Lemon Mint & Feta Farro

Lemon Mint & Feta Farro

Farro is an ancient wheat grain with a nutty flavour and chewy texture. It makes a great alternative to other grains like brown rice and quinoa. It is a high source of fibre. Farro can be used in soups, salads and side dishes like this recipe below.

You can buy farro dry at a bulk food store or at the health food store. I found this pre-cooked farro at Superstore by PC Blue Menu and used this for the recipe.

Ingredients:

1 cup of dry farro

1/2 cup crumbled feta

Juice of a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

1/3-1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint

Directions:

  1. Cook farro. Bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of farro to a boil in a pot on the stove. Once boiling, turn down to a simmer and cook until all water is absorbed.
  2. Place farro in a bowl and add the feta, lemon juice, mint and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. Serve hot or cold. Would work well with fish on the side.
Massaged Citrus Kale Salad

Massaged Citrus Kale Salad

I made this recipe as part of a cooking demo for a Nutrition and Exercise Symposium with the Arthritis Society on March 18, 2017.

The key to making kale taste great is to massage it! Doing so takes it from tough and bitter to softer and more flavourful. The great thing about this salad is that any leftovers will not wilt, it will actually taste better if it marinates in the fridge for up to 24 hours. This recipe is easily customizable to your preferences. Some other great additions to the salad would be cooked quinoa, dried cranberries, pomegranate, goat cheese or substituted with another nut.

 

Serves: 4    Total time: 15 minutes

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 1 medium bunch of kale, de-stemmed and chopped or ripped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 orange, segmented and chopped into bite sized pieces or ½ cup canned mandarin oranges in 100% fruit juice
  • 1 tsp and ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp of orange juice (fresh juice from the orange or juice of canned mandarin oranges)
  • ½ cup raw or dry roasted, unsalted cashews, chopped
  • ½ small head radicchio, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

 

  1. Massage the kale: Wash, de-stem and chop or rip the kale into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Drizzle a tsp of olive oil over the kale and a pinch of salt. Use your hands to rub the olive oil onto the kale so that it covers each leaf evenly. Do this for 1-2 minutes. You will feel the kale begin to soften. Set aside.
  2. Make your vinaigrette: In a bowl or mason jar, mix the ¼ cup of olive oil, 2 tbsp of orange juice and 1 tbsp red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add chopped cashews, oranges, radicchio to the kale and mix. Add the dressing and toss to combine.
  4. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Notes: Afterwards I also added a few tbsp of hemp hearts and sunflower seeds and diced avocado.

Turmeric Fried Cauliflower Rice

Turmeric Fried Cauliflower Rice

Turmeric is a spice used in curry powder. It contains a compound called churchmen which this spice its yellow colour and has anti-inflammatory properties.

This fried rice is a great way to load up on veggies and makes a low carb side dish! This recipe makes a large amount and is great for batch cooking. 1 head of cauliflower makes about 1L or 4 cups of rice but will shrink when cooked.

 

Ingredients:
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 small red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup cremini mushrooms, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup matchstick carrots
  • 1/4 cup of green peas, frozen
  • 1-2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1-2 tsp all spice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
Directions:
  1. To make cauliflower rice, remove leaves from the cauliflower and chop cauliflower into large florets. Wash and place the florets in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped (depending on size of your food processor you may have to do this in several batches). Here is a good pictured tutorial for how to make cauliflower rice: http://ohmyveggies.com/how-to-make-cauliflower-rice/ Once made, set aside the rice in a bowl.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan and scrambled two eggs. Use a spoon to break this up into small pieces. Set aside.
  3. Add olive oil to pan and stirfry the veggies until soft. Set aside.
  4. Add the cauliflower to the pan and heat on low-medium for 5 minutes. This will cook quickly, so be sure it doesn’t burn. Add 1/4 cup of vegetable broth as you cook to add some moisture.
  5. Add the egg and veggies to the pan and then season with turmeric, allspice, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Sweet Potato Nachos

Sweet Potato Nachos

Sweet potatoes are a great alternative to chips! Cut back on the fat and sodium content while still enjoying the flavours of nachos. Keep the skin on for even more fibre. These nachos make a great healthier party snack or dinner.

