A Nutritional Slam

food_scale[photo source]

Well, I hope your Thursday is off to a better start than mine! I normally try to stay pretty positive on the blog, but I received a very upsetting email today. I had contacted someone regarding a volunteer opportunity and in response, I received this email:

Hey Megan,

It’s [Name Withheld], on the committee of [Name Withheld] NYC. I clicked on your blog and read all the things you ate on Tues.  I’m sorry to say from a nutritionist’s point of view, you consumed way too many simple carbs. In fact that kind of eating sets you up for high triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol and brings you closer to type 2 diabetes. I am a holistic and clinical nutritionist and work with over 200 patients now of which 92% eat that way and I’m sorry to say are all in the category of type 2 DM or pre-DM simply due to the overload of simple carbs.

If you’d like more in-depth info on better nutrition, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Wishing you wellness always,
[Name Withheld] Holistic & Clinical Nutritionist

I understand that this person was just trying to be helpful (I think?), but there are a few reasons why I think the email was out of line:

  • My dietary choices were torn apart when I simply wanted to volunteer my time for a good cause!
  • The email author made blanket assumptions about my eating habits and warned me that I was at risk for diabetes and high triglycerides without knowing anything about my health or background.
  • The author of the email is a nutritionist and wellness counselor, not a Registered Dietician. Although a nutritionist can certainly be well-informed, any one can call themselves a “nutritionist”. On the other hand, to become a Registered Dietician you have to go through many years of school, complete an internship, and pass a national exam. I have no way of knowing what credentials this person has simply because they put “nutritionist” after their name.

I was pretty riled up after I read this email and perhaps I should have brushed it off and forgotten about it. But I write a food and running blog and I felt like this email was a personal attack on me and everything I stand for. What kind of “healthy living blogger” would I be if I was demonstrating behaviors that were leading directly to diabetes and bad cholesterol levels? After some time to cool down and think things through, I decided I needed to address the email and the issue on the blog.

I know that I don’t have the perfect diet (does anyone??), I probably eat too many cookies and maybe not enough protein. But I’m a busy 25-year-old trying to juggle a full-time office job, part-time writing gigs, a blog, a passion for running, cycling, and yoga, and a social life.  The purpose of my blog is to show people what a healthy balance can look like (and to provide running inspiration!). To me, this means that while I did have dried fruit, a few pieces of candy, and a pb& j cookie on Tuesday (simple sugars!), I also consumed greek yogurt, whole grain cereal, whole wheat bread, hummus, part skim mozzarella, lentils, arugula, apples, sweet potatoes, and peanut butter.  Additionally, I exercise quite a bit (40+ miles of running last week plus spin and yoga classes), so I need those simple carbs for quick burning energy.

The amount of calories, carbs, protein, fat, sugar, and exercise in my life might not work for you.  It would be impossible for me to say: “If you eat exactly what I do, you’ll have lots of energy, be in great health, want to run 40 miles a week, etc. etc.” I’ve said it before – I am not a registered dietician or an expert of any sort. I’m just a girl who likes to run and eat good food!

What I’ve been doing for the past 25 years seems to have been working for me – I recently had blood work done and everything came out A-OK (with the exception of some borderline low iron levels). I don’t have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or bad cholesterol. I’m at a healthy weight for my height and frame and I have enough energy to do the things I love to do. And if I eat a little too much sugar, so what? I’m only human.

I’m not going to dwell on this incident, I’m pretty sure it was a misunderstanding. However, I thought it was a good opportunity to discuss the criticism that often comes along with how we eat. Whether it’s a well-meaning family member pushing another piece of pie because you’re “too skinny” or a friend who suggests you cut back on the nachos at happy hour, people are always going to comment on what you’re eating. Eating is something we all do 3+ times per day and it’s obviously a topic we like to think about, write about, talk about – how else can you explain the enormous popularity of foodie and fitness blogs?

 But when does this interest become too personal? And who is qualified to make dietary suggestions?

Has anyone ever criticized your diet?  How did you respond?

Spinning and Strength

Good morning! Check out my latest contribution to the Running Shorts column on True/Slant – Alternative Sports Medicine. If you’re struggling with aches and pains, make sure you know all of your options.

Yesterday was an early one, but getting up with the sun was worth it – I love my Tuesday morning spin class! I started off with 1/2 decaf coffee and a few pieces of dried fruit.

