated Forward Bend

Hold for 3-5 breaths.

10
ViparitaKarani_150

Viparita Karani
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose

This pose can also be done without the bolster. Hold for 5 minutes or longer.
Yoga Journal Sequence Builder, Patent pending

*
Please note that I am not a yoga instructor- these are the poses that work for me. Please consult your medical practitioner if you are experiencing any dizziness or have questions about what is appropriate for your fitness level.

Fruit waffles with vegan vanilla cream

My family loves breakfast. I try, when I have time, to make something a little more special on the weekends. I had some berries and nectarines from my CSA box this week so I decided on waffles for breakfast on Sunday. I threw together a quick vegan vanilla cream sauce that went very well with the fruit. You can use this sauce on waffles, pancakes, or fresh fruit.

IMG_3516.JPG

Vegan vanilla cream sauce
1/3 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp coconut oil (optional)
1 tsp vanilla (or 1/2 vanilla bean)
1 Tbsp real maple syrup
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more water, if necessary, to reach desired consistency.

Cooking Away My CSA

Do you subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share? CSAs are a popular way to buy local and seasonal produce directly from the farmers in your area. We get a fruit/veggie combo box every other week from Farm Fresh To You. Sometimes it easy to know what to do with the contents (my kids would eat every berry in the box before they made it to the kitchen if given the chance!). Other times I have to put a little more thought into planning meals to use the produce.

Last year a fellow blogger, Flour Girl, came up with the idea to host a "Cooking Away My CSA" challenge. She created a Google group for the participants to share recipes, links, and creative CSA meal ideas. I was so glad to learn that she is facilitating this challenge again this year- what a brilliant idea!

I will be sharing recipes and meal ideas from my CSA box here and there. I hope you will join in!

Raw foods

My interest in raw foods has been gradually growing over time and I have recently been incorporating more and more raw meals into my diet. Why raw? For a good overview, see the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute explanation here. For me, eating raw means eating whole and living (think sprouted) foods. Eating this way makes me feel great and like I'm burning clean fuel. My goal is not to transition entirely to a raw foods diet- I love "hot-out-of-the-oven" things in the colder months. I simply want to expand my recipe repertoire by experimenting with new ways of preparing whole foods. Now that it is 90+ degrees, I'm ready to leave the oven off for awhile and enjoy all of the fruits and veggies that are in season this time of year in their most natural state.

Raw chili: Tonight I made raw chili with nut "meat" created by Ani Phyo (recipe here). The chili had a great flavor and the nut "meat" was fantastic (I added fresh cilantro to mine). I'm already looking forward to lunch tomorrow because I know I have leftovers!

Dessert: After the chili I was craving something sweet. I invented this (almost raw) dessert that I called "choconana"- delish! We ate this so fast that I forgot to take a photo but here is my recipe.

Choconana
Serves 2
1/4 cup unsalted macadamia nuts
1/2 cup raw cashews
4 pitted dates
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/2 vanilla bean)
~1 Tbsp raw cacao powder
~ 1/2 cup water
2 bananas

  1. Place all ingredients except for the bananas in a blender and blend until very smooth. Add more water, if necessary- the consistency should be similar to pudding.
  2. Slice the bananas and pour the chocolate sauce over the top. Enjoy!

I have some more raw meals planned for later in the week. I will share my discoveries and creations with you. If you have a favorite recipe or website about raw foods that you would like to share, I'd love to hear from you!

Kombu

I mentioned kombu in my last post for improving the digestibility of beans and thought I'd share a bit more information about this seaweed. Kombu, or kelp, is a sea vegetable that is rich in iodine, fiber, amino acids, and several vitamins and trace minerals. It also contains glutamic acid which is an excellent flavor enhancer. You can find kombu at Whole Foods Markets, health foods stores, and online (try here and here or here).

Try adding it to rice while it is cooking too. You can remove it when the rice is finished or cut it up and add it the cooked rice.

Improving the digestibility of beans

Beans and other legumes are essential to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. They provide healthy amounts of plant-based protein, fiber, and iron. That being said, though, many people avoid them for fear of the gas and bloating that they can cause. Here are five ways to help improve their digestibility and minimize gas factor:

  1. Soak dry beans overnight before cooking. Replace the water with fresh water before cooking.
  2. Be sure to thoroughly cook dry beans. Do not add any salt or vinegar until they have finished cooking as those may interfere with the softening of the beans.
  3. Try adding a little vinegar or seasonings such as coriander or cumin to thoroughly cooked beans.
  4. Thoroughly rinse canned beans or lentils before using.
  5. Add a 4-6 inch strip of kombu seaweed (more on sea vegetables) to the pot when cooking beans to help break down the gas-causing sugars. This will also increase their nutritional value and improve their flavor.

