Our TED pick: Mark Bittman

Acclaimed New York Times writer and author, Mark Bittman, is a well respected and widely followed authority on eating better. We constantly follow his work and consider his advice, and have occasionally quoted or referenced his articles and recipes here on the AthleticFoodie blog. In 2007 he gave one of our all-time favorite TED talks on how we can interact with food better. We promise it will be twenty minutes well spent. 

Should I eat organic foods?

There has been a lot of debate over whether to eat organic foods over the past few years.  It is well known that organics are more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, however, there are certain instances where choosing organic may be a better option.  There is a lot of confusing labeling out there as well.  The terms "natural," "free range," and "hormone free" don't mean that the product is organic.  There are three terms certified by the USDA to be "organic."  A food can be "100% Organic," in which there are no synthetics in the food.  Foods labeled as "organic" must be 95% organic. Foods can be labeled "made with organic ingredients" if they have at least 70% organic ingredients. As far as what foods to choose to eat organic, I typically tell my clients to buy organic meats, eggs, and dairy (animal products).   I believe that if you're going to spend money on organics, choosing to use it on animal products ensures that the products are humanely raised, no hormones, and less likely to have food borne pathogens due to the processing. I've also noticed personall that organic milk last longer in the fridge!  Beyond that, many people have heard of the "dirty dozen" as labeled by the Environmental Working Group.  These foods include the following:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

The cleanest fruits and vegetables (which you might not want to spend money on organic varieties) are:

  • Papaya
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Sweet peas (frozen)
  • Asparagus
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Sweet corn (frozen)
  • Avocado
  • Onions

Choosing organic has not been extensively studied on health effects.  Personally, I believe if you can afford to buy the organic version of dirty dozen and your meats/animal products, you will be benefiting your health by ingesting less chemicals and pesticides.   Overall, choosing a healthy variety of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and heart healthy fats is the best diet regardless of whether it is organic or not.

Scratch Granola - Two Ways

We’re all constantly on the go. Whether you’re navigating a busy career, family, kids’ activities, school, or all of the above, it’s an endless challenge to stay healthy amid the chaos of everyday life. And snacking and breakfast can be the greatest pitfalls. It’s so easy to fall of the health wagon when you’re trying to get out the door in the morning, or looking for a quick burst of energy mid-day. 

Enter granola. Everybody loves it, whether on top of yogurt, as a cereal, or in bar form. It’s both kid and adult friendly, usually packed with flavor, and commonly thought of as a smart, healthy choice. Certainly that can be true. But store bought varieties can also be packed with extra sugars and salt that sneak in and ruin your healthy good intentions. So, we made two of our own varieties, from scratch, to ensure they stay healthy through and through.

The first, our Toasted Fruit & Nut Granola, has a subtle nutty flavor with lots of hidden superfoods that pack a serious energy punch. The second, our Orange & Coconut Seed Granola, is actually grain free but still packed with those superfoods.

Cut them into squares to take on the go, or crumple atop your favorite yogurt or as a cereal. Either way, get in the kitchen and feel the satisfaction of taking charge of your health. Happy cooking and stay healthy!

Toasted Fruit & Nut Granola

Ingredients

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • ½ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup chopped almonds
  • ½ cup chopped pistachios
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup ground flax
  • ½ cup dried, unsweetened cranberries
  • ½ cup dried goji berries
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup peanut butter
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. Cook quinoa - 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, cook until water is absorbed. Be sure to drain any excess water. Spread cooked quinoa onto a sided cookie sheet.
  3. Combine oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and pistachios. Spread onto a sided cookie sheet.
  4. Toast both cookie sheets in the oven for 15-20 minutes until oats and nuts are lightly golden and quinoa is lightly crisped.
  5. In separate bowls combine the following:
    a. chia seeds, flax, cinnamon, nutmeg, cranberries, and goji berries
    b. honey, peanut butter, and vegetable oil
  6. After removing the cookie sheets from the oven, add contents from both to the bowl containing the dried berries and mix together.
  7. Pour the honey mixture into the dried ingredients and stir to combine well.
  8. Line one of your cookie sheets with parchment paper and press the granola mixture in the pan down flat.
  9. Return to oven and toast for 8-10 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven, let cool, and then place in the fridge for 2-3 hours to allow granola to set.
  11. Cut or crumble and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to eat.

Orange & Coconut Seed Granola

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 cup chopped macademia nuts
  • ½ cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 2/3 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
  • 2/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 2 tsp fresh orange zest
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • ½ cup honey

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Combine all dry ingredients plus orange zest in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Melt your coconut oil, then add honey and stir to combine.
  4. Pour honey mixture over dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and press the granola mixture in the pan down flat.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, let cool, and then place in the fridge for 2-3 hours to allow granola to set.
  8. Cut or crumble and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to eat.

