Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Pedaling in Portland

I had my very first experience in Portland over the past weekend. As expected, I left with very happy taste buds.

I also left with more freckles on my nose.

I’m not really sure how I managed to soak in more sunshine, but karma was on my side.  I escaped the clouds and rain in LA and was welcomed by sunshine and warmth in Portland.

It was the perfect weekend for exploring a new city. And not only did I just explore a new city - I explored a new city on a bike.  More than giving me tired hamstrings and a really fun experience to have in my memory bank, it also got me thinking.

study published in The Lancet this past August explored the healthful benefits of exercise. Taiwanese researchers examined the physical activity habits of more than 400, 000 study participants in a 12 year period; and the study’s results got people talking.

It determined that a little exercise goes a long way.

The researchers found that even 15 minutes of physical activity a day can increase your life expectancy by 3 years, or by 14 percent.

And that’s just from 15 minutes a day.

But, in a nation where a sedentary lifestyle has become the norm, we seem to forget that engaging in daily activity is not only good for your health, it can make you feel good. While we’re Registered Dietitians – not fitness gurus – we do promote a lifestyle that nourishes you in more ways than with just food. Moving your body every day is one of the best ways to do just that.
Being active doesn’t mean you necessarily have to clock an hour at the gym every day. Physical activity should be something you want to do. Do it to make your body healthy, strong, and because it makes you feel good.

When it comes to physical activity, here are 8 thoughts to consider:

#1. Choose activities that you can easily include into your day. Take the stairs, park your car a little further from your destination, go for a walk rather than meeting for coffee, or ride your bike to work.

#2. Choose activities that you enjoy doing. Take a salsa class. Take the dog for a walk.  Practice yoga. Go kayaking. Go skiing. Go for a swim. Have a game of tag with your kids. Have a dance party.  Play tennis. Play catch. Play on the monkey bars. Hike. Swim. Rock climb. Or, laugh really, really hard.

#3. Choose activities that get you out of your comfort zoneTry something new. Don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself or be afraid of failing.

#4. Choose activities that are attainable and achievable. Be realistic with your own expectations. Rather than biting off more than you can chew, try taking smaller, manageable bites – one at a time. Remind yourself that every little bit of activity you incorporate into your day really adds up.

#5. Choose foods to keep your body fueled. When you’re being active, nourishing your body is especially important to restore muscle glycogen (the stored form of carbohydrates) and reduce muscle breakdown. Snacks containing good quality carbohydrates and good quality protein – such as our granolabars or granola – are the perfect combination. Here are some more of our favorite snack ideas.

#6. Drink water. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: don’t underestimate the power of water. But, rather than sounding like a broken record, you can read about our thoughts on staying hydrated here.

#7. Find a fitness buddy. Just as we enjoy sharing food with the people we love, we also enjoy sharing our company. Getting active with a friend, co-worker, spouse, or pet keeps you motivated and keeps it fun.

#8. Remind yourself that being active is worth it. Daily physical activity has been linked to:

·         stronger immunity
·         lower blood pressure
·         reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
·         lower risk for heart disease
·         healthy joints
·         stronger bones
·         better weight management
·         increased lean body mass
·         higher metabolic rate
·         improved posture
·         reduced depression and anxiety
·         improved sleep
·         improved self-image & self-confidence
·         improved productivity & energy
·         enhanced quality of life

Who could have thought a fun bike ride on a perfectly sunny day could do all of this for my health?

So step outside. Or at least step outside of your comfort zone, and get moving. This life is yours and we think everyone should have fun with it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Best Granola Bars (the hunt is over).

I can’t help but feel personally responsible for bad weather when out-of-towners come to visit Southern California. Lisa flew to LA this past weekend; and on Saturday, the weather was not cooperating. She was greeted in LA with grey skies and a sudden downpour. Not quite the idea she had in mind when trying to escape the rainfall in Bellingham for a few days.

But, to make the best of a situation, we did something to brighten our spirits despite the gloomy sky: we turned up the music, each poured a glass of red wine, and joined forces in the kitchen.

