Category Archives: Food

Food 4 Thought #4

Oatmeal isn’t a new breakfast option for me but for a couple of reasons I’ve become a huge fan of it this year.

One of my dearest friends introduced me to Trader Joe’s Steel Cut Oatmeal which takes 3.5 minutes to heat up in the microwave.  I usually add a couple of tablespoons of almond butter and a fruit (e.g blueberries, strawberries or a banana).  It’s such a healthy and satisfying breakfast.  And for me it’s become comfort food.  You see my friend who introduced it to me did so by making it for her daughters.   When I stayed with them for a couple of weeks last spring I spent my mornings visiting with the girls as they ate their oatmeal and continued getting ready for school.  I really enjoyed starting off my mornings this way.  So now when I eat oatmeal, especially this particular brand, I think of them and their parents, which provides a great deal of comfort.

Then during the summer I came across Three Sisters Cereal Oatmeal.  It’s pretty good as well.  The fact that I can travel with it won me over big time.  Before this year, my race morning breakfast usually consisted of a bagel, peanut butter, coffee and an Ensure.  When I travel for a race, it’s a challenge obtaining these items for breakfast.  When I have to stay overnight often times finding a bagel for breakfast is challenging.  Even if I don’t have to stay overnight and can drive to the race site in the morning, I have to pick up a bagel the day before.  The bagel is pretty hard and dry by the time I need to eat it.  So, before this summer my pre-race breakfast consisted of at least one new/different item every time.  It’s never a good idea to change things up on race day or even the day before.  But many times I’ve had to do this.  That is until I discovered Three Sisters.  The oatmeal comes in individual serving packets.  The packaging can be used to measure the water which is all one needs to add to make it.  These days most hotels place a mini-coffee pot in each room so I use it to heat up my water and bingo!  I’ve got my oatmeal.  I’ll bring my banana with me or pick one up at a nearby store.  They’re pretty easy to find –  even Starbucks sells them!  I’ve also discovered Justin’s Almond Butter packets.  These packets are super easy to travel with.  The Ensure is relatively easy to take on trips and if not, most drug stores carry them.

I love how oatmeal is part of my diet.  On race day it’s great because it’s a reliable pre-race food and super easy to consume.  On other days I’m comforted as I eat my breakfast.

What food gives you comfort?  What is your pre-race breakfast?

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Food 4 Thought: 3

For as long as I can remember I’ve always sought out delicious food.  I used Chowhound (before it was acquired); I subscribe to Eater; and I let the James Beard Foundation, other food experts and recommendations from foodies influence where MLH and I dine next.  What’s interesting is now that I’m well into training for my upcoming races, depending on the training session 20%-50% of my daily calories consist of energy gels, protein bars, recovery drinks, pre-training meals, nutrition drinks/smoothies and hydration liquids.  I think manufacturers of these products have come a long way in terms of nutrition content and even taste.  These days I feel as though my meals are on two opposite ends of the spectrum:  pure nutrition to prepare for training, help endure my training and recover from my training versus meals to savor.  (Yes at times I have to resort to a frozen meal or crappy food.  Those are the only meals/snacks I dread consuming.)  Both training grub and delicious food give me great satisfaction for very different reasons.

Some of my Training Grub:

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Food 4 Thought: 2

Noah and I have been seen by doctors at three different children’s hospitals.  Two of the three have a McDonald’s located on their premises.  (Genius marketing on McDonald’s part.  And yes a bit disturbing as well.)  Where Noah was ultimately cared for after he was born is one of those hospitals.  During our time in the CICU, MLH and I usually were good with eating on the healthier end of the spectrum.  We became very familiar with the hospital cafeteria.  But we did go to McDonald’s several times.  During those times we had a rough day in the CICU and were looking for comfort food.  Unfortunately comfort doesn’t equal healthy. McDonald’s offers several comforting options: Big Macs, filet-o-fishes, chocolate shakes, apple pies, etc.  Of course McDonald’s doesn’t have a monopoly on comfort food.  There’s mac ‘n cheese, mashed potatoes, chicken pot pies, warm chocolate chip cookies, fried chicken and so on.  While consuming it, comfort food tastes good and provides…well comfort.  It seems to satisfy or suspend those feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness, anger, stress or other feelings which most likely are the culprits for wanting comfort food in the first place.  Afterwards, for me, the comfort goes away.  Most of the time some guilt and an upset stomach combined with a sugar crash take over.  Oh but comfort food does taste good, and our bodies do crave it.

