I'm a Dietitian/Nutritionist with a big appetite for good food, nutrition, running and life! Hoping to share inspiring thoughts and informative insights that will help you lead a happier, healthier, more full life!
Citrus fruits are at their peak right now — so what better time to find new and unique ways to use them. My all time favorite? Juicy, red grapefruits from Texas. I literally can not get enough of these when they are in season. I eat them like an orange and devour them in a matter of minutes. Rich in vitamins A and C, I love their sweet, tart flavor. Grapefruits from other parts of the country are also great right now – but after biting into my first Texas grapefruit when I lived there a few years ago, I’ve been a convert. So to celebrate my grapefruit obsession, I created this recipe featuring a variety of other citrus fruit and a couple of my other favorite super-foods (avocado, kale, and farro). I’m also rather obsessed with this citrus vinaigrette dressing. I like to make a big batch and keep in the fridge for 2-3 days and use to top salads or to marinade chicken or fish. Try it out and let me know what you think!
Farro, Kale, Citrus and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
3 cups kale, cleaned well and chopped into bite size pieces
1 blood orange, peeled and cut into wedges (a regular orange can be used if blood oranges are unavailable)
1 grapefruit, peeled and cut into wedges
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup cooked farro
Citrus Vinaigrette (see recipe)
To cook farro, place ½ cup uncooked farro in about 2 cups of water (to add more flavor, you could use vegetable or chicken broth).
Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain any excess water.
Assemble dressing (see separate recipe). In a large bowl, pour half of the dressing onto the kale and toss/massage well to coat the kale.
Toss the sliced oranges and grapefruit with the kale along with 2/3rd of the toasted hazelnuts, avocado and cooked farro. Make sure everything is combined.
Garnish with the remaining hazelnuts and drizzle over additional dressing, if desired.
Basic Citrus Vinaigrette
(makes just enough for salad)
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
2 Tbsp orange juice
½ teaspoon lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine first 6 ingredients in a small jar or medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. If using a jar, shake to blend. If medium bowl, whisk until combined.
Do Ahead: Vinaigrette can be made/stored for 1 week. Cover and chill. Shake before using.
Nutrition info (1/5 of recipe with dressing): 304 calories, 6.6g protein, 18.9g fat, 31.8g carbohydrate, 7.7g fiber, 9mg sodium
I despise resolutions. And the first two weeks of the New Year. The gym becomes over-crowded and everyone is on a diet, detox or cleanse–trying to right the wrongs of the last month (or year). I don’t believe in diets (for more about my philosophy about food, nutrition, health and life, check out this interview I did for Lux and Concord: Dieting 101 – Game Changing Tips from a Dietitian) — so why then, would I choose to go on a 3-day juice cleanse? In the middle of a big training push to prepare me for an upcoming half marathon? Because if there’s any question I get more often than others it’s what are the benefits of juicing, smoothies and cleansing/detox diets. I wanted to be able to relate to what my clients and customers go through. I also wanted to dive a little deeper into the SCIENCE – to see if there’s any truth to the benefits often touted like improved mental clarity, increased energy, and better sleep. And let’s be honest — I spent most of December stuffing my face with Christmas cookies and holiday beers. I could use a reset button in the New Year as well. So here’s my overall take on how I felt before, during and after; a brief overview of what the science says; and my general take on the experience overall (you may be surprised). What do you think? I’d love to hear from you!
Pre-Cleanse: What am I thinking??
I decided to go with a juice cleanse that took out all the guess work out of it by signing up for the Real Good Juice 3-day Juice Cleanse. Why? I never had to guess at the quantities, proportions, or ingredients. I knew my juices would taste great having had a few of their awesome blends prior to the cleanse and it just made life easier.
Each day I picked up my juices for the next day. Six in total – including one smoothie for breakfast. This was another reason I was drawn to this cleanse over others. Smoothies include some fiber – which is usually lacking in most juice cleanses. Fiber is important for digestive health and helps keep us fuller longer.
