This past Sunday, I missed posting for my Katie learns to Cook series.  Its definitely been my favorite chapter so far, so I thought I’d share it with you today.  Hope you enjoy it!

This week’s chapter was all about nutrition – a subject that is becoming more and more dear to my heart.  The pages were jam-packed with information and I’m happy to share some of it with you today!   First up, vocab.

Essential Nutritents:  I’ll be going into these in a little more depth, but for now, these are the nutrients that our bodies cannot make enough of them (or any at all)  on their own, so in order to obtain them, we have to eat them.  They include Fats, Carbohydrates, Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals and Water.

Macronutrients: Nutrients needed in larger quantities, of the essential nutrients, they are Fats, Carbs and Protein.

Calorie:  Scientifically speaking, a calorie is a unit of energy, not the bane of a workout’s existence 😉  1 calorie is the amount of heat required to bring 1000 grams of water up one degree Celsius.

Micronutrient:  Logic follows that a micronutrient are those that we only need in smaller quantities, like Vitamins and Minerals.

Ingredient Substitute:  Something that replaces an ingredient.  Typically contains a similar flavor, texture , etc, maintaining the appearance and taste of a dish.  Often times, this substitute is a more nutritious alternative than the original.  Example – Using reduced fat in place of full fat.

Ingredient Alternative:  Something that replaces an ingredient, but provides a different flavor or texture to the dish.  For example, using lemon juice on steamed vegetables, rather than butter.

Additives: Added to foods to prevent spoiling, discoloration, improve nutritional value or appearance.  Can be natural or synthetic.  Incidental (such as pesticides) or intentional (chemicals added to improve shelf life)

Ok.  So that’s a general outline of the vocab words in the chapter. Now, lets talk briefly about those essential nutrients I mentioned above.  They are Carbs, Fats, Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals and water.    The macronutrients, the nutrients we need in larger quantities, include carbs, fats and proteins, whereas the micronutrients are needed in smaller quantities, the vitamins and minerals.  Lets take a closer look at each one.

Carbohydrates:  These guys can be separated into simple carbohydrates (single and double sugars) and can be found in naturally occurring sugars, like fruits and vegetables, milk and natural sweeteners like honey.  Complex carbs are longer chains of sugars and include starches and fibers.  Starches you can find in cereal grains as well as fruits and vegetables.  Fiber, is an interesting beast, because our bodies can’t digest fiber, so we derive no calories from it.  There are two kinds of fiber, insoluble and soluble, both of which are important players in our health.  Insoluble fiber, is found in whole wheat and is really important in helping for proper elimination of waste, which makes it super important in helping to prevent colon cancer.  Soluble fiber, which can be found in oats and beans, can help to reduce cholesterol, which is important in the prevention of heart disease.    Sadly, carbs have gotten kind of a negative reputation lately, but clearly these guys are pretty important to our health and we should probably think twice before eliminating them from our diet.

Lipids:  The dreaded fats.  Again though, like carbs, a moderate amount of healthy fats in our diet is a good thing.  Not only can they make a dish taste more pleasant (think about a nice creamy avocado), but they are also important in helping to carry fat soluble vitamins.  Fats are generally classified in one of three categories, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated.  Saturated fats, are the ones that we should probably keep to a minimum in our diet.  These fats are usually solid at room temperature, so think, butter and lard.  Unlike saturated fats, mono and poly unsaturated fats are typically softer or liquid at room temperature and include things like avocados, olives and their oils for monounsaturated fats and we get our polyunsaturated fats from vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower or corn, as well as fish.  One type of lipid that our bodies can produce, however, is cholesterol.  Cholesterol can only be found in animal products and because we can produce it on our own, its not considered an essential nutrient.  And it probably goes without saying that diets high in fat are advised against and can lead to a variety of health problems.

Proteins:  Most people understand the idea behind proteins, which can be found in both plants AND animal foods.  Proteins are comprised of amino acids, of which there are 20 total, 9 that are considered essential.   Meaning we cannot produce them on our own.  A common misconception is that vegetarians cannot get enough protein or all of the essential amino acids without eating meat.  However, anyone who eats a varied diet is generally good about getting all of the essential amino acids and enough protein, even without eating meat.  Proteins are essential for maintaining body function, including repairing tissue damage, movement of nutrients and water balance.

