Practice Makes PRs: bRUNch Recap and Recipes

Post fun run — fueling up!

Yesterday I hosted a great group of runners for a fun run with DWRunning followed by brunch that included a bunch of my favorite pre-, post- and during workout fuel options. Since I didn’t have copies of every recipe for individuals to take home, I wanted to include them all here for easy access. I’ve also included a couple of anecdotes as well as to why they work for me and my rationale for why they make great runner fuel. The biggest take away from yesterday? Runners like to eat, are hungry for nutrition knowledge and this type of event is a ton of fun for me to offer because it combines 2 things I’m very passionate about – running and food – and especially feeding others! Hope all that attended enjoyed (and learned a little something too!) and be on the lookout for future events like this in the next few months!

Discussing the ins and outs of race day nutrition


Energy Bites: great for pre- or immediately post run. I’ve even known a few people to freeze and take along on longer workouts for mid-run fuel.

Raspberry Oat Scones: easy to make breakfast on the go or mid afternoon snack option. I used gluten free flour. From the Racing Weight cookbook.

Kodiak Cakes Pancakes (go for the protein cakes if planning to eat post workout): followed the instructions but used unsweetened almond milk instead of water to give added flavor, vitamins and minerals.

Overnight Oats: a favorite post run meal or pre-long run/workout fuel (just make sure you allow enough time to digest). Also great grab and go option.

Egg Frittata for a Crowd:

Veggie (serves 6-8)

1 zucchini, diced

1 summer squash, diced

1/2 a large sweet onion

1 medium red pepper, diced

1-2 cups mushrooms or other desired veggies

12 eggs

2 cups cheese (Italian mix or mozzarella/parmesan blend), finely shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a large sauté pan over medium heat cook veggies in about 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender.
  3. Coat 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray. Add cooked veggies to pan and let cool.
  4. Whisk eggs in medium mixing bowl. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Add cheese and mix to combine.
  5. Pour over slightly cooled veggies and make sure evenly distributed. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until eggs are set and slightly brown on top.
  6. Remove from oven and let sit for 2-3 min to cool slightly then cut into squares and serve.

‘BLT’ (serves 6-8)

1-2 cups baby spinach

2 roma tomatoes, sliced

1 lb bacon, cooked and chopped

12 eggs

2 cups cheese (cheddar), finely shredded


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Cook bacon to likeness. Let cool and pat dry. Chop into bite size pieces.
  3. Coat 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray. Add spinach. Top with sliced tomatoes and bacon.
  4. Whisk eggs in medium mixing bowl. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Add cheese and mix to combine.
  5. Pour over slightly spinach/tomato/bacon mixture and make sure evenly distributed. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until eggs are set and slightly brown on top.
  6. Remove from oven and let sit for 2-3 min to cool slightly then cut into squares and serve.

Toast station:

Top a whole grain bread with a variety of toppings. My favorite go-to bread brands are Angelic and Ezekial (usually found in the freezer section – both brands can be found at Mariano’s). Toast is great for snacks or pre/post workout. Toppings included a variety of nut butters, avocado, chia and hemp seeds. My goal for every snack or meal: complex carb (bread), healthy fat (avocado, chia, hemp, nut butter) and protein source (nut butters).

Yogurt Parfait Bar:

Look for brands of yogurt with very little added sugar (or just get plain and sweeten yourself with honey or agave). My favorite is Siggi’s plain or vanilla. I use it in everything! Top with low sugar granolas (two brands I’m loving right now are Viki’s and Milk and Honey). Other mix ins: fresh fruit, flaked coconut (look for unsweetened), a small portion of chocolate chips, chopped nuts, and chia or hemp seeds.

Smoothie Station:

I love smoothies because often after hard workouts, I have very little appetite yet I know the importance of getting quality fuel asap in an effort to speed up recovery. So I have turned to smoothies. I add a scoop of protein powder (more on those in a future post) to a big handful of spinach, about 1/2 cup frozen fruit and coconut water or almond milk and blend. If it’s going to be a meal replacement, I’ll also add chia, nut butter and/or oats. It’s an easy way to get calories in when I don’t feel like eating and a refreshing post-run option to boot. Here’s a helpful handout I made for Mariano’s on smoothies to help guide you on how to make a better one.

