Guacamole Indian Style & Mango Salad

avocadosAs VicFitLa fans know, I love food.  I love looking at it, I love making it and best of all I love eating it! And you should too.  There is no excuse for lazy or bland choices.  You don’t have to eat “boring” in order to be healthy, nor will it kill you to take five minutes to prepare something you can snack on for several days.  Plus, a healthy, balanced snack will not only fuel your system it will also help you feel more satiated. So enough lecturing and on to my recommended snack:  (I don’t have good pictures, because I was starving when I made it and didn’t take time to plate it nicely.)

Guacamole Indian Style and Mango Salad:mangoes

  • 2 Ripe Avocados
  • 1 TB lemon juice
  • 1/2  – 1 tsp minced Thai or Serrano Chile
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 TB Veg/Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp brown mustard
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 package of pappadums
  • 1 ripe mango
  • handful of pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
  • Cilantro, lightly chopped

*A couple of notes: 1) I didn’t have brown mustard only Coleman’s Hot English Mustard on hand.  Which is fine as a substitute but I cut down the amount to 1 tsp and lightened up on the minced Chili. 2) If you don’t like mangoes, try substituting papaya, pineapple or orange sections; the citrus will really complement the flavor of the guac. 3) Pappadums may not be the best starch choice because they are lightly fried. But they are made of rice and chick pea flours making them relatively high in protein and lower on the glycemic index. Plus, if your snack is high in nutrients and well-balanced you can splurge a little  bit to give it taste, variety and in this case crunch! Most grocery stores now carry packages of pappadums – they even come in different flavors.

pappadums

Pappadums

Step One: Blend/Mash with a fork these ingredients: Avocados through the garlic.

Step Two: Heat the oil in a skillet, then stir in the mustard for 90 seconds.  Stir in the remaining spices, remove from heat and let stand two minutes.

Step Three: Blend the avocado mixture with the spices.

Step Four: Peel and thinly slice the mango into skinny strips.  Toss the strips with a giving handful of pepitas.

Step Five: Top the guacamole and mango salad with some chopped fresh cilantro (Unless, you’re like my cousins, who think cilantro tastes like soap…that’s ok, I forgive them. To me beets taste like dirt!)

Step Six: Instead of tortillas or chips, Spoon the guacamole on to the pappadums.

Step Seven: Revel in how amazing this tastes together!

pepitas

Pepitas

Now, while you’re licking your lips I’m going to quickly explain how this is a balanced snack.  The protein lies in the pepitas (so be generous with them.) The starchy carb comes from the pappadum and the fruit comes from the mango and avocado.  When combined together it represents a balanced nutritional snack.  We don’t even need to go into the individual vitamins and minerals present – but let’s just say they are well-represented.

As for portion control – the other aspect of a good snack (150-300 cal.) – you want to use 1 pappadum (@ 176 cal.) Since they are more fragile than chips you can’t overload it with dip – so we’re looking at a 2-4 TB of guacamole and a 1/3 – 1/2 cup of mango salad.

And remember: Don’t Be Afraid of Your Food!

avocado tree

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Holidays, Stress and Food

Unknown-1Raise your hand if you have ever been guilty of saying to yourself, “Oh screw it! I’m just going to eat whatever I want and worry about my diet after the new year, when all the parties and stress of the holidays are over!”  If you could see me – both of my hands would be raised along with yours.

We have all had days where family, events, work and general life crises make us feel like sitting on the couch all day and stuffing our faces with only cookies!  And I would argue that we are all entitled to the occasional day of “Anti-Stress Protest Eating.”

BUT here’s the part that I want you to consider: EATING BEAUTIFULLY COMBATS IMG_0001STRESS FROM THE INSIDE OUT! As my friend, Simon, (owner of The Fit Kitchen) is fond of saying, “Food is Fuel; Make Good Choices.”  Food can heal us from the inside out.  Nutrient dense foods combat illness.  Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are supposed to be experienced in short doses, like you’re running from a Saber-Toothed tiger.  But in our modern world our stress hormones often run around the clock for days on end.  And under those circumstances the immune system takes a beating.