Vitamins:  There are 13 vitamins total, all of which help to regulate metabolism (chemical and physical processes within the body) and are categorized as fat soluble and water soluble.  Water soluble vitamins are not stored as easily as fat soluble vitamins and deficiencies in these can occur more readily.  To minimize loss of vitamins when cooking foods, especially vegetables, they offer these tips:  prepare your foods as close to serving time as possible, steaming and microwaving are the best way to preserve vitamins in a veggie, whereas roasting and grilling preserve the vitamins in meats and poultry.  Finally, storage of your fruits and vegetables can also play a role in maintaining vitamin concentrations.

Minerals:  Found in plants, or in the meat of animals who have EATEN the plants.  These guys help in the maintenance of hard and soft tissues (think calcium for bones and teeth).  There are trace and major minerals, which are needed in smaller or larger quantities, respectively  and like vitamins, are directly affected by cooking and storage conditions.

Finally, Water:  Good ol, H-two-Oh.  Our bodies are made up of approximately 60% water.  That’s a lot ya’ll.  It acts as a cushion,  a transporter, a temperature regulator, waste elimination…the job titles for water are endless.  Its super important to stay hydrated, but the good news is, even though we get most of our water through beverages, most foods contain high water content as well, especially fruits like watermelons and oranges, or veggies like iceberg lettuce.  Almost all foods provide some water in our diet, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aiming for those tall glasses of water over a soda!

Still with me?  Impressed if you are.  We’ve made it to our final take home lesson, where I want to talk briefly about ingredient substitutes, specifically artificial sweeteners.  What I found most interesting about this section was how much sweeter these artificial sweeteners actually are, compared to sugar.  To me, diet sodas have always tasted sweeter than a real soda, but it was still amazing to see that the sugar substitutes like Saccharin, Aspartame and Splenda are all 300, 180 and a whopping 600 times sweeter than sugar, respectively.   I’m not a nutritionist so I would never claim to know what is better for someone else, but for myself personally – I avoid artificial sweeteners whenever possible.  When I was younger, I was standing in line at a candy shop and in front of me were an older lady (I say older, but she looked to be anywhere from early 40s to late 60s? I was young) and a younger girl.  I don’t know if they were together or not, but the older lady ordered some candy and the younger girl asked why she didn’t get the sugar free instead, because wasn’t that healthier?  The woman h ad the best  response, which has stuck with me for ages – to paraphrase

I’d rather have a small amount of the real thing every now and then, than a lot of something else all the time.  Its more special that way.

Words to live by, don’t you think?



This vs That

May 24, 2012

Ugh.  Well.  This morning has been a morning.

1. running late

2. My strawberry cupcakes are more like…strawberry bread…

3. coffee machine ISN’T working

4. running late

5.  Grab an umbrella, find out later there’s already one in my bag (d’oh).

6.  Dear lady on 83, if your idea of merging is to first stop on the on ramp, then creep out onto the highway, then stop on the highway, all the while managing to almost merge into the ONE CAR that was in the lane for the entire process, go retake your drivers exam. Or stop texting. On second thought – do both.

Lets just say I will not be suffering fools gladly today.  But I’m trying super hard to not let it all get to me.  I’m currently trying to figure out a way to salvage the SECOND round of cupcakes (First round was edible, but not what I wanted or really presentable).  Strawberry Bread Bites has a nice ring to it, or maybe some sort of parfait? Any ideas?

But enough about crummy starts to a Thursday morning, I have my coffee now, so lets talk about breakfasts!

With the warmer temperatures creeping in, i’ve been shifting away from cooked oatmeal in the morning (although you couldn’t pay me to give up my overnight oats!) and into some more summer friendly breakfasts.  I don’t have a lot of time in the morning, so it ends to be something I can shovel into my mouth with a spoon while getting ready for work.  The less hassle and prep the better!

Lately i’ve been embracing two separate breakfasts and thought I’d share and take a peek at the nutritional value of each according to, to see if I’m getting a decent meal in the morning!  Lets see:

Breakfast #1:  The best darn lookin’ bowl of cereal, ever.


Although I used to crave a more elaborate breakfast, I’ve found cereal to be simple and pretty filling if I do it right.  Nix the sugar cereals and add some more fiber with the berries and it turns into a pretty decent breakfast…This week i’ve been using Kashi Autumn Harvest Shredded Wheat, Almond Milk and berries.

