There are a few different inspirations for this post, as I ease my way back into blogging:
1) Olympic Marathoner Shalane Flanagan’s first cookbook just dropped, and it is a reminder that much of what we do as runners/athletes is not just speed work and mileage but how we choose to fuel ourselves;
2) USATF posted an Instagram pic of Olympic long jumper Jeffrey Henderson having his first “cheat meal” in….wait for it…SIX MONTHS, and I can very much relate to that;
3) I have often been asked what I eat from people looking to make a lifestyle change, as I did four years ago, and I thought it might be helpful to some if I write about it now and then; and
4) Writing this down will be a way to generate a resource for myself when I get in a rut about what to make (which occasionally happens when we get rolling with our school year).
I find myself fairly frequently needing to dispel one of two assumptions about what I eat:
A) Well-intentioned friends (and goodness knows, I appreciate people who have my back) and even family have asked via e-mail or in person if I eat enough (I think was more of a concern about two years ago when I hit my race weight target because it was such a change from how I’d been for years, but less a concern now that I am clearly not still losing nor wanting to lose). I have not heard this concern for awhile, and I am glad that those close to me better understand my goals at this point and that I have a deliberate and thoughtful approach/method behind my training/fueling plans.
B) On the contrary it can sometimes be thought that as a runner/swimmer I can eat whatever I want. I wish!! No, no, no if only that were true…Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Alas, definitely not. I eat to honor and fuel my training. Too little and I will never have the power I need to have to be competitive/placement-driven. Too much, and I will never be able to outrun or outswim my fork. I am a calorie counter (the secret to the weight loss for me—when I was losing, I wrote down everything and counted every day). The science of that method works for me, and I can trust it. I still count, a little less formally (I keep a running count in my head versus on paper). Now, it becomes a count more geared toward stabilizing. Some days I am aware of needing to seek out an extra 200-300 cals; but I never really do have “cheat days.” I am always thinking about my next race and where I need to be at.
We’re mostly vegetarian over here. I might talk more about that in another post… Every once in awhile, we have chicken or fish. Katie is a big carnivore, and it is not totally my decision to make for her: if we’re out, she can order the beef if she wants to. I have not had beef since—hmm, it’s getting harder to remember, let’s see—Christmas Eve 2014, when I made a prime rib and Yorkshire pudding and that was that. I craved it quite a bit at first, and now I do not crave beef even a little bit. But why the veggies? Basically, you can eat much more of healthy veggie dishes and feel more full and get more nutrients throughout the day than if you eat dishes that are higher in fat and sugar and so on… There are other reasons that have deepened and extended my desire to stick with that plan, but when I was first retraining my body, the calories/nutrients were the initial reason.
Tonight we had a tortilla espanola:
I served it with white nectarines. Katie likes this very much more than Eric does, but he did pick around avoiding the caramelized onions and at the potato and egg. Katie picked the thyme for us, and Eric scrambled the eggs and parsley to pour over the onions and potatoes.
Here is our general menu plan for this week:
Dinners: tortilla española; baked sweet potatoes with raw coconut, lime, and pomegranate with corn cakes; a curry of some kind—either a green curry with veggies (bok choy, red bell pepper, green beans, mushrooms)…or an apple and chicken curry—going to ask the kids which one they prefer this week); linguine with toasted almonds, parsley, and lemon; black bean bowls with rice, fish (this week), slaw, and an avo-mango-tomato salsa and griddled masa tortillas/masa cakes. I usually serve a salad and/or fruit with the main dishes.
Lunches: We mainly do assembled types of lunches with crackers, cheese, cut and/or roasted veggies, fruit. We make a trail mix about every other week. We also eat leftovers… This week to supplement we’re planning to make a lentil and cashew hummus with baked wheat pitas; caprese kabobs; and a big batch of quinoa or couscous with golden raisins, toasted pine nuts, and grated romano cheese.
*Sometimes I Sunday-prep items. Like today, I made the hummus and the quinoa. The quinoa is my own recipe, and it is really a base: it stands on its own, or that same recipe can become the backdrop for add-ins like roasted Brussels sprouts, or butternut squash, roasted golden or red beets, etc.
Breakfasts: Lots of smoothies, multi-grain protein pancakes/waffles, yogurt with our granola and fruit, eggs, challah or oatmeal bread, cereal, oatmeal…Sometimes I try to make a big batch of muffins to pull out throughout the week—-this morning, Katie helped me make peanut butter and jelly muffins.
These (fairly low sugar) PB & J muffins will be useful to grab this week.