A couple days before I cut back a bit on processed foods and focused on staying well hydrated to prepare myself for the next 3 days. To be honest, the only thing I really was concerned about was the lack of caffeine (a valid concern I would soon find out). I went to sleep the night before excited and nervous for the next 3 days.
Juice Cleanse Realization: I’m Addicted to Coffee
Day 1 started out great – I had a big cup of hot water and lemon, drank my smoothie and did my easy workout and actually felt great. I wasn’t even hungry. Every two hours you drink another juice. Each is about 16 ounces which really does fill you up if you are also drinking a decent amount of water as well. The only real side effect I experienced at this point was a lot of trips to the ladies room since I was taking in much more fluids than normal. As the 12pm slump rolled around, the lack of caffeine set in. I was dragging. I’m used to close to 4 cups of coffee/day (before you gasp in shock – this is 4, 6oz cups – that’s like two tall coffees from Starbucks). I could not stop yawning and thinking about a nap. Fortunately, I powered through. By the last juice of the day, I missed chewing. Having calculated out the caloric intake/day, I knew I would need to supplement the cleanse with some solid food to ensure I could also get my workouts in. I spoke with the helpful folks at Real Good and they suggested organic fruits, veggies and raw nuts. I grabbed a large handful of almonds and carrots and a cup of ginger tea. Day 1 was done – and I was beat. I was asleep by 10pm (much earlier than my usual 11:30pm bedtime).
Day 2: woke up at 8am. I slept 10 hours. I haven’t slept that good or soundly in years. I wanted a cup of coffee – but didn’t want to give up just yet. I grabbed my smoothie, a cup of hot water with lemon and did some work. Today was going to be tough. I had a hard 9 mile speed workout planned. After about an hour I tied on my sneakers and made my way to the treadmill for my workout. About 1/2 way through I had to stop for a bathroom break. On my way back to the ‘mill I started seeing spots. I knew I needed to take a longer break. I was determined to get through the workout though. Fortunately I live in a building with a gym so I went back to my apartment, grabbed the next juice for the day and downed it along with an apple and almond butter. I immediately felt better and an hour later, completed the workout. I wouldn’t recommend this. If you are planning to do a cleanse – definitely cut back on your exercise plan. The rest of day 2 was easier than expected. I taught a cooking seminar where I had to make and sample food. I surprisingly wasn’t hungry and continued to drink the juice every two hours. I still felt exhausted though and it was another early to bed evening.
Day 3: OK. I miss food. But it’s day 3 – the last day. I can do this. Oddly enough – I found myself craving things like oatmeal and kale salads – and NOT burgers, pizza and French fries. It’s like my body was craving healthy food. I still struggled with caffeine withdrawal but this day was definitely easier than the previous two. I had a short, easy run that I finished with no problems. Another early to bed evening – and 3 of the best nights of sleep I’ve had since I was a probably a teenager.
Post Cleanse: What I Learned
Following the cleanse I woke up and made my now go-to breakfast: oatmeal, sliced banana and a spoonful of almond butter. I also made my usual pot of coffee but found I could only stomach 1/2 of what I normally would consume – and even that caused the caffeine jitters. I laced up for an 8 mile progressive run that went better than expected. I ran faster than I have in months. I felt invincible. My energy level was through the roof. I also felt lean. I checked the scale – about 3 lbs down. I didn’t do this to lose weight – and know that much of the weight I likely lost was water weight – but still, important to note.
The cleanse taught me to rely less on caffeine during the day and I’ll sleep better. It helped me feel a little better about the last month of over-indulging and it just felt good to fill up on super foods for 3 days. I felt inspired and since have eaten better, had much more control over my appetite and cut back my coffee consumption to just 2 cups/day (12 oz total). Would I do it again? Yes – it’s something my body needed and craved and following big training pushes and/or leading into a new training plan, I think it’s a good way to really reset and focus on getting my body ready for the work to come.
What about the Science?