In addition to weakening your immune function, cortisol increases fat tissue storage, especially in sites around the tummy.  Maintaining nutrient rich, good portion sizes will not only help you feel more satiated it will also curb bing eating at holiday gatherings.  That way if you’re having a cookie…or two, or a drink…or two, you’re adding it to a balanced diet rather than using it as a nutrient source.

images-3Lastly, many people experience mood swings and depression over the holidays, whether it’s from loneliness, exhaustion or family arguments maintaining great eating habits will aid against seasonal blues. First, a colorful, nutrient rich plate visually stimulates happy mood-enhancing hormones in the brain.  Second, steady intake (3-4 appropriately portioned meals/day) help keep insulin and glucose digestion in even streams.  Therefore, you avoid blood sugar spikes and valleys, which are known for wrecking havoc on emotions – especially anger and sadness!

Again, I like to use the simile of “your body is like a sports-car” because it makes simple sense.  If you have an Audi or BMW – note I did not say Porsche/Lamborghini; we’re not pro-athletes – and you fill the gas tank with maple syrup…let’s just say you will wreak havoc on the insides of your lovely car and it’s definitely NOT going to run well!

images-4So if you need a snow day’s indulgence in front of the TV with a pint of ice cream…so be it.  But let’s keep it to a day.  Let’s revolutionize your thinking: NUTRIENT RICH FOODS ARE YOUR ALLY AGAINST STRESS.  FOOD IS YOUR FRIEND!

Happy Holidays From Victory Fitness

How to Make a Balanced Meal

IMG_0260In terms of general nutrition, every meal should include three parts: A protein, A starchy/complex carbohydrate and fruit/Vegetable.

And as serving sizes go, aim for each item to be about the size of your palm, excluding the fingers.  Obviously, if you’re a six foot tall man, your palm will be larger than mine, a tiny, five-fiver.  Thus, the man’s serving will be proportionally larger than mine.

What is a protein?  A protein is any meat, poultry, dairy, legume (lentils/beans) and nuts, plus, tofu, seitan and soy.

What is a complex carbohydrate? A CC is a grain that has not had all outer fiber of the sheath of the kernel removed before grinding.  It will have a lot more fiber and nutrients than a finely ground white flour.  Try this test – put a bite of white bread (w/o crust) in your mouth and count how many chews it takes to dissolve.  Now put a bite of whole grain bread on (w/o crust) in your mouth and count how many chews it takes to dissolve.  In broad terms, fibrous, nutrient rich foods take longer to chew than highly processed fatty, sugary, low nutrient foods.  If you can inhale your meal in a minute chances are it’s not that good for you.  But if you find yourself chewing awhile, you probably are eating something your body will like and need.  Examples of Complex Carbohydrates are any whole grain including, wheat, corn, bugler, oats, amaranth, quinoa, but also, pasta, bread, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

The act of longer chewing actually aids digestion.  Ever eat a meal super fast and then twenty minutes later your stomach feels like it’s going to explode and you wonder, “why did I eat so much?”  Well, there is a chemical in your stomach, cholecystokinin that as food digests it is released to the brain to signal feelings of fullness and satiety.  If you eat really fast the chemical doesn’t have time to be released, so you end up eating way more than necessary.  Nutrient rich foods require you to chew them – thus they slow down your eating process and you regulate more naturally the proper portion size.

Get in the habit of identifying when you’re meal is balanced and when it is not.  Often “light options” on menus are deficient. They might be veggies and grain.  Classic example is a Portabello mushroom burger.  The bun is your starch, the mushroom is the veg…but where is the protein?  Combine that with the fact that this dish often comes with sweet potato fries.  So we’ve doubled up on the starch carb, (bun + sweet potato) and still no protein in sight.  Then we have dishes that are grilled steak with a mix of veggies.  Where now is the starchy carb?  On the other side of the spectrum are pasta dishes in a meat sauce accompanied by garlic bread.  Let’s just assume that the pasta is a real serving and not the serving for eight as it is in so many restaurants.  But again pasta + bread = 2 starchy carbs.  Meat sauce = protein. Where are the veggies?!

In the photo at the top I made a broccoli salad with apples, dried cherries and seeds tossed in a red wine or cider vinaigrette.  If I wanted to make this a main dish, I could add chicken or steak to it and serve it with whole grain flatbreads.  If I wanted to keep it vegetarian, I could add an egg or grilled tofu.  I also made a butternut squash soup.  Starchy carb but by itself it has little protein and no green veg.  So if I wanted it be my main course, I could have it with wilted spinach and a serving (12) of chopped nuts on top.  As it turns out I got fancy and combined both recipes to create balance:

I added an egg to the broccoli salad and some chopped almonds to the soup for my protein source.  I have fruit via the apples and dried cherries and I have veggies via the broccoli.  The squash/sweet potato soup was the starchy carb.