Ingredients:

For sweet potatoes:

2 large sweet potatoes

1 tsp olive oil

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp paprika

salt and pepper to taste

For topping:

½ pound extra lean ground beef (or ground turkey or ground chicken)

½ red onion, diced

½ red pepper, diced

1 tsp olive oil

1 cup black beans

2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

¼ tsp garlic powder

½ cup shredded sharp chedder cheese or Monterrey Jack cheese

For topping (after cooking):

1 avocado, ripe

juice of a lime

salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

½ tomato, diced

2 tbsp minced cilantro

Salsa, sour cream (or Greek yogurt), optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  2. Wash and dry sweet potatoes. Leave the skin on and slice into ¼ inch rounds. Place into a large bowl and add olive oil and spices. Toss gently to coat evenly.
  3. Lay sweet potato rounds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Cook for 40 minutes and flip half way through.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the ground beef in a large frying pan or skillet. In another pan, heat olive and cook onion and red pepper until soft. Transfer onion and pepper to pan with the cooked ground beef. Turn down the heat to low-medium and add the black beans and chilli powder, cumin, paprika and garlic powder. Cook for 5 min, stirring well to mix all ingredients. Turn down to low until sweet potatoes are finished.
  5. Once sweet potatoes are finished (they should be soft and edges starting to brown), remove from oven. Arrange the sweet potatoes closer to the center of the baking sheet so there are no gaps between them and the overlap slightly.
  6. Top the sweet potatoes with the beef, vegetable and bean mixture. You may find that you have too much topping – if there are leftovers, use for another dinner as taco filling or to make taco salad.
  7. Add shredded cheese on top.
  8. Place this back in the oven and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until cheese melts.
  9. Meanwhile, mash avocado and mix with lime juice. Add a dash of salt, pepper and garlic powder to make a simple guacamole recipe. Or use your favourite recipe/store bought version.
  10. Once the nachos have cooked and cheese is melted, transfer to a serving dish. You can top the whole plate or serve up individual portions and allow everyone to add additional garnish and toppings themselves (guacamole, diced tomatoes and minced cilantro).

Enjoy!

Smashed Potatoes and Roasted Vegetables Recipes

Smashed Potatoes and Roasted Vegetables Recipes

Serve up your protein with a side of roasted vegetables, salad and smashed potatoes to round out the meal and add colour. For a balanced meal, make ½ your plate come from vegetables, 1/4 starch and 1/4 protein.

Crispy Smashed potatoes

Crispy on the outside yet fluffy on the inside, these smashed potatoes provide the best of both worlds!

Ingredients:

5 medium size red potatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  2. Wash and dry potatoes and poke a few holes in each with a fork.
  3. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle 1 tbsp olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes or until soft.
  4. Remove tray from the oven. Use the bottom of a small pot and carefully crush the potato to slightly flatten it. Repeat this for each potato.
  5. Top potatoes with 1 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place sheet back in the oven and roast for 10 minutes or until golden and crisp.
  6. Serve immediately.

Roasted vegetables

Ingredients:

1 head broccoli, chopped

1 orange pepper, diced

1 cup of cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 medium red onion, diced

1 tbsp olive oil

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  2. In a large bowl, add all the vegetables, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Gently toss all the vegetables to coat them evenly in oil.
  3. Place all the vegetables into a single layer on the baking sheet.
  4. Place into oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Baking times may vary depending on the thickness of the vegetables.