I know many of my dietitian friends will question my sanity in choosing to do something like this. Yes, we have livers – and their primary function is to detoxify our body on a daily basis. I know – I get this. But I also know what my friends, colleagues and family do and I want to make sure I’m as knowledgeable as possible about what real people are actually doing. And to be honest – I kind of think there is a place for cleansing if done right. The juice cleanse is a small, 3 day sacrifice that can lead to huge transformation if done right. Case in point: I no longer drink 4 cups of coffee, have cut my alcohol intake in half, and my appetite is much more tame now. It caused me to look at my habits – and make changes. Breaking the cycle of consistently eating a diet too high in saturated fat, refined carbohydrate, processed foods, excess caffeine and alcohol can and will cause you to look at what you are doing and make positive changes – even if small – that will have lasting impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
A brief pubmed search found virtually no scientific evidence or studies looking specifically at cleansing and long term outcomes. One study, published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, came close – found that individuals placed on a very low calorie, vegan diet plus regimented supplementation for 21 days had improvements in total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. This wasn’t juicing, per se but the change of caloric intake and diet composition is as close as I could find to what I was getting when I did the Real Good Juice cleanse.
So, while the jury may still be out in the scientific community on the benefits, in general, I think that there might be a place for a cleanse if done right and under supervision/with the guidance of a dietitian/nutritionist and/or doctor. I can only share how I felt after (great) and how it changed me personally. A special word of caution – a juice cleanse isn’t recommended for certain populations (e.g., Diabetics, those with eating disorders or immunocompromised) so if you are considering one – please consider talking to your doctor – or even reach out to me!
Yesterday I had a request for a recipe using zucchini that was a little more ‘unique.’ Something that wasn’t zucchini bread or simply roasted. I didn’t actually have a recipe written out – but an idea for a dish that I really enjoyed – combining lean protein and zucchini that makes great leftovers and weekday lunches. So I put my creative juices to the test – and developed the following. I tested it out last night and in my opinion, it was a delicious success! Make sure to use ground turkey breast – not just ground turkey – to ensure you have the leanest protein source. You could also use ground chicken breast. I used diced, no salt added tomatoes to keep the sodium in check. Enjoy with a big side salad and you’ve got a lean, low carb, high protein, high fiber meal that satisfies.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking Time: 50 minutes
2-3 large or 4 small zucchinis
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey breast
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp crushed red pepper (or more as desired)
1, 15-oz can diced tomatoes, drained 3/4 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt/pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°.
Slice washed zucchini in half the long way and then slice off about 1/8″ of each bottom so it can lay flat on the baking sheet or pan.
Scoop out the inside of the zucchini.
Place those zucchini in a 13×9 pan that has been brushed with olive oil or sprayed with cooking spray.
Roast at 350° for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat and sauté onion until tender, approximately 3-5 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes.
Add red pepper, oregano, salt, pepper and ground turkey. Cook until browned.
Stir in basil and canned, drained tomatoes and remove from heat.
Sprinkle ½ cup of mozzarella cheese at the bottom of each zucchini shell.
Top with meat mixture.
Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and all of parmesan.
Place pan back in the 350° oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes until thoroughly heated, and cheese is melted/starts to brown.
Remove from oven, garnish with fresh, slivered basil and serve.
Recently I feel like I had a breakthrough in my running that is hard to explain – but I feel compelled to try. I’ve also had a couple of races that I’ve been slow to recap while I work through this transition time in my running life. Since my last marathon, I have gone through a lot personally and done a lot of soul-searching that has really opened my eyes to how I live my life and how I want to live my life going forward. Hopefully this recap of the last month and races is insightful and useful for you in your training/life.
