Friday, March 27, 2015

Going Mediterranean

I’m sure we’ve all heard things here and there abut how the Mediterranean style diet is healthier than that of the typical American. And indeed recent research has shown that adopting a Mediterranean style diet may indeed reduce the risk of certain diseases, especially heart disease. The Mediterranean style diet incorporates lots of vegetables, heart healthy fats, nuts, lean meats and fish and flavorful spices to jazz up a dish and make it extra tasty. As a long-time lover of tomatoes and one who constantly looks for new ways to blend spices to make dishes extra flavorful, I much enjoy preparing meals that incorporate the Mediterranean principles. Recently I came across this recipe that fully embodies the characteristics of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and decided to give it a try.

Mediterranean Chicken with Tomatoes, Beans and Avocado Yogurt Sauce
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp sriracha chili sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 medium lemon, thinly sliced
  • 4 chicken breasts or 6 chicken thighs, deboned
  • 2- 15 oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 pints fresh cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl mix olive oil, garlic, paprika, coriander, oregano, cumin, curry powder, sriracha and salt until well blended.
  2. Heat a dash of oil in pan of medium-high heat. Rub each piece of chicken with approximately 2 tsp of the olive oil/spice mixture. Place chicken in pan and sauté for several minutes.Once lightly browned, place in large baking dish.
  3. Combine remaining oil/spice mixture in a large pan with beans, tomatoes, lemon slices and cilantro. Stir until evenly coated. Pour around chicken in baking dish and surround the chicken without covering. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Roast in over for about 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

   4.  While chicken is cooking, prepare the Avocado Yogurt Sauce.

Avocado Yogurt Sauce
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium avocado, ripe, smoothly mashed
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
    5. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Once the chicken is finished cooking, sprinkle with the fresh cilantro and allow to cool. Serve portions onto plates and top chicken/bean/tomato mixture with yogurt sauce.

Recipe Source: the Cafe Sucre Farine

Not only is this recipe delicious, it’s nutrition profile is so awesome it makes me want to giggle.
  • Olive oil is highly present in this recipe, providing lots of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Post-workout, olive oil can help control inflammation and promote recovery.
  • Tomatoes are a rich source of the antioxidant lycopene, which helps protect the body against damaging free-radicals and may also play a role in reducing the risk for certain cancers
  • The chicken breast is a great lean protein source providing the building blocks for muscle repair after a workout
  • Cannellini beans are a great protein and complex carbohydrate source that provides approximately 12g of fiber per cup which nearly half of the amount of fiber one needs in a day. These beans also provide about a third of your daily needs of iron, folate, magnesium, manganese, copper and potassium.
In my opinion, the cherry on top of this meal that pushes it to a whole new level of deliciousness is the yogurt sauce. I love the contrast of the spices in the chicken mixture with the cool citrus taste of the yogurt sauce. On top of it’s fantastic taste, this sauce provides even more healthy fats from the olive oil and avocado as well as gut-health-promoting probiotics and protein in the yogurt.

This is a great dish to have on long run day or a delicious conclusion to a day with an especially hard workout. It provides a full profile of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to promote full body health and recovery as well as complex carbohydrates for glycogen replenishment and plenty of protein for muscle building and repair. Satisfying and completely nutritious, you can’t beat that. But even on a regular day, I guarantee your guests will be praising you with complements if you serve them this recipe; it’s absolutely delicious, the spices and the yogurt sauce perfect complement each other with the chicken. You’ll find it satisfying, warming and refreshing all at the same time. Best of all it will leave you feeling complete because it’s a well-rounded, healthy meal.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Nutrition Bar Review: Bonk Breaker Bars

March is here and that means lurking warmer weather (at least here in north Florida), college basketball play offs and of course, National Nutrition Month! This being said, I decided to ramp up my contributions to the nutrition spirit starting with a few nutrition product reviews. The variety of nutrition products out on the market is mind blowing and for many very confusing. What does this do? When should I eat this? Is this even good for me? Especially for those performance-oriented folks, it’s easy to be bombarded by the differing options available to optimize recovery, energize you for a ‘perfect’ workout or improve performance during your workout. Well, hopefully starting with this review, I can help to make things slightly less confusing.

First up, Bonk Breaker Bars. As the official bar of the Ironman Triathlon Series, this bar has a strong presence in the endurance nutrition market. Bonk Breaker strives to provide a product made from whole foods, with easily recognizable ingredients. Offering both energy bars and a protein bars in variety of flavors, these bars are rather dynamic.