Breakfast #2:  Millet/Quinoa bowl with Almond Milk and Berries

I have a rice cooker.  And I love it.  And its way underused.  Back when I was in grad school, one of my favorite ways to make sure I got some semblance of a nutritional meal during the day was to start with a bowl of quinoa and berries.  Millet has been floating around the blogosphere lately as a new and fun grain to try.  So this past week, when I (gasp) ran out of cereal, I decided to turn to my grad school standby, but wanted to make it a little more substantial.  Instead of going the traditional rolled oats route, I took a page from  Jenny’s book and decided to try some Millet.   Mixing and making the two together in my rice cooker resulted in some pretty creamy grains, which were easily broken up by a bit of Almond milk 🙂

In addition to the berries, I also added a drizzle of Maple syrup.  In the end, I’m not really sure it needed it (maybe my tastebuds have changed), but maple syrup is too delicious to pass up 🙂


Lets compare, shall we?

Head to head, the cereal seems to have less calories, fat, carbs and sodium,  the Quinoa/Millet breakfast bowl comes out on top for protein and less sugar.

I’ve never directly compared my breakfasts and I think its pretty interesting (and impressive!) that my two go-to breakfasts as of late seem to rate pretty well and so evenly for nutritional value – although disclaimer: I have had no nutritional training.   Based on the values, I’d probably opt for the Millet bowl on days when I have a little more time in the morning, but want to keep fuller for a longer period.

Have you ever compared your breakfasts for nutrition?  What’s your favorite?


Thoughts for Thursday

April 12, 2012

I had every intention of getting up this morning and getting my run in.  But with a snuggly warm cat glued to my side, using my arm as a pillow, I chose to take it as a sign from the Gods.

Sort’ve joking, but the cat was there and we were comfortable and I was still pretty darn tired.  I let myself have one more morning of rest.  And as it turns out, I have felt great all day.  Awake and no sign of a mental fog.  Yes, that does mean I’m “behind” 2 runs now, but allow me to be perfectly honest with you.  Yesterday’s run and today’s run, are a grand total of 5 miles combined.  My training schedule is still a “novice” runner schedule.  I’ve been running since October, but frankly, that’s about 6 months total of dedicated running.  I don’t mind considering myself a novice still.  Despite my “novice” status though, I can definitely say that I’ve greatly improved my running.  I’ve run a half-marathon, without stopping, with a sub 10 minute mile.  While yes, this may sound slow (do I sound like a broken record yet?), to someone who thought a 10 minute mile was unattainable, this is pretty awesome.  And I have nothing but indications that I will continue to get faster and smarter at running.

I’ve also started to incorporate more effective cross training workouts into my training schedule, focusing on lifting and cardio exercises that will compliment my running and make me stronger and better at endurance.  Yoga and Body pump are helping me build more strength and things like hill intervals and Body Combat are helping me with my endurance, and complimentary muscles.  When I first started running, it was all I did.  Run.  I used to lift a lot in highschool for Softball and I loved it.  College and grad school really put a damper on my lifting routine and I am ridiculously happy to be getting back into it.  I love my Body Pump classes and already consider my instructors a welcome addition to the start and end of my weeks.   I’m also looking to add in another day of heavy lifting, where I decrease my reps and increase my weight to really focus on building more muscle.   If I can get my butt to stop hanging out with gravity, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be that much better of a runner 😉

Finally, since starting Running back in October, I’ve shifted from being an occasional meat eater, to a vegetarian, to flirting with a Vegan friendly diet.  I would never give out dietary advice without certification, but I can say that for myself personally, I’ve felt MUCH better about my body and health when I focus on eating more whole foods and veggies.  It isn’t always easy, just ask Brandon.  There’s a lot of research that goes into going out to eat now and I definitely spend more time perusing the menu.  I’ve learned that I have to be more comfortable asking for things prepared a certain way, but for the most part, if you’re sweet about it and ask with a smile, restaurants are always more than willing to accommodate.  Not to mention, I said I’m flirting with a Vegan diet, not following it strictly.  That means its not the end of the world if something isn’t 100% dairy/egg free.   Its also takes a bit more work in the beginning, to make sure I was getting all of the nutrients I needed.  I kept track of what I ate and the nutritional values of my meals (note, I was NOT counting calories, although I do think its important to have a general idea of what you consume).  Frankly, as a Vegetarian, I had already taken most of this into consideration and it wasn’t as hard for me to do, but with a Vegan friendly diet, I was a lot more careful to get in more grains than before.  I took on the Vegan diet challenge for Lent and by the end of it, I didn’t really have any desire to go buy a block of cheese and eat it on the spot.  So for now, I’ll just go with the flow, rather than labeling myself as one particular eater.  I hate labels, but I guess, if I were one, I’d be a

“Novice weight lifting, getting faster, flirty body combater Vegan yogi”.