We’ve been on the hunt for the perfect granola bar recipe for quite a while. Each time one of us tries a new granola bar recipe, it usually ends with a phone call to the other announcing, “I made the worst granola bars ever…again.”

Saturday night was an exception. We tried a recipe given to us by Bastyr University student, Steven Jamieson and they did not disappoint. They turned out good. Really good. In fact, I’ve already given some away to friends and I’m suddenly a little more popular.

A wonderful thing about this recipe in particular is that it's extremely versatile. Try mixing it up by using your favorite dried fruit or nut butter for your own unique version! While Steven’s bars are titled “Cranberry and Pumpkin Energy Bars,” we substituted the dried cranberries for dried tart cherries, our personal favorite addition to homemade sweets & other treats.

These "energy bars" are a perfect snack to take on a hike, in the car with you for the long road trip, or to have as a little pick-me-up when you’re energy hits rock bottom mid-afternoon. They’ll be sure to keep you satisfied and running full steam ahead all day long.

Cranberry and Pumpkin Energy Bars

1 ½ cups gluten-free oats
½ cup puffed millet
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup dried cranberries (***we used dried cherries)
¼ cup flax seeds
¼ cup hemp seeds
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup brown rice syrup (***we used maple syrup)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup peanut butter or other nut butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Spread the oats out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, shaking the tray every few minutes to make sure they toast evenly. Remove the oats from the tray when they are fragrant and beginning to brown, set aside in a bowl.

While the oven is still on, place the pumpkin seeds and dried coconut on the baking sheet and toast them for 2-3 minutes, making sure that they do not burn. Add these to the bowl with the oats. To the bowl add the puffed millet, dried cranberries (or cherries), flax seeds, hemp seeds and salt. Set aside.
Over medium heat, place brown rice syrup (or maple syrup), honey and molasses in a saucepan and bring to a low boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in oil and peanut butter until it is thoroughly mixed and is an even consistency.
Stir wet mixture into dry ingredients and combine until evenly mixed. Press into an oiled 7 1/2- x 11 1/2-inch baking dish. Let cool, then flip out onto a cutting board and cut into 18 bars.
Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap to keep the bars from drying out.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 18 bars

Copyright 2012, S. Jamieson, Original Recipe

Enjoy making or eating, preferably in the company of someone you love.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Swapping Protein Shakes for Real Food

When Matt, a soon-to-be RD and current dietetic intern at Bastyr University offered to write a blog post for us on “nutrition from the male perspective,” we jumped at the chance. We both speak frequently on the societal pressures women face to fit an ideal image of a woman and how it impacts our body image and health (we’re actually speaking at the College ofthe Canyons Women’s Conference this Saturday on the topic), but we feel it’s equally important to understand the messages men receive in mainstream media and how it impacts their well-being.

Without further ado, here's Matt!

Nutrition: The Male Perspective

As a future male Dietitian, I am a minority—there are few men in the field, and our voice is needed to temper the overwhelming fitness advice for men to, “Bulk up and eat more protein.” And this almost exclusively comes from the athletic realm where world-class athletes and trainers tout the importance of protein in their diet.

While this strategy may work for some athletes, the vast majority of us neither train like Michael Phelps, nor need to eat as much as him. Yet, the idea of a diet high in protein persists in modern culture as synonymous with mens' health.

 Having worked in a gym, I found this ‘bulk-up’ attitude prevalent among clients. The goal didn't seem to matter--losing weight, training for a 5k, getting in shape, becoming stronger.  All of them wanted to cram as much protein into their diet as physically possible. While protein above the normal recommendations may help some people towards their goal--and may be a necessity depending on the type and intensity of the training regimen--often times it can become a hindrance.

 Extra protein means extra calories, and those extra calories can turn into fat if they’re not being used. Our bodies are very efficient at making fat out of anything beyond what calories it needs. It's something that has served us well over our existence, but with the abundance of food we now enjoy, it can quickly lead to obesity, heart conditions, diabetes, kidney problems, and other health concerns.