I am a big proponent of adding more plant based foods into your diet, but meat occasionally can fit within a healthy diet. They key is choosing leaner cuts and keeping it to the appropriate portion of ~3oz or the size of the palm of your hand. H&F foods provided me with a sample of their 100% grass-fed beef which is delivered straight to your door. They also also provide organic lamb. They ensure all their animals are raised without the use of antibiotics, pesticides and hormones. Plus it is all locally sourced! Check them out at H&F foods for more information. (www.hffoods.ca)

11 Superfoods for Athletes

11 Superfoods for Athletes

“Proper nutrition won’t make an average athlete elite, but poor nutrition will make an elite athlete average”

A varied diet of mostly whole and minimally processed foods is essential for any athlete. Nutrients should come from food first, not supplements. I use “superfoods” lightly here – none of the foods in this list are expensive, exotic foods you can only find in a health food store. They all contain nutrients essential to good health, recovery, performance and keeping your immune system healthy. The right foods will provide the tools you need to fuel and recover so you can train hard, continue to improve and perform at your best.

Incorporate these into your diet on a regular basis. Find out why, how to use them, and alternatives so you can continue to switch things up!

Sardines

Sardines are a rich source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids (1.5 g of Omega 3 in an 85g serving, over 100% of your Vitamin D needs!). Omega 3 Fatty Acids are an essential and anti-inflammatory fat. Intense exercise, injuries and concussions can all trigger acute inflammation. On-going inflammation can have a negative impact on performance, but by consuming fatty, cold water fish 2-3 times per week you can meet your needs. Yes there are supplements, but I always recommend food first if possible. Eating food provides a whole host of other nutrients you won’t find in a single pill. The added bonus with sardines is the high Vitamin D content. Vitamin D is known as the “Sunshine Vitamin.” It is important for keeping bones strong and our immune system healthy. Low levels in the blood have been associated with decreased performance. Athletes who train indoors, such as hockey players, are at risk of low levels.

Another reason sardines are awesome for athletes is that they are cost effective, nonperishable, and don’t need to be cooked so they are great to bring when travelling and staying in a hotel overnight. Yes the smell is strong; so open a window when you eat them. They taste great added to salads.

Other sources of Omega 3: Salmon fillets or canned salmon (canned with the bones means you also get extra Vitamin D), mackerel, canned tuna, trout, anchovies, herring.

Plant sources: Chia, ground flax, and hemp seeds, walnuts

Other sources of Vitamin D: Milk or fortified milk alternatives, salmon, egg yolks

Brussels Sprouts

These cruciferous vegetables (part of the cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower family) are high in fibre and Vitamins C and K. Vitamin K is a key component in bone health and helps our blood clot. You need vitamin C for the growth and repair of tissues, wound healing, and the repair and maintenance of bones. It’s also an antioxidant. Antioxidants block some of the damage caused by free radicals created during exercise. The build up of free radicals over time may contribute to the aging process and the development of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.

Other sources of Vitamin K – Dark green leady vegetables, cabbage, milk.

Other sources of Vitamin C – Strawberries, kiwi, citrus fruits, red peppers and broccoli.

Sweet Potatoes

Not only a rich source of carbohydrates needed to fuel intense exercise and restore glycogen, sweet potatoes contain a number of micronutrients you’ll want to take advantage of. Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gives them their orange hue. Vitamin C and E are other antioxidants that can boost your immune system and fight off the flu – you can’t train hard if you are sick! You’ll also get a good dose of potassium and magnesium, minerals that aid in proper nerve and muscle function.

Sweet potatoes are another very cost effective food that is incredibly versatile. You can mash them, use a spiralizer to make them into noodles, bake them whole in the oven or microwave, turn them into fries, or cook and add to smoothies and pancakes.

Other sources of beta carotene are dark orange vegetables like squash and carrots.

Beans and Legumes

Beans are packed with fibre, and provide a good source of both carbohydrates and protein. They are low in fat and can help manage cholesterol, keep our digestive system healthy and manage weight. Due to the high fibre content, don’t consume them close to a training session. You’ll get a number of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to maintain health, immunity and proper recovery. Sorry, but I can’t choose just one bean for this list! It’s like trying to choose your favourite child, it would be wrong. (Though secretly I’m sure parents have a favourite child – so if I had to, I would say lentils). Aim for variety here – black beans, red and white kidney beans, chickpeas, adzuki beans, lentils. They are very cost effective and you can use them in a number of ways – salads, pasta sauce, pureed into muffins or soups. If you choose canned, choose no added salt.