  • whole food ingredients, no artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, GMOs or unnatural dyes
  • most are gluten and/or dairy free, good options for those with intolerances
  • higher protein and lower protein options for different workout settings
  • higher calorie, should be used appopriately for those trying to reduce or watch their weight
Nutrition Profile:

Energy Bar: 220-280 calories, 2-4g fiber, 7-8g protein, 34-41g carbohydrates
  • Carbohydrate Base: Brown Rice Syrup, Gluten Free Oats
  • Ideal for: Pre-workout fuel or fuel during your workout. This bar provides a great source of carbs, and is relatively low in protein and fat making it a great choice to top of your fuel stores before a long or hard workout or to keep you going during a long bike or run. (May not be suitable for some during running depending on personal tolerance and tendency for GI issues).
  • Flavors: Coconut Cashew, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Almond Butter & Honey, Peanut Butter & Banana, Espresso Chip, Blueberry Oat, Apple Pie, and Fig.

Protein Bar: 240-270 calories, 25-34g carbohydrates, 3-5g fiber, 13-15g protein
Cookies & Cream
  • Protein Source: Rice Protein Isolate
  • Carbohydrate Base: Brown Rice Syrup, Gluten Free Oats
  • Ideal For: Post-workout or meal replacement. This higher protein option is a great option to get you back into the building and repair state and to promote muscle recovery and glycogen replenishment after a you finish your workout. No time for a meal? This option works well for meal replacement when you don’t have time to sit down for a complete meal.
  • Flavors: Cookies & Cream, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and Almond Cherry Chunk.
Overall, the Bonk Breaker bars are a great choice for the professional or recreational athlete. This whole-food based option is a great alternative to some of the other protein and energy bars out there that can be loaded with chemicals, dyes, artificial sweeteners and a slew of unrecognizable ingredients. By offering options appropriate for both pre- and post-workout nutrition timing and a wide array of flavors, this choice suits many as a part of their performance nutrition regimen.

*No compensation was received for writing this blog post.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sure As Eggs

In the hustle and bustle of our busy daily routines, many of us have a tendency to make food choices that meet one or most of the following qualities: quick and easy to prepare, inexpensive and satiating. Sometimes, this causes you to resort to the snack machine at the office, the candy bar aisle at Walgreens or the leftover birthday cake in the office kitchen. While these things often taste good, they tend to present the following issues:
  1. They may fill you up temporarily but after a quick sugar high and crash, you find yourself energy deprived and hungry before long
  2. They provide minimal to no nutritional benefit
  3. They often leave you feeling guilty and derail you from your healthy eating goals
Worry no more my friends. Nature itself has provided a fantastic, inexpensive, satiating food choice that can easily be adapted to meet the needs of your palate. I present to you, the Egg. When the Caveman inside of you begins to creep out in your episode of Hanger, the Egg is your friend.


The potential benefits the Egg can provide to your nutrition routine are numerous. For one, eggs are a great, complete source of protein, containing all of the essential amino acids. In addition to this, eggs are relatively low calorie and low fat. One large egg provides 7g of protein and approximately 5g of fat. As a higher quality protein source, eggs have been found to promote fullness and curb cravings later in the day, making a great choice for breakfast or to hold you over as a snack. Eggs are highly nutritious as well providing several B-vitamins, needed for proper metabolism function, selenium, an important vitamin antioxidant in reducing free radicals, and zinc, necessary component to many enzymes in the body needed for cell growth, the body’s immune system health, regulation of hormone production and bone health as well as metabolism of protein. Eggs are also a great source of carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, important for eye and brain health.

When it comes to the athletic population, eggs are an egggscellent pick. As a complete protein, they help promote muscle protein synthesis and faster recovery after a hard workout. In order for your body to adapt and get faster/stronger, muscle repair is absolutely necessary. Compared to many other sources of protein, eggs are rated very high in quality and absorption rate of the protein they contain. In other words, the human body is very efficient at digesting and utilizing the protein from eggs, even more than other protein sources like soy, wheat or beef. Eggs give you more bang for your buck.

Many people have concerns with eating eggs due to the thought that consuming eggs can cause high blood lipid levels and therefore increase one’s risk for cardiovascular disease and other related conditions. In a recent meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, it was listed in the draft for to-be-released 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that dietary cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern as it has been previously. For those of you with concern for heart disease, diabetes or high blood lipid levels, monitoring your intake of saturated and trans fats can be more effective in controlling or reducing your risk than dietary cholesterol intake. So despite their previous bad reputation for cholesterol levels, more recent research has led us to believe that eating eggs regularly and in moderation is okay even if you have concerns for these conditions.
Moral of the story is, eggs are a nutrient-dense, satisfying choice to add to your diet. Here are a few ways you can incorporate them into your routine.
  • Boil several at the beginning of the week and stash in the fridge for a quick, on-the-go snack or breakfast
  • Chop boiled eggs and mix with plain Greek yogurt, mayo, chopped onions & celery, and spices for a delicious egg salad
  • Toss eggs in a pan to fry, throw on top of toast or English muffin for a quick egg sandwich
  • Add chopped boiled eggs on top of your salad for lunch
  • Want a low maintenance, quick & easy meal at the end of the day? Whisk several eggs together with salsa or chopped veggies, low-fat cheese and spices, scramble in a pan for several minutes for a yummy omelet