Dietary changes do not have to be drastic or dire.  Just paying attention to the balance of nutrients at each meal can help you feel better from the inside out!

“Mom Gets Fined Over School Lunch”

Canadian flagApparently a Mom in Canada was fined under the school’s new guidelines for a balanced lunch.  She sent her kids with a leftover meal consisting of beef, potatoes, a glass of milk and fruit for dessert.  The school then “supplemented” the home cooked meal with Ritz Crackers, that in their view represented a grain! And they fined the mother $5 for each child!

Let’s discuss this from a nutritional viewpoint.  Mom made a pretty balanced meal; PotatoesProtein=Beef, Veg=Carrots, Fruit=Unspecified fruit for dessert, Complex Carb=Potatoes.  Now it is true that potatoes are not a grain, but they are a starchy carb that is low in fat, preservatives, salt and low on the gylcemic index (no blood sugar spike.) Plus, they are high in seratonin, which boosts brain activity.  The only way it could’ve been better is if it were a sweet potato, which is listed as a top 10 super food.   You might not want to make every carb source at every meal be from Potatoes (did I mention I’m living in Ireland;) grains are needed too.   And I would like to see some green vegetables in there, but who are we kidding the kids probably won’t eat that without adult supervision. Good job mom – even if some dollar hungry bureaucrat says, “No.”Ritz

On the other side is the school’s “supplemental choice.”  Ritz Crackers?!  While it is true they are made from a grain! It’s made of highly processed, refined wheat flour. That means that the properties that make up whole grain foods/complex carbohydrates are null and void. In processed flours, the exterior fiber and shaft around the kernel have been stripped away and the kernel itself, ground down to fine powder.  So the advantages of a complex carbohydrate/grain: 1) when combined with a protein source makes a full branch chain amino acid for your body and 2) fiber for your digestive track are completely absent. Additionally, not to bash Ritz crackers, because they are yummy but they also contain: partially hydrogenated oils – a.k.a. sludge for your heart and arteries – and high fructose corn syrup – another refined, not so good ingredient for your system.  Plus they have very little nutritional value. But because they are tasty and small, you can consume a lot of them, way more than a serving size in record time.  That means you get “empty calories.” It’s like eating fried cardboard in terms of nutritional value.  You are full, but the body is not thanking you.

I am left scratching my head.  The idealist in me is excited that a school is trying to take juvenile obesity, juvenile diabetes and child mind/body development seriously;  and is trying to engage parents in a productive way.  However, the cynic in me believes that it is just a way to make money for the school and to force kids to enroll in the school lunch program, that means more money for the school.  The school’s lack of knowledge about what constitutes a “balanced meal” or a “complex carbohydrate” or a true “grain rich diet” makes me think it’s not about the kids at all.Wall E

The CDC and NIH predict juvenile diabetes rates will climb 70% by 2020! That is not just unhealthy, it’s unsustainable, from a health, an economic and a development of future generations standpoint!

Parents, please get in the habit of recognizing when you’re serving a balanced meal with appropriate portion sizes.  Every plate should have a Protein source: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, legumes (beans/lentils) + Complex Carb/Starch source: long grain – “coloured/i.e. black,brown,red rice, cous cous, amaranth, cracked bulged, pasta, potatoes -sweet or otherwise, oats, etc. + Fruit + Veg.  As for proper portion sizes – look at the size of your hand. If you’re a mom, your hand is a different size than your husband’s or your child’s – so the amount of food that can fit in a person’s palm is roughly the right portion size!

Mom in Canada – I stand with you!cropped-vflogo-shdw-final.jpg

http://mom.me/toddler/10049-mom-gets-fined-over-school-lunch-not-having-grains/?ncid=webmail2

Hunger

imagesAs the sapphire blues of twilight grow deeper day by day, the orange flames of leaves flare against the onset of the long night and I find myself, lingering over the half-shadows in my own mind. Nostalgic for the crisp autumn air of New England I begin musing over my favorite Gothic ghost stories birthed from our romantic ancestors, when our country was young but old enough to have some wicked history.