Prunes

After a fun 45 minute cycling session, I did some strength training (not my fav, but necessary):

  • 3 x 10 bicep curls
  • 3 x 10 tricep dips
  • 3 x 10 tricep extensions
  • 3 x 10 lunges

And then 20 minutes on the elliptical to read Marie Claire magazine cooldown.

Breakfast was vanilla greek yogurt with PB2 mixed in, a lazy girl’s baked apple, and a vita muffin.

My “lazy girl’s baked apple” was just a sliced Macoun apple, drizzled with maple syrup and cinnamon, and microwaved for 2 minutes. So easy to make, but it feels so much more special than a regular ol’ apple.

vitatop and chobani

Mid-morning snack: Heritage grain flakes and 2% milk.

Heritage flakes

Lunch was a cup of Campbell’s Select french onion soup and a hummus, arugula, and mozzarella sandwich on a whole wheat flat bread. I was pleasantly surprised by this soup – very rich and flavorful and no “canned soup” taste.

soup and sandwich

And then some leftover Halloween candy to power me through the rest of the afternoon…

Halloween candy

After I left the office I headed to my local polling place to vote. Yay, civic duty! And then returned to my apartment for dinner and a few hours of writing, emailing, and blog work. I think I stared at a computer screen for 14+ hours yesterday – yikes!

Dinner was a repeat of Monday – 1/2 baked sweet potato, lentils, lots of mozzarella cheese, and hot sauce. Oh, and some leftover apple cider!

lentils

I resisted the new Mad Men DVD sitting on my desk (must.respond.to.emails), but I could not resist the call of Katie’s homemade pb & j bars sitting in my fridge. I warmed one up in the microwave and added a big dollop of greek yogurt (tastes like whipped cream!)

pb & j bar

I may have eaten another pb & j bar around 1am. It was a long night…

10 Free Ways to Get Healthy in November!

Hungry for a sandwich? How about generous scoops of quinoa and hummus rolled in a blistered naan along with pickled vegetables, sauerkraut and tangy yogurt? Yes, please! Read more about these drool-worthy sandwiches on the NY Times.

Get the 411 on dried fruit – FYI yogurt covered raisins are NOT your best option.

Is there a connection between processed foods and depression? The BBC reports on a study that says yes.

A new study suggests that yoga is very beneficial for women being treated for eating disorders. Yay, yoga!

Question: What’s your “power snack” to get you through a late night of homework/work?

Homemade Apple Butter

Most people would think I’m crazy. I returned home from work around 7:30pm last night and ended up spending nearly 4 hours in the kitchen. And I really enjoyed it! Ever since I received my shipment of fun cookbooks last week (thanks again Matt!), I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to make first. I love making jams and jellies, but somehow never got around to it this summer. While flipping through The Joy of Jam, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves I saw a chapter dedicated to fall’s most abundant fruit – the apple! I really enjoyed browsing through the cookbook. There were many helpful hints and tips for beginner canners and best of all – the recipes do not require commercial pectin! I’m not a big fan of store-bought pectin because it can be expensive and I think you can make better jam without it.

I already had most of the ingredients for apple butter on hand and I own canning utensils, so I was ready to roll.  Some 25-year-olds collect designer handbags and shoes. I prefer mason jars.

Before I embarked on my adventure in preserving, I prepared a quick dinner. I cooked a pot of lentils, baked up a garnet yam, and mixed the two together with mozzarella cheese and hot sauce. A little random, but filling and delicious!

sweet potato and lentils

And then the apple butter project began!

The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and other Sweet Preserves[photo source]

I selected the low-sugar apple butter recipe which uses apple cider to replace much of the refined sugar. I also made a few alternations to the original recipe based on the ingredients/equipment that I had on hand. If you’re new to canning, you should probably follow the recipe instructions exactly, otherwise all sorts of problems could arise. Preserving and canning can be tricky. If your mixture doesn’t contain the correct amount of pectin, the jelly or jam could fail to gel. If your vegetables or fruits aren’t acidic enough, the jar contents could spoil too soon. And if you’d don’t properly process the mason jars, a seal won’t form (no seal = short shelf life). Luckily for me apples have a lot of natural pectin, so I wasn’t too worried about the apple butter coming together.

Megan’s version of Low Sugar Apple Butter

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs of apples (I used 2 Granny Smith, 2 Macoun, and 1 Gala)
  • 1.5 quarts (48 oz) apple cider
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • Tbs cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger

I washed all of the jars, lids, and rings in hot soapy water and prepared the apples by washing and slicing them (don’t peel the apples!).