Following a marathon, it’s common to go through a bit of depression. You’ve spent the better half of the last 6 months likely training towards one big goal. It’s come, and gone, and now what?? In my case, it was pretty bad this year. I had a rough summer/fall with injury and life stress. Despite that, I raced my heart out, but the times did reflect what I wanted (stress on the wanted). PRs were few and further despite training hard as I could and through injury. I toyed with the idea of giving up. Why was this sport so important to me? I started to do some serious soul-searching – not just for what I wanted to be with my running – but who I wanted to be and where my life was headed. It was some tough stuff – facing issues I’ve had underlying for years. I’m stubborn. I want big results – but sometimes when I see what it takes to get what I want, I get easily overwhelmed and just fall back to the day to day. I make excuses.
I had my first ever DNF (did not finish). That day was one of the worst of my running life. I didn’t feel well, was overly tired and the weather was not ideal. I should have never raced. After mile 1, my stomach churned and I knew it was in my best interest to give up. I sobbed my way back to the finish line and had a real heart to heart with my coach and mom.
Finding my Flow
I spent the next week focusing on REALISTIC goals. Not signing up for every race between now and the end of the year. Instead, I picked just one to really focus on. A 10k on Thanksgiving that I race every year. I knew it wouldn’t be easy since it was only a month away and I had not done much short distance specific work, but I wanted to remember what it felt like to race fast and with joy. I also set my sights on placing in the top 5 females and a time goal of running sub 40 min if the weather cooperated (November races in Rochester, NY can be anything from 50 degrees to snowy and negative wind chills).
I discussed with my coach, Dan Walters, and he created about a month-long training program with the 10k as my goal – and LAST serious race of 2015.
About a week into training – everything started to fall into place. Running felt easy and (gasp) enjoyable again. I stopped making excuses. Stopped focusing on the goal but rather nailing each and every workout. Even the speed workouts and tempo runs. I hit what many runners refer to as ‘flow’ in my training. I looked forward to my workouts. To strength training. To it all. I felt stronger than ever. It was a great feeling after a summer of let downs and pain. I learned a little life lesson here. Just like life – there are highs and lows – and that’s what makes the journey so remarkable.
My outlook changed. I was/am much more positive. I have more focus – in running and life. I started to set goals for my career. Map out a future for my business. I ate better, slept better. I honestly don’t know what the trigger was – maybe the DNF – or whether it was hitting the flow or just having had enough of feeling sorry for myself – but it could not have come at a better time.
In advance of the 10k I had a fun, tune-up 5k cross-country meet I signed up for with some teammates from Fleet Feet. I hate 5ks. And this would be only my second time running in spikes/on this terrain. I decided to do it for the ‘fun’ of it – and while it was fun before/after – I can’t say the actual 5k itself was that much fun. But a challenge – and I love a challenge.
True to my racing style – I went full-out in the first straight away. I passed people left and right and secured a spot nearish to the front of the women. I felt good – but could tell the pace I was currently at was not something I could maintain. By lap 2 of 3.5, I knew my legs were shot. It was all I could do to maintain marathon pace. I had no time goal and reminded myself – I was doing this for fun – might as well have some. I gave it my best and finished just under 20 minutes. The soft ground was difficult – resulting in more work on my legs than I think I realized at the time. Either way I finished, high-fived my teammates and ran a 2 mile cool down. I felt great and while my time wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I could feel the attitude shift. God I love this sport.
RACE DAY – 25th Annual Race with Grace 10k
A couple more weeks of super focused training and I found myself on a plane home for Thanksgiving – race day looming. I knew that sub 40 was within reach. I felt strong. The morning of the race – even my mom mentioned my very positive/good mood. Not like my typical snappy, rude attitude more typical of the last 2 marathons she had seen me run. I told her I had listened to a podcast (Running on Om) interview of Greg Faxon and that I was practicing his theory of 100% engagement but being 100% unattached in the moment. I had put in 110% this last month and I had to truly trust in that. Then on race day – in the actual moment – I needed to be unattached to the results. Why? I’m notorious for getting stuck in my own head (see my Chicago marathon recap). Instead, this time, I vowed to completely separate myself from the moment – just focus on the details to get me through the race. Find my flow and just groove. For once, it worked.