I did not get around to making our weekly bread today. I spent time changing and washing our bedding instead, and I figured that we don’t really need the bread until Tuesday or Wednesday. We were busy this weekend and away almost all of yesterday up near Big Bear for the Green Valley Lake Aquathon:
This was my first swim-run event ever, and it was fun if not challenging at 7200 ft. altitude. I did a photo journal race recap on in my Facebook albums, so I won’t rehash that here.
I was just extremely surprised to place second overall in women and to be the 3rd person to come in. I was 6th woman out of the water (19th person out), which is crazy because I am a passable and dedicated swimmer (about 10K a week, give or take) but not a technically masterful swimmer by any stretch. Still, I made up a bunch of ground on the 5K run.
And I managed to get first in my division, as well. Keep challenging oneself, right?
Anyway, here are some examples of my favorite fuel:
Salad with boiled eggs, avocado, mango, tomato, beans, cilantro yogurt dressing, and Sriracha. I could eat this every day. Sometimes, I do!
Especially kiddo-friendly: homemade edamame dumplings (K and E had fun with that!) in broth with microgreens; Asian style chicken meatballs with hoisin dipping sauce; cinnamon rice pudding balls.
Acai bowl with fruit, homemade granola, chia seeds, and raw unsweetened coconut. Breakfast! I also eat teff porridge for breakfast often, or bananas with a nut butter, or toast with half a smashed avocado and egg, or a spinach and egg white wrap. Or various other items with big protein hits if I need to replenish.
Some variety: 1) the acai bowl; 2) my first Yule log for Christmas; 3) challah and homemade butter is a favorite for the kids; 4) teaching Katie to make brioche; 5) another breakfast bowl; 6) Valentine’s pancakes for the kids; 7) Good morning, kiddos!; 8) that salad again; 9) Dutch baby for New Year’s Day morning
Sometimes simple is best for my lunch: Cinnamon infused yogurt with fresh figs drizzled with honey
We eat quite a bit of Japanese-inspired cuisine, as well as Indian and Greek.
Fresh summer salad with raw corn, tomato, and tuna with a orange tested vinaigrette.
We go a bit overboard on Halloween, though! (My favorite holiday).
And I still love to bake… I just….can’t so much anymore…not the way I used to. Because I will want to eat it all. So, Katie and I made these pies (mixed berry and apple) to donate to the community breakfast for Thanksgiving this year.
But if I can bake and pawn it off on others, that works for me! As a funny lark, I entered Temecula’s Best Cookie Baker contest around Christmastime this past year….and won. Hungarian butterhorns. Sigh. They are as un-training-friendly as they sound. At Christmas there is a little leeway with the family’s traditional cookies for me, but not much. I am in the midst of half marathon season at that point, trying to drop times and PRs—sugar does not help those goals! Wish it did…
As with anything, food choices are a balance of considerations.It’s been a challenge these past four years figuring out how to cook essentially all over again. I am always learning and trying to research what we need… Going to a heavily plant-based diet with the kiddos took some thinking, and I was super worried at first. I still wonder about it, and that is partly why we haven’t gone full throttle on that score. I also use animal protein now and then if something has become off balance for me. I swear by my mom’s lightened version of chicken alfredo. I’ve PR’d on that meal!
I do drink way too much coffee. The first year, I cut it out entirely and went to tea only. Eh, the coffee habit has snuck back up on me. I do swear by green tea, though. If there is one thing a little off-kilter in my diet right now, especially this summer, it is that I know I should be hydrating MUCH more than I have been. I’ve actually been pretty bad about that the last month or so, and I have started to put some water requirements in place before accessing other drinks.
Because I was such a big foodie before my lifestyle change, I do hesitate to talk much about food—usually only when people ask. Changing my life meant, for me: 1) not watching cooking shows at all for a few years; 2) putting away old cookbooks in favor of new material; 3) not posting much about food socially or looking at food-oriented magazines; 4) trying not to go out to eat. I had to first step away almost completely from my hobby, then relearn how to engage with food-as-medicine-and-fuel, and just the past year or so now I have been a bit more able to phase some of those other elements back in. (The kids and I love to watch chef competitions, I occasionally post what we make/eat if I especially like it, and I am able to hang on in a restaurant (the most challenging places to be, and I’d rather eat at home where I can know exactly what I am eating).
Yet it occurs to me that in having to learn a bunch about healthy food choices these past years, maybe I have some information that could be helpful to others in some way. Who knows? I am still learning, too!