In a moment of reverie, I was warming myself by a stone fireplace, sipping hot cider and mulling over what do all the classic creatures of horror have in common? It occurred to me that the answer is hunger. But hunger for what is the real question? And thus naturally, I, a personal trainer based in Los Angeles realized I could diversify and capitalize on a market that no one else has yet thought of, nutrition for monsters. So for the purposes of this article I will focus on the main four, vampires, Frankenstein, were-wolves and zombies.

images-1The Vampire – studies show that a wide percentage of vampires try to solely sustain themselves on a liquid diet. Some even going to the lengths of adding chili pepper, lemon juice and a stalk of celery for flavor and purportedly to boost their metabolisms. Well no wonder they are so pale, lethargic and prone to wild and violent mood swings! Lack of carbs and sufficient protein will do that to a person. Often, one’s dietary habits are not due to physical reasons but mental. So what is it that the vampire is truly craving? I guess the answer would be life. And to further that line of thought, the underlying drive to suck out someone else’s life is really a fear of your own death. For a vampire to begin experiencing better health I would advocate supplementation of protein shakes and energy bars to balance out the mood-swings, a dosage of iron to get rid of that anemic look and a qualified therapist to address this severe mortality phobia.

Frankenstein –this creature is rarely seen eating at all, save for soup and several pints of ale. Skipping meals is proven to cause drops in serotonin levels and endorphins. Low levels of such can lead to lethargy (as exhibited by all the creature’s moaning) and depression (please see, the sad face of the reanimated for proof.) But again, I have to ask, “for what is Frankenstein truly hungering?” Like the vampire, perhaps the eating or lack thereof is triggered by emotional reasons. After further research, I have concluded that Frankenstein is hungering for love. He has a tremendous hole in his psyche due to the rejection of him by his society, his family, specifically, his father. Thus, he has turned to alcohol. And who hasn’t tried to drown their sorrows in a pint or to drown them enough to enable “beer goggles” and a one-night stand? For this client I would recommend, attempting to eat more consistently, maybe 3-4 times a day, to cut back on alcohol consumption and to register on Match.com. My advice, parents are complicated and issues may never be resolved, so focus on the things you can control like better eating habits and developing a family of your own choosing.

UnknownWere-wolves – the body-builders of the underworld. Like so many, misguided weight-lifting champions, the were-wolves ingestion of massive amounts of protein is ill conceived. While it does aid in the quick creation of muscle, any excess is simply secreted out of the body. But this dietary habit quickly becomes destructive to the kidneys and other organs. Indeed it makes me wonder, is this creature, like so many devotees of “Muscle and Fiction” on steroids? It would account for the sensitivity to light, the sudden changes in hair growth due to hormonal fluctuations as well as the sudden outbursts of rage. Furthermore, the were-wolf can never successfully have relations with the female kind, also a side effect of drug use. Unlike Frankenstein, the were-wolf has given up a desire for love from the father and hungers simply for revenge. Like so many Olympic lifters, the chemical onset of muscle mass is merely an overcompensation for the smallness one feels inside. Alas, the were-wolf is likely to not be able to overcome his addictions and will probably die a pre-mature death due to heart complications, emotional or otherwise.

Lastly, I address the zombie – the athlete of the horror world. The zombie is at the top of the food chain and like other large hunters is a very successful omnivore. They get enough protein, heme-iron (from red blood cells) and calcium (from bones;) and they eat frequent meals. I would argue however, that they don’t appear to be optimally hydrated, due to the slaver that most exhibit. Additionally, I would recommend an increase in fruits and vegetables to give the benefit of a fully rounded diet. What is intriguing and needs more study is the sudden evolutionary adaptation of the “fast” zombie. Perhaps, it is a secondary gain coming from a leaner, less fatty meat selection. I must comment though that the zombie has a relentless, hunger for “more.” Like so many athletic superstars, after achieving their peak, they just don’t know how to retire gracefully. Their negative attitude and willful antics simply leave everyone with a bad taste in their mouths. The hunger for “more,” this greediness just leads to massive destruction and chaos on relationships.

As I slip back into my reverie, and the blue twilight fades to the black of a Pookah’s coat, I leave you to wonder, “Life, love, approval, revenge, anarchy…or maybe just a taffy apple or some candy? For what do you truly hunger?”images

* I wrote this article for the Halloween edition of an online publication called, “Magic Cat Press Spookfest 2011.” And have reposted it here in honor of Halloween 2013!

Hunger:

imagesAs the sapphire blues of twilight grow deeper day by day, the orange flames of leaves flare against the onset of the long night and I find myself, lingering over the half-shadows in my own mind. Nostalgic for the crisp autumn air of New England I begin musing over my favorite Gothic ghost stories birthed from our romantic ancestors, when our country was young but old enough to have some wicked history.