After a decent 2 mile warm up, I knew it’d be a tough day for sub 40. There were 20 mph winds from the south that would be directly in our face for the 2nd half of the race. I knew I had run in worse – but wasn’t entirely confident I could hit the paces I wanted to. I tried not to let it get to me. We lined up for the start – me next to a guy in a turkey costume and Santa. We were off. I settled into what felt tough but not out of reach, waved at my superfan watching at about the ¼ mile mark, and prepared myself for what was to come. Just 40 minutes. Or so I hoped.
At the 1 mile marker I glanced down at my watch. That can’t be right? I thought. 5:53. It felt like I was running 6:45s – everything felt easy. I was ecstatic but recalled the wind was currently at my back. I needed to maintain and/or slow down a bit if I was going to have something left for the end.
Miles 2 and 3 were a more realistic pace of roughly 6:15. When I hit the 5k mark, I realized I had just run my second fasted 5k as part of a 10k (18:57) and knew I was definitely on track for sub 40. But again – I tossed the goal out of my head and focus on what would be the hardest 3 miles of the race. I hit mile 4 and realized I had just PR’d my 4 mile. Things were really lining up well.
Heading south on a country road past apple farms and homes, I could feel the wind kicking me in the face. I knew this was slowing me down. But I also knew I had some time ‘in the bank.’ I gave it my all and when I hit the last mile – headed entirely into the wind – I tried to pick it up even more. I picked people to focus on passing or catching rather than my watch, and successfully passed two guys. My watch beeped and I glanced down – 7:01. What?! Don’t panic, I thought. Just go full-out for the last 0.2 miles. I turned the corner into the church parking lot. My lungs burned. My legs felt like mush. I gave it all I had. I was so close.
I wish I could say I broke 40. After the effort I gave, I thought it was for sure in sight. Instead – the official time when I crossed the line was 40:02. My watch clocked 40:00:03 for 6.25 miles (I need to learn to take tighter turns). Finally – a PR! Maybe not exactly what I had wanted but I felt so strong – through the entire thing – and knew if it weren’t for the wind, that sub 40 was mine. I was happy regardless. A huge contrast to my post-DNF 5k attitude. All the hard work had paid off. I placed 5th female among a very competitive group of lady runners. And I beat a woman who beats me every year at this race (I’ve been running it for 10+ years – the first time being with my Dad back in 2000).
So what’s next??
Well I’m doing something I’m not used to – not following a plan for December. Running for ‘fun’ and focusing on R&R before the New Year. I’ve got some big plans, big goals, and big dreams for 2016 and can’t wait to share them all with you in the New Year. Until then – I’m going to spend time recouping from a serious 2015 of racing and life — and spend lots of time with family and friends, focusing on what I’m truly thankful for.
Growing up, and even now, I have quite the sweet tooth (another reason why I run!). I’m a little better at controlling it now – but when I was younger it was a very common occurrence for me to get home from school, throw my bag on the floor, and head straight for the cookie jar. Over time, I’ve replaced that habit with fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy snacks, but every now and then, I really want a cookie. And nothing really beats a homemade cookie fresh out of the oven.
This past weekend I was invited to a friend’s place for dinner. It was a rainy, cold, dreary fall day, so the last thing I wanted to do was trek to the store to get something to make and take. I dug through my cabinets and found a variety of ingredients that somehow came together in the recipe below. They were a hit!
A couple tips: I like my cookies on the softer side – so if you wanted a crisper texture, I’d recommend melted butter vs. the canola oil I used. Also – this is a basic recipe – if you don’t have dried cherries, substitute another dried fruit – like raisins, dates, or even mangos. Swap diced pear for the apple. Want to make it more of a tropical flavor? Add coconut and dried pineapple and omit the cinnamon. You could also toss in some chopped nuts, chocolate chips, whatever you like! Just go easy on the add-ins. Too much and they won’t stick together. Try to stick to no more than 1 cup of raw fruit and 1/2 cup dried and/or nuts. For a true taste of fall though, try these just as they are and let me know what you think!