Apple Butter Prep

Apples simmering

Canning tools

Boiling water bath

Homemade apple butter

Directions:

  • Boil the cider in a large cooking pot for about 20 minutes, until it has reduced by 1/4.
  • Add the apples, cover, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Remove apple and cider mixture from heat and carefully puree it in a blender (the original recipe calls for pureeing the fruit in a food mill or sieve, but I didn’t have either of those).
  • Pour the apple mixture back in the pot, add brown sugar and spices, and allow to simmer over low heat for about an hour.
  • While your apple mixture is cooking, fill a very large stock pot 1/2 way with water, and bring to a boil. You should probably have a rack so that the mason jars won’t sit on the bottom of the pot. I DON’T have a rack, so I use an inverted metal cupcake pans. Ehhh…I improvise!
  • Place your canning lids in a bowl of VERY hot water so that the gummy underside gets soft and pliable.
  • Stir the apple butter occassionally – when it’s dark brown and glossy, it’s time to process!
  • Carefully pour the apple butter into 1/2 pint or pint mason jars, leaving about 1/4″ head space.
  • Wipe off any sticky residue and run a chopstick (or butter knife) along the inside of the jar to remove air bubbles.
  • Screw on the lids and rings (but not TOO tight!)
  • Carefully lower the filled jars into the stockpot (water should be boiling by now) and keep them submerged in the water for at least 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and using a jar grabber lift the jars straight up and out of the pot. Place the jars at least one inch apart from each other and allow to cool completely. You may hear a “popping” sound – that means that the metal lid just sealed. Yay!
  • Once your jars are cool, check the lid to make sure it is completely flat and sealed. If it pops up, you can still eat the apple butter, but just store it in the fridge.
  • Sealed jars of apple butter (and jam and jelly) can keep for about a year in the pantry.
  • Enjoy! Now it’s time to wash all of your sticky dishes :-)

Question: What’s your favorite type of jam or jelly? Have you ever made your own?

Big Apple Buzz

After my late Halloween night, I was feeling a little less than stellar on Sunday morning. But with some coffee and a big glass of water, I rallied enough for a run alongside the West Side bike path. Hannah and I ran about 5 miles (~43 minutes) and then came back to my apartment for breakfast!

Non-fat Dunkin’ Donuts latte, toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with goat cheese, and a sliced apple with almond butter. Full of stabilizing protein, healthy fat, and carbs. Oh yeah, and a mega-dose of caffeine.

cinnamon raisin bagel

Approximately 10 minutes after finishing breakfast, Hannah and I hit the road for another run. In order to get to mile 19 (1st Ave/115th St) in time to see our marathoning friends, we had to jog (walking takes too long!). I was a little worried about the coffee + breakfast + running and I wouldn’t do this every day, but it actually worked out fine. We were able to see the the runners at mile 19 and then again at mile 22. I wore my Nike + to record the distance and we ended up running/jogging about 3 extra miles throughout the early afternoon.

Female NYC Marathon winner: Derartu Tulu (love her!)

derartu_tulu

It was fun cheering with the crowd, but I’m not going to sugar coat it – the whole atmosphere of the NYC marathon has been kind of rough for me. I was entered in the marathon this year, but when I was side-lined by injury this summer, I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to participate in the race. It was a really hard decision to defer my entry, but I know it was the right one. If I had attempted to run yesterday, I probably would have only exacerbated my IT band/hamstring issues. I’m finally able to run again (for which I’m incredibly thankful!), but there are still days that my hamstring/knee bother me a lot and I’m always worried the injury will come back in full force.

All of the well-meaning co-workers who asked “are you running the marathon?”, the bombardment of Marathon ads on the streets and subways, and the general running buzz throughout the city have been constant reminders that I spent the better part of 2009 injured. I’m glad to be building mileage again, but I’m also frustrated that I can’t run as much or as fast as I’d like to. But it’s not all doom and gloom – there are some positive things that have come from my running struggles this year. I don’t think I will ever take a run for granted. I appreciate each mile that I’m able to complete. I’ve learned to enjoy new activities like cycling and yoga and I’m very excited to experiment with an indoor triathlon (January 10th!).  And being injured has allowed me to have a deeper understanding my body. I am more attuned to aches and soreness and fatigue, but I can also appreciate how good a pain-free run can feel. So as 2009 comes to a close I hope I can start moving forward, focusing on what I will be able to do and not the races that I’m missing out on.

Ahh, my heart feels better already. Thanks for listening.