 I don't mean to pick on gym culture, because they are by no means the only purveyor of the idea that more is better. Advertisements, movies, television, online media, magazines—they’ve all bombarded us with the idea of what an ideal man should look like. And for those of us who aren't of Herculean proportions--or so ripped Brad Pitt would be jealous--it can leave us feeling a little inadequate.

 The diet and exercise industry have propagated the conventional wisdom that high protein diets—and eating more, in general-- will help you reach the ideal male physique. If you hear something enough times it seems to become true, regardless of whether or not it is factual.

 This idea of ‘real men eat more’ has spilled into the mainstream to the point where we put competitive eating on TV, or watch Adam Richman (of Man vs. Food fame) go from place to place and try to conquer eating challenges (although the ones where he eats spicy things and sweats everywhere are pretty amusing).

 Growing up, eating large quantities of food--meat especially--was almost a test of manhood. I would brag about being able to eat whole pizzas in one sitting, and be congratulated by my peers for it.  Protein shakes were my recovery of choice in those days. 20, 40, 60 grams of protein (or a days’ worth) in one sitting was not out of the ordinary.

Viewing food as something to be conquered--something for sport--takes away from the importance of enjoying your food. When food is a means to an end—a way to reach that unrealistic goal—as it was during my former years as a gym rat, enjoying it becomes an afterthought.

 For those of us who like to exercise and want to be healthy, there are better options than protein powders for recovering after a workout.  And over the years, I’ve discovered new ways to really enjoy food.

 After a workout, recovery is important because muscles have used up their glycogen (the muscles’ storage form of energy), which need to be replaced. The muscles have also been damaged from the exertion—that’s how we develop bigger, stronger muscles. That's where protein comes in—to replenish energy stores and build more muscle.

 But eating an entire days worth of protein after a normal workout is unnecessary, and may lead to greater fat storage in the long run. The key to men’s fitness is to have some carbohydrate and protein for this recovery, so that your muscles can restore their lost glycogen and start to repair the damage done to them.

Here are a few good post-workout recovery snacks:
  1.  1 cup of plain lowfat yogurt with a handful of frozen blueberries or your favorite fruit
  2. 1 slice of 100% whole wheat toast with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  3. 1 apple or banana with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  4. Homemade trail mix (raisins, almonds, walnuts, or whatever dried fruit and nuts are on hand).
  5. A hardboiled egg with 1 cup of your favorite fruit.

Whether you exercise for aesthetics or health, it's important to do it in a way that maintains health, with a diet that emphasizes real food—fresh produce, good quality protein a few times per week, and healthy oils like extra virgin olive oil or safflower oil, both of which reduce inflammation.
 As men, we need to be responsible for ourselves and take charge of our diets. Learn how to cook. Learn how to pick the foods that best suit your goals and lifestyle. Learn how to rely on real food rather than on packaged goods, whether that's protein powder or Ramen noodles. The closer a food is to its whole, natural form, the better for you and better tasting it will be.

 Forget the hype about how the media thinks a man should look, or how the diet industry thinks we should eat. Let's rely on our own skills, rather than the prepackaged nutrition lining grocery store shelves. I guarantee it will taste better, make you feel better, and give you a greater sense of control over what goes in your body.
 After all, women love a man who can cook.

~ Matt Keen, dietetic intern, Bastyr University

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Craving Summer

I admit it. I'm a sun worshipper. And sometimes I forget to wear sunscreen. It's awful, I know. In fact, the sun is one of the many things I love about living in California.

When the groundhog saw his shadow on February 2nd, declaring another six long weeks of winter it did little to affect our sunny lives here in Southern California. Luckily for us, winter in California still means we have access to a wide variety of some of the freshest and most vibrant fruits and vegetables on the planet. Buying fresh foods, picked at the peak of their season equates to buying foods with their maximum nutrient content. Americans are encouraged to eat more fruits and vegetables because they contain a variety of essential nutrients, are associated with reduced risk of many chronic diseases and, when prepared without added fats or sugars, are relatively low in calories.  