1 cup oats
¾ cup flour (whole wheat if you have it)
2 Tbsp ground flax meal
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp salt
2 Tbsp canola oil or unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup agave (you can also use honey or maple syrup)
1 cup finely diced apple (about 1 medium)
½ cup dried, tart cherries
Whisk together the oats, flour, flax meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil or butter, egg, and vanilla. Stir in the agave. Add in the flour mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Fold in the apple and tart cherries. Chill for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Drop the cookie dough into about 12-15 rounded scoops (for larger cookies) or 20-24 smaller scoops (for more bite size cookies) onto the prepared sheet, and flatten slightly with the back of a fork.
Bake at 325°F for 13-15 minutes. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Once completely cooled, store in an air tight container. They should keep for about a week – if they last that long!
This past weekend I participated in a chili cook off. It was a lot of fun – we had entries in both the traditional and non traditional categories – and all were delicious. I decided to go non traditional with my take on a healthier version of a chicken wing in chili form. Not only is it a great way to enjoy this typically not-so-good for you sports-watching bar food – but it reminds me of home. Being from Rochester, NY–which is just under an hour west of Buffalo–and having lived in and traveled there most of my life to visit family–this chili brings back memories and flavors of home. Turns out others enjoy the flavor as well as it came pretty darn close to winning – just one point away from 2nd. 1st place was disqualified as the secret ingredient turned out to be a Rick Bayless chili starter kit (note to self – must try this for a quick weeknight meal)! Since I’ve had a couple of requests for the recipe – here it is. Enjoy!
Allison’s ‘Awesome’ Buffalo Chicken Chili
Every now and then, I get a serious chicken wing craving. This chili satisfies while saving you some calories, fat, and clean-up, too (no need for hand wipes). Top with crumbly blue cheese and the leaves from the celery. Chicken wings in a bowl!
Garnish: crumbled blue cheese and/or leaves from the celery
1. Poach the chicken. Place in a pan, cover with water or broth. Add a pinch or two of salt and some black pepper. Bring to a boil then let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Remove and let cool. Once cooled, shred.
2. Meanwhile, in a large stock pot or dutch oven, add about a tbsp of oil and heat over medium-high. Add the onions, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes.
3. Add the broth and stir. Add the shredded chicken and the cumin through the hot sauce and let simmer – about 15-20 minutes. You can also transfer the onions/celery/carrots/garlic to a crock pot and add the rest of the ingredients. Turn up to high and bring to a boil. Then turn down to low and simmer until ready to serve.
4. When ready to serve, spoon into bowls and top with crumbled blue cheese and the leaves from the celery. Get ready for some kick!
This past Tuesday I taught a class on foods that help fight inflammation at our Ravenswood Mariano’s for patients of Swedish Covenant Hospital. The recipes I demonstrated and served were a hit among attendees so I thought I’d share here.
What makes them great (besides how good they taste)? The soup contains butternut squash which has a high amount of beta-cryptoxanthan – a powerful antioxidant of the carotenoid family. It is converted to vitamin A in the body and researchers from the UK found that those who consumed more foods containing beta-cryptoxanthin were better protected against arthritis. The soup also contains my favorite fall fruit: apples. Researchers at Florida State University have suggested that apples are truly a “miracle fruit” that convey benefits beyond fiber content. The USDA-funded study, conducted in 160 randomly assigned women ages 45-65, found that women who consumed dried apples daily for a year experienced a lowering of lipid hydroperoxide levels and C-reactive protein compared to those given the same amount of dried prunes daily for a year. The researchers concluded that consumption of dried apples can be beneficial to human health in terms of anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties.
The salad contains kale – a power food encouraged by everyone these days. But is it really powerful? An 11-year Mayo Clinic study found that intake of cruciferous vegetables – like kale, broccoli and cabbage – has been shown to be protective against the development of arthritis.
I hope you enjoy these easy to make, delicious, super food packed recipes this fall!