Looking like I’m reading to the class with Coach Dan from DWRunning in the background

Are you interested in attending a future event like this or maybe even a more tailored, one on one session with me? Be sure to like my Facebook page to stay in the know of all my upcoming events and/or shoot me a line here to inquire about additional services that I offer.









Nutrition Tips to Help Beat the Winter Blues

From Chicago to Boston, we’re experiencing some extremely frigid temps this week and our first real blast of winter weather. While it’s been a relatively mild winter here in Chicago, the temps have continuously hovered around freezing and you might find yourself experiencing a winter slump. Don’t let the lack of sunshine and cold air lead you to drop all your healthy habits and reach for calorie-laden foods. Here are a couple tips that may help boost your mood and an energy-packed recipe that will also please your taste buds.

Be Happy with B-Vitamins

Vitamins B6, B12 and folate may help produce mood boosting serotonin. But that’s not all. They also help lower homocysteine – an amino acid linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and even depression. Be sure to include lots of foods rich in these nutrients in your diet, including leafy greens (like kale or spinach), avocados, asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, and protein-containing foods like salmon, chicken, and beef.

Fill Up on Fish

But not just any fish. Cold water fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, help build connections between neurons in the brain. They are one of the basic building blocks of the brain. Brain cell membranes are about 20 percent fatty acids and they seem to be crucial for keeping brain signals moving smoothly. Optimize your omega-3 intake by enjoying fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Or, if you aren’t a fan of fish, include plant oils like flaxseed or canola and walnuts.

Don’t Skip Your Workout

Exercise has multiple benefits beyond staying trim and one of which is helping to improve your mood. Research has linked exercise with higher levels of various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. Whether you hit the gym for a serious sweat session or can only fit in a brisk 30-minute walk, either can help.

Power up with Protein

Foods that are rich in protein are naturally high in tyrosine, an amino acid that helps boost dopamine. Protein-containing foods like chicken, turkey, lean beef and tofu are great options–but don’t discount beans. They are a great, economical, source of protein.

One thing I love about winter is chili and this chili is sure to improve your mood – with it’s taste and it’s mood-boosting nutrients. Packed with black beans (protein and B-vitamins) and winter greens (B-vitamins) it’s a delicious dish to simmer on the stove while the snow falls, and falls, and falls. Enjoy and don’t fret – spring is around the corner!

Triple B and Winter Greens Chiliphoto-8
Adapted from a recipe found on epicurious.comMakes about 4-6 main course servings.


  • About 1-2 Tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp chipotle chili powder (regular chili powder works as well – but chipotle gives a really nice smokey flavor)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1, 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes (fire roasted is great for this recipe)
  • 3, 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • about 5 cups or 1, 10-ounce bag of winter greens (Swiss chard, collards or kale), coarsely chopped


1. Over medium-high heat, heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and garlic and saute until tender, about 7-9 minutes.

2. Add squash and stir for about 2 minutes.

3. Add chili powder, cumin, beans, broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the squash is tender–about 15-20 minutes.

5. Stir in greens and cover. Let simmer for about 5 more minutes. Greens should still be bright.

6. Ladle into bowls and serve with sliced avocado and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar and sliced avocado, if desired.

Fuel up! Nutrition for Pre- and Post-Workout Success

As a dietitian and a runner, I’m often asked what I eat, particularly pre- and post-workout. For me, it all depends on the workout. If it’s after work and before dinner, I know I’ll need something to tide me over so that I’m not spending the whole workout thinking about what’s for dinner. If it’s the rare moment I wake early for a 5:30 am workout, typically I go on empty. All in all, I think it depends on you, how you feel and what your goals are. Post workout, I do try to eat a balanced meal that includes lean protein, healthy fat and complex carbs as soon as possible. Why? Research shows it’s beneficial for recovery and rebuilding muscle. Here are some tips and meal/snack suggestions for pre- and post-workout nutrition to help maximize your exercise and performance.