Injuries Caused from Overuse in Young Athletes

sports graphic.jpg

Injuries caused from of over-use of joints, muscles and even bones are now responsible for nearly half of all sports injuries that occur in adolescents athletes from middle school through high school. Recently, there has been a big push for youngsters to focus all their attention on one sport.  A recent report from Loyola University in Chicago, found that “kids are twice as likely to get hurt if they play just one sport as those who play multiple sports.” In my experience as a physical therapist for the past 18 years, I see and treat many more injuries due to repetition of a single sport.  The physical demands and stress associated with practice time and game time never seems to end.  The emotional stress and the pressure to perform, from parents, club coaches, high school coaches and even colleges in summer camp programs can often lead to poor management of those nagging pains.  Minor injuries or simple nagging pains can quickly develop into a more serious season ending injury or worse, college altering plans.  I’ve been witness to both. I personally believe as both a medical professional and a Dad that kids need to play as many sports as they can until about age 13 to 15 and then decide to specialize.  Playing many sports develops fundamental movement patterns that help to prevent injuries.  Research strongly supports that the best athletes in their sport, perfected their skills by playing multiple sports.  This is one of the best ways to develop a well- rounded and powerful athlete.         

A great resource for the educating parents and young athletes is the website….www.stopsportsinjuries.org.

Some sobering statistics:

30 million children and adolescents participate in youth sports.

3.5 million children under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year.

2 million U.S. high school athletes suffer some sort of injury every year and 500,000 visit a doctor for these injuries.

 

Raising Happy, Healthy Student Athletes

Garrett’s mom here, bringing you some healthy advice from the parent’s perspective. I recently attended a youth swim meet (the first in a long time!), cheering on a neighbor’s 11 year old daughter. I’ve attended my fair share of swim meets over the years, but it’s been a while since I was in the stands supporting such young athletes. It was a great meet, the parents and swimmers were excited, and honestly, my neighbor’s daughter is really good with lots of future potential. What I found most surprising was the conversation around me, coming from other parents.

It was the same conversation my husband and I had 10, 20 years ago about our children.

Do their kids have any real potential?  Are they training at the right facility?  Does their coach know enough?  Are their kids being pushed enough, or too much?  Is all the yardage they swim really necessary?  Should there be more time spent on technique?  Should they try a different team?  Are the coaches expecting the swimmers to attend too many practices?  What should they be feeding them to maximize their potential?  What about school work?  There never seems to be enough hours in the day to do school work?

After years of experience and some focused work on the subject, I’m happy to share some answers and expertise.

I want to begin by saying, these questions aren’t peculiar to just swimming families.  Families of soccer, baseball, football, hockey, gymnastics, tennis, golf and many other sport’s athletes and other extra curricular activities struggle with the same questions.

First, I want to emphasize that our family’s focus and message to both our children was that School Always Comes First.  Homework, daily attendance, learning the assignment, etc. was always more important than any sport, or other afterschool activity, all the way through college.  Why?  Because nothing can take away your education.  It doesn’t matter how good you are at a sport, or art, or piano.  In a minute, it can be gone as a result of an injury, competition, or overuse.  But your education lasts a lifetime. This concept needs to be instilled in children from an early age.  It should also be equally important to the coaches you choose to work with.

Let me preface this by saying that in my opinion, parents need to be the major decision makers for their minor children.  Never let another parent or coach guilt you into making your decision for you.  I have seen too many children and teens quit swimming because they spent too much time in the pool at an early age, when maybe they needed more time to just being kids, having fun and trying lots of different sports and activities. They may miss an opportunity to really excel as they mature, quitting because they might be bored after years of intense focus, or more often, just plain “burnt out.”  We encouraged our children to experiment with lots of activities, from elementary through high school. Then, as teens, we helped them to choose one main activity and focus on that outside of school.  We believed they both excelled in one main thing – Garrett in swimming and our daughter, who was also a swimmer through 10th grade, in fine art.  They chose, and we supported them. But school always still came first, regardless of any occasional displeasure from our coaches.

The second most important thing in your child’s life, both for health and performance is the food they put in their stomach.  I was appalled at what I saw being sold at this weekend’s swim meet.  Sadly, nothing has changed in the 20 years since we started attending our children’s swim meets. Mostly junk food, from chips, to candy and bakery items.  Very little good, quality, nourishing food.  What they put into their bodies has a direct effect on their performance and we need to offer them better alternatives.

Snack offerings from the meet - not the healthiest choices.

Garrett and I, and a nutritionist, go around the country giving clinics to help swimmers, school age children, and their parents benefit from everything we’ve learned over many years as a family supporting young athletes. A big part of our message is playing a present role in your child’s sport, and learning better ways to fuel your child’s athletic focus with healthier food. It’s exciting to see families respond to our message. Attending my neighbor’s meet this past weekend reinforced my commitment to helping families raising athletes, and further helped me understand the need for better information and some seasoned guidance. Our days as a swimming family had many lifelong lessons, for my husband and I, and our children.  It’s an honor to share our formula for success and to see other families supporting young athletes and raising healthy kids. I hope you all find inspiration and happiness in your roles as well.

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Let us know if you have questions, what you struggle with, and how we might help.