Beets

Ah beets, nature’s candy! They contain a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin. This has anti-inflammatory properties that can help you repair muscle damage after a workout. Roast them, shred them into salads, or add cooked beets to smoothies.

Others foods sources of anthocyanins are dark blue/purple fruits and vegetables like purple cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, cherries.

Barley

Barley is a whole grain you don’t hear about too often other than in beef barley soup, but compared to quinoa and brown rice, it contains more fibre and prebiotics (see below). Fibre keeps us regular and keeps us feeling full, so if you are trying to manage your weight you want to make sure you are getting enough fibre. Barley is another slow digesting source of carbohydrate like sweet potatoes, so it provides a long acting source of energy. Because it’s a whole grain (as opposed to refined) it contains B vitamins, which play a role in metabolism and converting the food we eat into energy. It is also a good source of selenium, another powerful antioxidant. You can cook barely like you would cook rice or quinoa. Add it to salads, stirfrys and soups.

Other alternatives include other whole grains like brown and wild rice, quinoa, millet, faro, steel cut oats.

Pumpkin Seeds

Of all the nuts and seeds, pumpkin seeds are the one most rich in iron. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, and transports oxygen from our lungs to working muscles. Certain athletes may be more prone to having low iron, in particular marathon runners (with your feet constantly pounding the pavement can damage red blood cells) and endurance athletes (you can actually lose iron from heavy sweat losses). There are heme sources (from animals) and non-heme sources (from plants). Iron from plants is not as well absorbed, but Vitamin C can improve this. Pumpkin seeds are also a source of healthy unsaturated fat and fibre. Sprinkle on salads, oatmeal and yogurt or add to trail mix.

Other plant sources of iron: cooked spinach, lentils, edamame, tofu, apricots.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is very high in protein (15g per ½ cup). The unique quality about cottage cheese is that the protein it contains is mostly casein, not whey. Casein is a slow digesting protein (unlike whey which is very quickly absorbed and great post workout). The benefit of casein is that when eaten before bed, it can aid in building lean muscle because it can limit the amount of muscle breakdown that happens overnight when we sleep. I love it mixed with fruit, but you can add it to smoothies, stir into pasta or eat plain.

Pineapple

Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelin, which can aid in muscle recovery so its great to include as part of your recovery meals and snacks. Add to stirfrys, salads, smoothies and diced in cottage cheese.

Watermelon is another great recovery food. It doesn’t contain bromelin, but has l-citrulline, an amino acid which can help to reduce muscle soreness. The very high water content means it can also contribute to rehydration post workout.

Kefir

Kefir (fun fact: actually pronounced Kuh-Fear not Kiefer as in Suthlerland) is milk that has been fermented, so it is very rich probiotics, the good bacteria for our gut. The consistency is somewhere between milk and yogurt with a taste similar to sour cream. That may not have sounded too appetizing and it is an acquired taste, but replacing your glass of milk with kefir will give you all the same nutrients, plus 1 billion little healthy bacteria to keep your immune system healthy and gut happy. You can also use it in smoothies or mix with some cereal and fruit.

Other sources of probiotic: sauerkraut, kombucha, fermented foods (tempeh and miso)

Asparagus

This vegetable is a rich source of prebiotics. Don’t get this confused with probiotics. Prebiotics are a nondigestible carbohydrate that feed the good bacteria in our gut. We want to eat foods to flourish the good bacteria! Foods that are highly processed will do the opposite. Why? Good bacteria can keep our immune system healthy. A strong immune system means your sick less, can fight infections and manage inflammation.

Other sources of prebiotics: Artichokes, leeks, onions, garlic, barley, tomatoes.

There you have it! 11 superfoods for athletes. This is definitely not an exhaustive list but hopefuly inspired you to include some new foods into your diet. Get your nutrition right first before looking to supplements for boosting performance.

 

Andrea Docherty, RD

Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist

Windsor, Ontario