Has a ring to it, no?

And with that – its time to finish up work and battle my way through traffic to get to the gym.

Anyone else start something for Lent and decide to keep with it?


Better, Better, Stronger

February 22, 2012


I wish I had taken a picture to show you what our dining room has looked like for the past week or two.  Wedding warzone.  But finally, after last night’s marathon session, Wedding invites are OUT the door.

So after Sunday’s AMAZING run and Monday’s solid body pump session, I was feeling pretty awesome mentally, but physically I was BEAT.  I ended up sleeping for 8 hrs straight, then flipped my alarm over for another hour after it went off at 5.  NINE hours of sleep, no morning run and still sleepy.  But because I am a rather stubborn individual, I was determined to run.  And because I was going to be running in the afternoon, it was my new goal to run outside and see if I could push myself past a slow run pace.  Since starting this whole training thing, my goals have gone from “I just want to finish” to “I want to finish BETTER, run BETTER, be STRONGER”.  So I set out for my 4.5 miles outside after work.  Added incentive?  First time running in the evening around our neighborhood.  There are a few busy roads that people like to zoom through around us, so I wanted to get home sooner rather than stay out on  those roads for too long once it got dark.  Long story short, mission accomplished, sort’ve.  I got in my 4.5 miles AND I was decently under my slow run pace and there were more than a few hills.  Even though I’m proud of what I got done, I still think/know I can do better.  The question is, HOW.

This morning, the question was ever present in my mind as once again, getting out of bed for my early AM working, just wasn’t.gonna.happen.  What gives?!  2 mornings in a row where I simply could not get out of bed.   Here are my thoughts.

  1. I’m getting over a cold.
  2. I’ve had a few later than normal nights lately and 2 hard runs within that same time frame.  Not the best combo.
  3. I’ve added in at least 2 new classes to my already busy workout schedule – and am looking to add in a third.
  4. I’m not convinced I’ve been eating nutritionally balanced meals lately.  Sure, I’ve been housing the green veggies like there’s no tomorrow, but what about all of the REST of my food – am I overfueling (this is a huge question in my mind lately) am I not doing an ADEQUATE job of fueling?

All of these things could have an effect on my running and not getting better, even though I have to admit, that since I’ve started, I’ve certainly seen improvements in both distance AND speed.  But I’m stalling.  Which is why I wanted to incorporate more into my workout regiment.  So.  Here are my goals for the next few weeks, in order to make sure I STAY HEALTHY and can keep on improving.  I want to feel proud when I cross that finish line in March and know that I’ve done my best and look forward to doing better, again.

Goal 1:  Develop a BETTER idea and understanding of my nutritional balance.  With special attention to fueling before and after my workouts.  For example, I do NOT need to carb load before a 5k run and I certainly don’t need to refuel with a smoothie, power bar, oatmeal and PB toast (exaggerating here, people – I don’t eat THAT much) if I’ve spent my morning XT workout peddling away on the recumbent bike for 45 minutes while lazily flipping through a good read.  I’m not looking to count calories, but I could stand to learn a little more about making decent meals and figure out what nutrients I’m missing out on.   Tangible goal?  Try to make my plate at least ½ to ¾ Veggies and COLORFUL.

Goal 2: Focus on getting STRONGER. I’ve already talked about getting more weights into my routine and taking the lifting seriously when I do.  But my other XT exercise, the bike – is only as good as I push it to be, right?  Lately, “pushing it” has NOT been in my XT vocab.  Although I usually try for one hard resistance day and one day of less resistance, there’s certainly not a shortage of breath or increase in heart rate afterwards.  I read an interesting comment on an article that said something to the effect of most runners who use biking for XT rarely do it effectively enough to have it be considered proper XT.  If I take a serious and honest look at my biking, they’re right.  How is it going to help me get stronger, if I don’t actually push myself to a new level?  It should be no different than weight lifting.  The same goes for my running.  I’m working on upping my paces, but I need to push a little harder and not stick to the speed I know is “fast but doable for a bit”.  Its ok to hit that speed, but getting better means pushing past that speed, even if only for a minute.

So, lets check back in a week to see how I’m doing, eh?   In an attempt to get myself back on track, I’m off to hopefully try my first Yoga class at the new gym and NOT fall asleep – new yoga move, downward face plant?

Anyone else in a workout/nutrition rut??


ps – I swear, I’m charging the battery to my camera soon.  Real live pictures on the blog again!? :-O