I’d love to claim, with all of my training, I no longer crave comfort food but I can’t.  I still do.  A couple of days ago, I dealt with a couple of very tough topics related to Noah.  I experienced an overwhelming feeling of sadness and found myself feeling lost again.  (Grief isn’t linear.  Also after taking two or three steps forward, it’s not uncommon to take a step or two back.)  So, instead of eating a healthy soup and salad for lunch I ate a Little Bacon Cheeseburger with a side of Cajun Fries from Five Guys.  For better or worse I did find comfort from my greasy meal.  Interestingly afterwards I didn’t feel as guilty as I thought would.  Partly because I knew I’d burn this meal off during my next workout.  Also I began looking forward to my healthy dinner which was already planned out.  MLH and I had a chicken breast with a big, leafy green salad full of lots of raw vegetables that night.  AFTER dinner I felt some comfort also.  I felt comfort from the fact that I ate a healthy meal.  I felt comfort knowing all of those nutrients will help me the next day, especially during my workout.

Given my love for delicious food, I’m not one who believes athletes need to eat healthy all of the time.  But I am becoming more sensitive to what healthy food and not-so-healthy food do to my body and how it impacts training.

I think I have two types of comfort food now.  There’s the good ol’ burger/McDonald’s/mac ‘n cheese type.  I’m certain I’ll continue to have moments when I  crave this food and will indeed indulge.  And now there’s the type which involves fresh veggies, lean poultry, whole grains and nuts.  I’ll call this “delayed” comfort food.  I’ll feel the comfort after I eat, during my workout and beyond.

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Food 4 Thought: 1

Here’s the thing.  I know the basics of managing my nutrition during training and races for sprint and olympic distance triathlons.   I know after extensive workouts (including two-a-days) I need to recover with the right mix of carbohydrates, potassium, sodium and protein.  I know I need to consume a certain number of energy gels during long workouts and races.  I know I need to replenish my body with electrolytes.  I know eating fries and a burger before I workout (whether it’s the night before or earlier in the day) will cause a crappy session.  And yes I do know I have a lot more to learn.

To start I want to learn more about the body’s sensitivity to different foods during racing season and actual training sessions.

The other night I treated myself to a Starbucks Petite Cake Pop, the Peppermint Brownie Cake.

Silly me, I thought, “oh it’s a petite dessert; filled with only 170 calories.  It’s not a big deal.”  Whatever!  I came crashing down about an hour later, and felt it the next day during my workout.  Why did I feel this small, little, seemingly harmless dessert?  Was it psychological?  Was it a shock to my body?  I’ve been trying to eat more healthy for a while so maybe my body isn’t used to such sweets?  (Note: The bar for eating “more healthy” is pretty low since I’ve been known to eat dessert several times a week and chow down on burgers, pizza and fries on a regular basis.  And don’t get me started on my love for cheese!)  Perhaps my body is demanding more of the right kind of nutrients during my workouts and the cake pop actually hindered the supply.  I’m not sure what the explanation is.

And last night I consumed pasta with shrimp and crab with a touch of  butter.  I thought “oh I’m eating pasta; that’s great!”  Well I didn’t sleep well at all.  Did I eat too much? Was the seafood not sitting well with me?  Maybe I should have skipped the lemon garlic butter.  Proper rest is critical for everybody, and for an endurance athlete it’s even more important.  I did not get enough sleep last night and I’m feeling it now.

I do try to think twice before treating myself to a dessert or other delicious – aka unhealthy – foods.  I don’t want to mess up my next workout.  In fact I want to do what I can to ensure I have a great session!  And I want to make sure my body doesn’t damage itself during training and can recover properly afterwards.

One other thing I’ll tell you I know: I know “knowing,” “wanting” and “doing” are three very different concepts.

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