I downed some Kombucha when I got back to my apartment and felt full of energy all afternoon – I was even motivated to sweep & mop the floors and take out the recycling!

Kombucha

My stomach started to growl around 3pm, time for a mini-meal of pineapple chobani greek yogurt and sliced banana.

Pineapple Chobani

Oh yeah, and a cupcake the size of my head. Earlier in the morning Hannah and I made the very wise decision to scope out the selection at Make My Cake – the cake shop (!!) next to my apartment building. I went with the red velvet cupcake, a Southern Classic. Not only was the cream cheese frosting rich and tangy, but the cake was incredibly moist (Magnolia, you could learn a few things from the folks Uptown). The red velvet had spicy undertones, so if you’re looking for a classic cupcake taste this might not be for you, but I really enjoyed it. I nibbled on this cupcake all day long and devoured every last crumb!

Red Velvet Cupcake from Make My Cake

Mmm, cupcakes.

cupcake hannah

After I said my goodbyes to Hannah (sad), I met Katie in the East Village for quite possibly the best yoga class ever. The teacher’s style definitely wasn’t traditional, but I loved her the mind-body philosophy, the fast pace of the asanas, and the intense core sequence at the end.

Pretty hungry by the time I left class and in need of groceries, so I stopped at Whole Foods. Ahh! Salad bar twice in one weekend! So good, but so $$. Will cook tonight.

Whole Foods Salad Bar

My take-out container included:

  • base of romaine lettuce
  • roasted mushrooms
  • collard greens with pineapple
  • roasted beets
  • roasted apple
  • wheatberry salad
  • tuna salad with apricots and celery

Worth every penny. Yum.

After too many a few hours of email writing, photo uploading, and organizing for the week ahead, I was ready for a snack.

Lucky for me, my yoga buddy had gifted me with a container of vegan peanut butter & jelly bars. I can believe that they don’t contain animal products, but I’m pretty sure they contain crack. So delicious. Hopefully I will have the recipe soon. You’ll have to make your own, because I’m not sharing :-)

Cookies!

Were humans “born to run”? Check out the newest Running Shorts post and see what Matt has to say!

Question: Have you ever had a sports-related injury? How did you deal?

Welcome to the Speakeasy

What a weekend! Prepare yourself for a monster recap :-)

Saturday started off with the usual cup of 1/2 decaf and a banana. Perfect prep for a long run with my beantown running buddy.

Quick breakfast

Hannah and I ran a lovely 9 miles through Central Park and I was pleasantly surprised at how good my IT band/hamstring felt (must have been the day off from running on Friday). As soon as we finished I had to shower and hustle out the door for a meeting downtown.

I grabbed an apple and a vanilla Chobani for the subway ride. I got some weird looks for taking photos of the food in my lap…

chobani

I had a morning meeting with some folks from Nike – a shoe designer and some marketing reps. A small group of NYC runners met with the Nike team to discuss training shoe design – and I snagged a free pair of racing flats! These babies won’t go on the market until January, so I was psyched to get a sneak peek.

Nike Prototypes

My stomach started growling mid way through the group meeting (hello, 9 miles), so I snacked on a clif z bar and some raisins.

snacks

And then I met up with Ms. Hannah and a blog reader (Hi Rachel!) for a tall skim decaf 1 pump pumpkin spice latte. It was even better (and more high maintenance) than usual.

Starbucks

Hannah and I procured some very essential Halloween accessories and then walked across town. We were in need of a mini-meal and the Whole Foods salad bar seemed like a good option. I filled a small take-out container with lots of veggie goodness. I don’t remember exactly what I put in there, but it was a mix of beans, beets, brussels sprouts, and other roasted veggies.

whole foods salad bar

The rest of the afternoon was spent preparing for Halloween night!

A princess, a marathon runner, and a flapper.

Except Alma’s ensemble was for real – she ran the marathon this weekend!

Halloween

We ventured to the E. Village (dodging a 7 foot tall hamster wheel costume on our way…) and met a few friends at a place called Quantum Leap. The restaurant is famous for their veggie burgers, so I made Hannah stand under the sign (in the rain). What a good sport :-)

Quantum Leap

Our dining companions were Mario and Luigi.

Mario and Luigi

Quantum Leap

Along with a pumpkin ale, I enjoyed the “fire rock burger”. My juicy veggie burger patty was topped with jalapenos, onions, mushrooms, tomato, and chipotle mayo. The burger also came with soy bacon, but I took that off because I think it kind of has a weird texture.