Lowering your cholesterol level

Twelve years ago I was in my mid-20s. I exercised regularly and was not overweight. I didn't eat red meat but, other than that, I had a pretty typical diet. That year I had a routine medical check-up and learned that my cholesterol level was 205 (anything over 200 is of concern). Because high cholesterol runs in my family, that number sent me into a panic. I began researching ways to lower my cholesterol with dietary changes.

Today, I am twelve years older and weigh the same that I did back in 1998. My cholesterol level, though, was 145 at my last check-up. So what has changed? I stopped eating meat (including chicken and fish). Through my research, I learned how to get enough protein and the right nutrients from a plant-based diet. I learned that eating dairy products and eggs was also not a healthy choice for me and I have cut out those things from my daily diet as well.

Does eating healthy mean that I have a very limited number of foods to choose from? Absolutely not! I didn't just remove things from my diet. I also added an abundance of new choices- fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and more. A word of advice before I go on: If you are considering becoming a vegetarian or vegan, I recommend that you make the transition gradually. Do some reading to learn about your nutritional needs and experiment with new recipes and ways of preparing food. You are in charge of what you eat so don't feel pressure to adhere to anyone else's guidelines.

While I do believe that a vegetarian diet is the healthiest way to fuel your body, I also know that it is not appealing to many people. An American Heart Association survey found that 40% of American adults would not accept payment to forgo their favorite foods and 50% would accept no less than $100,000 to do so! I get it, people, I love cupcakes too!

Assuming that no one is really going to pay you to turn your diet upside down, here are 10 changes that you can make to help reduce your cholesterol:

IMG_1470.JPG

  1. Reduce your intake of foods that contain dietary cholesterol or saturated fat (e.g. meat, eggs, dairy products) and eliminate all trans fats or hydrogenated oils from your diet (e.g. fried or processed foods, fast food). If you do eat meat and/or dairy, choose lower fat foods such as chicken and fish (no skin) and low fat dairy products.
  2. Ensure that your meal portion sizes are in check. If you do eat meat, the portion should fit in the palm of your hand.
  3. Eat more fruits and vegetables- aim for 6-9 servings every day (1 serving = 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked veggies or 1/2 cup fruit).
  4. Make sure that you get your omega-3s. Good sources include flax, chia, and hemp seeds (or wild salmon for meat-eaters). Both vegan and non-veg supplements are also available.
  5. Increase your intake of whole grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, barley, oat bran, whole grain bread and pasta, etc.
  6. Get good fats from nuts and seeds (preferably raw), olive oil, and avocados.
  7. Move your body! Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. Even going for a walk is much better than not moving at all.
  8. Keep your stress levels in check. Take time to relax and unwind daily.
  9. If you are overweight, work with your doctor to create a plan to lose the excess pounds.
  10. Eat at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. This is easy to do if you are eating enough fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Lentils and beans are also excellent sources of fiber.

Have you had success with lowering your cholesterol without medication? What changes did you make?

Grilled fava beans and a bowl full of cherries

"Beware the barrenness of a busy life." ~Socrates
Today, after reading a post on a blog that I enjoy (Zen Habits), I sat down to write about how I have a habit of driving myself nuts by over-loading my schedule. I was going to mention how there is a frenzy of thoughts in my head that convinces me that I must do everything all at once. I would tell you about my goal lists and to-do lists and lists of things to make lists of later. I would claim that, despite all this mania, I do have a "system" that keeps me somewhat organized.

I started reading through blog posts that I had written in the past and came across one from almost exactly a year ago. Apparently this driving-myself-nuts thing is a recurring theme for me!

From May 2009:
"I probably shouldn't admit this in public, but there are two people living in my head. One of them is barking at me to adopt the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology to get my life organized. The other one is far more laid back and never uses the word "methodology". Part of me is panicking that my To Do list is out of control while another part of me is crazy excited about all kinds of new things that I want to try, learn, read, write...(i.e. add to my To Do list)..."   ...More ➔     

Dear Me,
It's summer. Relax. Go outside. Splash, pedal, jump up and down. Whatever. Just stop to-do-ing.
Love,
Me


I hope you will do the same. Now get out there and barbecue something! How about fava beans?

IMG_1638.JPG

They are in season and taste fantastic tossed with olive oil and sea salt and grilled.

Maybe some fresh cherries, also in season, for dessert?

IMG_3378.jpg

Happy Friday!