In a moment of reverie, I was warming myself by a stone fireplace, sipping hot cider and mulling over what do all the classic creatures of horror have in common? It occurred to me that the answer is hunger. But hunger for what is the real question? And thus naturally, I, a personal trainer based in Los Angeles realized I could diversify and capitalize on a market that no one else has yet thought of, nutrition for monsters. So for the purposes of this article I will focus on the main four, vampires, Frankenstein, were-wolves and zombies.

    images-1 The Vampire – studies show that a wide percentage of vampires try to solely sustain themselves on a liquid diet. Some even going to the lengths of adding chili pepper, lemon juice and a stalk of celery for flavor and purportedly to boost their metabolisms. Well no wonder they are so pale, lethargic and prone to wild and violent mood swings! Lack of carbs and sufficient protein will do that to a person. Often, one’s dietary habits are not due to physical reasons but mental. So what is it that the vampire is truly craving? I guess the answer would be life. And to further that line of thought, the underlying drive to suck out someone else’s life is really a fear of your own death. For a vampire to begin experiencing better health I would advocate supplementation of protein shakes and energy bars to balance out the mood-swings, a dosage of iron to get rid of that anemic look and a qualified therapist to address this severe mortality phobia.

     Frankenstein –this creature is rarely seen eating at all, save for soup and several pints of ale. Skipping meals is proven to cause drops in serotonin levels and endorphins. Low levels of such can lead to lethargy (as exhibited by all the creature’s moaning) and depression (please see, the sad face of the reanimated for proof.) But again, I have to ask, “for what is Frankenstein truly hungering?” Like the vampire, perhaps the eating or lack thereof is triggered by emotional reasons. After further research, I have concluded that Frankenstein is hungering for love. He has a tremendous hole in his psyche due to the rejection of him by his society, his family, specifically, his father. Thus, he has turned to alcohol. And who hasn’t tried to drown their sorrows in a pint or to drown them enough to enable “beer goggles” and a one-night stand? For this client I would recommend, attempting to eat more consistently, maybe 3-4 times a day, to cut back on alcohol consumption and to register on Match.com. My advice, parents are complicated and issues may never be resolved, so focus on the things you can control like better eating habits and developing a family of your own choosing.

    Unknown Were-wolves – the body-builders of the underworld. Like so many, misguided weight-lifting champions, the were-wolves ingestion of massive amounts of protein is ill conceived. While it does aid in the quick creation of muscle, any excess is simply secreted out of the body. But this dietary habit quickly becomes destructive to the kidneys and other organs. Indeed it makes me wonder, is this creature, like so many devotees of “Muscle and Fiction” on steroids? It would account for the sensitivity to light, the sudden changes in hair growth due to hormonal fluctuations as well as the sudden outbursts of rage. Furthermore, the were-wolf can never successfully have relations with the female kind, also a side effect of drug use. Unlike Frankenstein, the were-wolf has given up a desire for love from the father and hungers simply for revenge. Like so many Olympic lifters, the chemical onset of muscle mass is merely an overcompensation for the smallness one feels inside. Alas, the were-wolf is likely to not be able to overcome his addictions and will probably die a pre-mature death due to heart complications, emotional or otherwise.

     Lastly, I address the zombie – the athlete of the horror world. The zombie is at the top of the food chain and like other large hunters is a very successful omnivore. They get enough protein, heme-iron (from red blood cells) and calcium (from bones;) and they eat frequent meals. I would argue however, that they don’t appear to be optimally hydrated, due to the slaver that most exhibit. Additionally, I would recommend an increase in fruits and vegetables to give the benefit of a fully rounded diet. What is intriguing and needs more study is the sudden evolutionary adaptation of the “fast” zombie. Perhaps, it is a secondary gain coming from a leaner, less fatty meat selection. I must comment though that the zombie has a relentless, hunger for “more.” Like so many athletic superstars, after achieving their peak, they just don’t know how to retire gracefully. Their negative attitude and willful antics simply leave everyone with a bad taste in their mouths. The hunger for “more,” this greediness just leads to massive destruction and chaos on relationships.

     As I slip back into my reverie, and the blue twilight fades to the black of a Pookah’s coat, I leave you to wonder, “Life, love, approval, revenge, anarchy…or maybe just a taffy apple or some candy? For what do you truly hunger?”

images

* I wrote this article for the Halloween edition of an online publication called, “Magic Cat Press Spookfest 2011.” And have reposted it here in honor of Halloween 2013!