Pumpkin Ale

Plus a side salad and the BEST garlic fries ever.

Quantum Leap

We were all pretty full after devouring our burgs so we ordered another round of drinks and lingered at the restaurant for awhile. In true prohibition style, I ordered a diet coke and slipped in some of my own Jack Daniels.

And then it was time for more Halloween celebrations. The village was absolutely crazy last night – the weather was beautiful and the costumed crowds were out in full force. A bunch of us found our way to Mud Coffee – coffee shop by day, bar by night. I really liked that we were able to hang out and talk without having to shout. It was a very chill atmosphere and the scene reminded me of a speakeasy – a perfect pairing for my flapper costume and smuggled whiskey.

Maddog and Jonah

Flapper

Halloween

Speakeasy

Mud Coffee

Hannah and I got home pretty late and after chugging some water and nibbling on some (un-pictured) pumpkin cookies, I crawled into bed. It was a very fun night, but it definitely involved a later bedtime than I’m used to!

Stay tuned for part 2 of my weekend recap…Marathon spectating, a GIANT red velvet cupcake, and quite possibly the best yoga class ever.

Happy Halloween!

This has got to have been the.longest.week.ever. Thank Goodness It’s Friday!

megan

Friday started off with the usual coffee (1/2 decaf), lots of emails, and a baked apple with vanilla oikos greek yogurt.

baked apple and oikos

Mid-morning snack: Kashi crunchy pumpkin spice granola bar (‘Tis the season for pumpkin after all!)

kashi

I was workin’ like a mad woman trying to get through my to-do list and by the time I looked at the clock, it was already noon. I debated staying put and finishing up a project, but I knew I’d feel better if I got my blood flowing a bit. I hurried to the gym and made it in time for a “spooky cycling” class at 12:15pm. It was awesome! We listened to “The Monster Mash”, “Thriller”, and the theme song from “Ghost Busters” as we pedaled away. I love going to this instructor’s class because i.have.a.huge.crush.on.him.too.bad.he.likes.boys he always plays the best music!

After spin class, I popped into the cafeteria for a salad.

salad

This yummy jumble of flavors included:

  • arugula, mixed greens, carrots, onions, mushrooms
  • feta cheese, cranberries, pumpkin seeds
  • piece of sweet potato
  • spoonful of rice & beans
  • spoonful of pinto bean salad
  • brussel sprouts + roasted apples

And then some salt & pepper popchips (addiction).

pop chips

Even though it was the day before Halloween, my office was seriously lacking in candy, so I ventured to Duane Reade in search of something sweet. I debated getting some candy corn, but instead decided on a box of kudos. I think the last time I had one of these was in the mid-90’s, but it was surprisingly good! I tried the chocolate chip variety (100 cals, 3.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber) and it satisfied my sweet tooth while being a little bit healthier than candy. At least it’s made with whole grains :-)

kudos bar

I chugged water all afternoon in preparation for hot yoga with Agnes and by 6pm I was ready to do some warrior poses in 95 degree+ heat. Really, it’s fun. However, tonight’s class was just so-so. The instructor wasn’t my favorite (I never like the ones that make us do bicycle crunches…), but in the end I’m glad I went!

After I convinced everyone in my subway car that I was a bum (sweaty mess), I arrived home with a mission: quickest dinner ever!

I heated up an Amy’s Kitchen Veggie Tamale dinner and while it does NOT look pretty, it certainly tasted good!

My photo:

Amy's Tamale

Amy’s photo:

Amy's Kitchen

Umm, Amy wins.

And for dessert – 2% Fage greek yogurt with PB2 and tart cherries mixed in.

fage

Ok, that’s it for tonight. Hannah will be arriving via Bolt Bus from Boston any moment! And I haven’t showered yet. Need to hop to it.

In the News:

Something we probably already knew: music makes exercise easier!

Live in New York? Hungry for pumpkin? Check out these local restaurants that are serving up seasonal fare!

Before you dig in to the candy, start your day off right with some high protein pumpkin pancakes. This one’s for you Holly!

Keep Halloween candy portions in check with this tool.

Did you know that trick-or-treating dates back to the middle ages? Find out more Halloween facts here.

Question: What’s your favorite Halloween candy? I love mini snickers bars!

Surviving the Treadmill

If you’re worried about running through snow, sleet, and icy darkness this winter,  you might want to consider taking your workout indoors. Check out my newest article on True/Slant for tips on treadmill running!

Happy Friday! I’ll be back with a longer post later tonight :-)

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