  • Fitting in a quick workout (<30-45 minutes)? Depending on when you last ate, you might be OK going on empty.
  • Stomach growling and you’ve got a date at the gym in about an hour? Stick to a carb-centric snack that’s around 100-200 calories, such as:
    • A granola bar
    • Small bowl of cereal with fat-free milk
    • A handful of pretzels or whole grain crackers and string cheese
    • A slice of toast or medium apple with a heaping teaspoon of your favorite nut-butter.
  • Intense workout planned and you just woke up? The easiest thing for me to eat, even when I’m not hungry, is a large banana. It provides me enough fuel for a relatively intense run. But if I am planning on running for more than 90 minutes, I usually pair the banana with a small bowl of cereal, otherwise I am bound to run out of energy before the run is finished.

Eating too much before you exercise can leave you feeling groggy and sluggish, or worse, with a case of gastrointestinal distress, while eating too little may not give you the energy you need to sustain your workout.Here’s a general guideline for timing your meals before workouts:

  • Large meals – Eat these at least three to four hours before exercising.
  • Small meals – Eat these two to three hours before exercising.
  • Small snacks – Eat these an hour before exercising.

Post-workout chocolate milk

After your workout it’s important to help your muscles recover by replacing their glycogen stores. How? Eat a meal, if possible, that contains both protein and carbohydrates within two hours of your exercise session. If you aren’t hungry after your workout, try a drink that contains some protein and carbohydrates – like chocolate milk. Why? One reason post-workout chocolate milk is beneficial is because of its protein content. Every cup contains between 8 and 11 grams of protein. A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that, when taken immediately after exercise, milk-based proteins promote greater muscle protein synthesis than soy-based proteins. For more science behind chocolate milk, visit:

Other good post-workout food choices include:

  • Yogurt topped with chopped fruit and slivered almonds
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • String cheese and crackers
  • Nuts and dried fruit
  • A regular meal with a lean meat or vegetarian protein source, complex carbohydrate (like whole wheat pasta or brown rice), and veggies

Don’t forget to hydrate!

One of the worst experiences I’ve had running has been a consequence of being dehydrated. No matter how long your workout, you need adequate fluids before, during and after to prevent dehydration. Here’s what the American College of Sports Medicine recommends:

  • Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters) of water during the two to three hours before your workout.
  • Drink about 1/2 to 1 cup (0.12 to 0.23 liters) of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. You may need more the larger your body is or the warmer the weather is.
  • Drink roughly 2 to 3 cups (0.5 to 0.7 liters) of water after your workout for every pound (0.5 kilogram) of weight you lose during the workout.

Stick with water–unless your workout is over an hour. Then you might benefit from a sports drink to help maintain your body’s electrolyte balance. I typically switch between water and a sports drink during long runs because I’ve found that if I stick to just the sports drink, I tend to get an upset stomach.

Bottom line

Everyone’s different when it comes to eating and exercise. Pay attention to your body and your overall goal. Are you trying to lose weight? Then keep calories in check and make sure you are burning more than you are taking in. Trying to maximize your workouts? Make sure you are adequately fueled pre- and post-workout. And either way, don’t over-compensate post-workout with extra helpings – it can be tempting – but can also sabotage your efforts. Happy exercising and eating!

Fuel Your Workout with Peanut Butter Energy Bites

I 2014-04-18 14.54.13recently started doing nutrition talks for a couple local running groups and have been sharing a favorite pre- and post-workout snack with attendees that they seem to really like. Since the recipe handout is by far the most popular handout I bring along with me, I thought I’d share it here for you all to enjoy. These bites are particularly good for peanut butter/chocolate lovers (like me) – but you could also change it up with another nut butter and/or substitute raisins or dried cranberries for the chips, if you wanted.

Enjoy and more to come later about what I talk about during those nutrition talks!

This recipe was adapted from a recipe found on


2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup light agave nectar/syrup
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut, shredded (sweetened or unsweetened if desired)
1/8 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips


1. Place 1 cup oats, agave, peanut butter and coconut into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
2. Place dates, 1 cup oats, and chia seeds in a food processor. Pulse until dates and oats are finely chopped.
3. Add processed mixture to mixture that was set aside and stir well to combine.
4. Add chocolate chips and stir until mixed.
5. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
6. Remove from refrigerator and scoop by heaping teaspoonful into hands and roll into balls/small bites.
7. Place bites in air tight container and store in refrigerator for up 3 weeks.

Makes about 2-3 dozen or 24-36 bites

nutrition label bites