My CSA box makes me very, very happy

So, if you're in need of some sunshine - or at least craving summertime -  we encourage you to take advantage of your local farmer's market and stock up on these in-season foods:

Avocados, broccoli, grapefruit, kumquats, lemon, oranges, tangerines, and mushrooms.

When cooler weather is getting you down, citrus fruits have this wonderful way of lifting your spirits. Even though they’re peak season is winter, they just taste like summer. Not only are they refreshing and crisp, but they’re packed with nutrition. Grapefruits, lemons, oranges, tangerines, and kumquats all boast high levels of Vitamin C – perhaps the most well-known antioxidant for promoting a healthy immune system. By enjoying citrus fruits as part of your meals and snacks, you also improve the absorption of iron in your body’s cells –a nutrient in which many people are deficient.

Love the lemon tree in my backyard
Speaking of craving summertime, while avocados also taste like summer, they are luckily still in season during the winter months. For this reason, Hass avocados are a staple in most Californian diets. It wouldn’t be a meal without a side of avocado, right? Being touted as "nature's mayonnaise" for their naturally creamy texture and rich flavor, Hass avocados are our favorite. They are a delicious source of healthy mononunsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and are one of the most nutrient dense foods out there. One-fifth of a medium avocado (1 oz.) has 50 calories, contributes nearly 20 vitamins and minerals and contains less than 1g of sugar. Fresh avocados used as spreads or dips in place of other processed products can reduce your intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and calories.

Image reprinted with permission from &

And now for a few recipes.

We thought we would share the recipe for our second favorite food, fish tacos. (Pizza is, and always will be, #1). While we've had some wonderful moments sharing pizza together, we've had some equally wonderful moments sharing fish tacos.

Our Favorite Fish Tacos with avocado crema & citrus slaw

Serves 6

 Start by making the citrus slaw and avocado crema.  Serve the tacos topped with slaw and crema, or serve them on the side.  Enjoy, preferably with those you love!

 1 jalapeno, seeded
1/2 cup cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon honey
juice of one large lime, about 1 tablespoon
juice of ½ grapefruit, about 3 tablespoons
zest of 1 lime
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup grapeseed oil
1 small head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 small head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Make the dressing.  Blend the first nine ingredients, jalapeno through salt and black pepper, in a blender.  With the blender on a low speed, blend in the grapeseed oil until emulsified.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

The heat of the dressing will vary, depending upon the spiciness of the jalapeno pepper.  Adjust the amount of honey to temper the heat to taste.  The dressing will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.  Just whisk to reincorporate all of the ingredients.

Toss the cabbage, carrot and green onion with about ¼ - ½ cup of the dressing.  Do not overdress the slaw.  It should only be lightly coated with the dressing.  Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Avocado Crema
 1 large ripe Hass avocado
4 ounces Greek yogurt
Dash hot sauce
Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons
Sea salt, to taste

In a small bowl, mash together the Hass avocado, yogurt, hot sauce, lime juice and salt.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Serve as a topping for tacos or a dip for homemade tortilla chips. 

Halibut Tacos
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 pound fresh halibut
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil , or grapeseed oil
12 6" corn tortillas

Blend all spices together in a small bowl. 

Cut halibut into large 1" dice.  Sprinkle spice mixture over halibut and toss to coat. 

Add two tablespoons of oil to large skillet over medium heat.   Add halibut and cook about 4 minutes, or until halibut pieces are just cooked through.  Remove from heat and place halibut pieces on a plate.

Grill corn tortillas on flat top grill, about 1 minute per side, or until blistered.  To each corn tortilla, add a few pieces of the cooked halibut, a little of the citrus slaw, and a drizzle of the avocado crema.  Repeat with remaining tortillas and serve with a wedge of lime.

These seasonal tips & recipes were featured in last month’s Health & Wellness Guide for
The Santa Clarita Valley Signal. For more “In Season” tips & recipes us, pick up the next issue of The Health & Wellness Guide on April 13th.