Friday, January 31

Better Food of the Week: Pasture Raised Eggs

Let's play a game. Identify which egg is unlike the others in the picture below.

Eggs & pastured pork bacon
If you guessed the bottom-right egg, the one that is a much lighter yellow, then you're correct! That runt among the group isn't nearly as rich in vitamins and minerals as the other four. Why? Because it's a conventional egg you'd find at your average grocery store. They come from factory-farmed chickens that eat a poor diet and live an even poorer lifestyle. The result is a pseudo-egg. An egg that is inferior in terms of nutrient density to the pasture raised variety.

According to one study, pastured eggs contain 66% more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3's, 3 times more vitamin E and 7 times more beta carotene than conventional eggs.

Because eggs are a staple of our diet, we feel that it's important to us from a health perspective to purchase the better kind. Pastured eggs are certainly more expensive than factory farmed eggs. When you purchase pastured eggs you aren't just buying higher quality eggs, you're supporting a fundamental pillar of proper farming that treats animals humanely. 

Pastured eggs from a local Texas farm
Next time you're at the store and you buy eggs, look for pasture raised!

Featured Whole30'er: Sarah

Why did you decide to do a Whole30?

I kept a journal during the Whole30, and here is what I wrote on Day 1:

I am embarking on the Whole30 to change my diet, my body and my life. I am tired of feeling that my eating is beyond my control. It is in my control, so for 30 days, I am giving up sugar, artificial sweetener (diet coke), alcohol (wine!) legumes, grains and dairy and will eat whole and clean. I have the willpower to do this.

I moved to Dallas three years ago from Milwaukee. Along with a new job and a new city came 30 pounds.  I had never worried about my weight, and I was always thin. I was a dancer until after college, and then taught dance for six years, which kept me active.

Tuesday, January 28

Dietary Fat 101

A friend of ours called the other day expressing some confusion on all the varieties of dietary fat. I spoke to him about the differences on the phone, but wished I would have had a visual to help aid in my explanation. It can undoubtedly be confusing, especially when most of us are new to the scientific nomenclature. "Saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, etc."

Below is a graphic that can hopefully help curb some of the confusion you may have. Please note that this post isn't meant to be a dissertation, but rather "Step 1" in unraveling the tangled mess of nutrition science when it comes to dietary fat.

A few things to consider...
  • Saturated fat: we do not shy away from saturated fat as long as the source is of high quality: grass-fed dairy, pasture-raised animal products, coconut, etc. This is a hot topic that can't be fully addressed in this post, but we plan on tackling it later. In the meantime, see the works of Gary Taubes & Peter Attia on saturated fat.
  • Trans fat: we didn't include trans fats in this chart as they are universally accepted as being detrimental to health. The FDA recently removed them from the "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS) list.
  • Monounsaturated fat: we try to eat plenty of monounsaturated fats in the form of certain nuts (cashews, macadamia, etc.), olives, olive oil and avocado.
  • Polyunsaturated fats: we attempt to keep our ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats as close to even as possible. A higher concentration of omega-6 fatty acids in the body can potentially be harmful. This is why we avoid industrially processed seed and vegetable oils (omega-6) while increasing our intake of fresh fish and pastured eggs (omega-3).

Monday, January 27

Carrot Ginger Soup

Prep and Cook Time: 30-40 min.
Tools: Blender, or food processor 
Serves: 6-8

3 cups of chicken or bone broth 
2 pounds of organic carrots trimmed and peeled and chopped in 1/4 inch pieces
2 thumb tip size pieces of ginger approximately 1 inch long each peeled
8 ounces of coconut milk
1 tsp of Himalayan Sea salt
1/2 tsp of black pepper (or more to taste)
A pinch of cayenne pepper for those who want some extra heat
A dollop of extra coconut milk or whipped cream (recipe coming soon!) per serving

Sunday, January 26

Featured Whole30'er: Sara

Why did you decide to do a Whole30?

My friend did a Whole30 last year, so I took interest in it. I read the details and thought it could be cool to do at a time that made sense. So I put a hold on It Starts With Food at the library and when I finally got around to picking it up, I read it very quickly. I was sold— especially about the prospect of it increasing my energy and potentially alleviating chronic pain issues. I wanted to go back to eating unprocessed foods. I knew it would be challenging— I LOVE my cheese and chocolate!— but luckily I brought a friend on board to do it with me to start off fresh in 2014.

What’s been the hardest part?

A few things...
  • I keep kosher, so it is double as important for me to plan, because I can't just stop by a restaurant or deli at lunch and pick up a salad with chicken. 
  • Explaining it to people! I find it so interesting how many people tell me they “couldn't” do this. “I would DIE without chocolate.” I reassure them that they wouldn't, in fact, die.
  • Staying full. I have a really fast metabolism (luckily!) so I get hungry very quickly. I am trying not to snack but that’s not always so easy.
  • Patience. I am not a patient person, and I am also not seeing drastic results, so I have to remind myself why i am doing this and about the incremental changes.

What’s been the best part?

I think the best part is how empowering the process is. It’s a great test of willpower, and I am proud of myself! 

I also love eating real food. Four years ago I did an elimination diet to reduce my chronic migraines, and I was really careful about not eating things that were processed. It’s even better this time around— I am trying to not even search out things and look at ingredients but just buy whole, real foods. Fruits, veggies, nuts, meat, eggs... things in their purest forms. I am glad, and thankful, to be going through that process again and reminding myself how important (and relatively easy with a little research and planning) it is to eat real, delicious food!

Lastly, I finally started making homemade almond milk. Oh my gosh, it’s so good. I will forever continue to make it and drink it with much happiness. And homemade almond milk lattes? "Dieting" never tasted so good! 

Do you have any advice for future Whole30’ers?

Future Whole30’ers, don’t fret! Here are some things I have picked up:
  • Do it with a friend, or be active on Twitter, Jessie and Brian’s GroupMe, or the forums. It’s SO much easier when you have a support network and can ask questions.
  • You can do the Whole30 and eat DELICIOUS food. Wonderful food the way that you are supposed to eat it! This is not a diet. Enjoying eating is not forbidden.
  • You CAN do this. It’s really not so bad. Cheating to me is not an option. Sure, pizza smells good, and cookies look great, but I just can’t eat those right now. There are plenty of other things in life that seem wonderful but you just can’t do. So move on!
  • Plan ahead, read lots of blogs, and Google everything. I am constantly googling from my iPhone in supermarkets (Whole30 string beans?, Whole30 almond butter brands, etc.). There are a TON of resources out there that will save you time and money and direct you to exactly what you need.
  • Make things from scratch. Almond milk, mayo, etc. YUM! Cheaper, and better. Win-win.
  • Not having hangovers is awesome. Keep in mind how awesome you will feel the next day when you are out at night sipping seltzer. Just sayin’.
  • Clear out your shelves of anything not Whole30 compliant. You can keep it or toss it, but just make sure anything you see or reach for you can eat. I hid mine way up high where I can’t reach it/see it.
  • Come up with an easy way to tell people what it is, and why you are doing it.
Be sure to check out Sara's blog, Necessary Trouble!

Saturday, January 25

Almond Crusted Chicken Fingers

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 25 min
Serves: 2-4

1.5 lbs of sliced chicken breast or tenders
2 eggs
1 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. 
2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
3. Wash the chicken breast or tenders and slice into chicken breast into long strips (you can also buy pre-cut strips). Place the chicken strips on the lined tray and set aside.
4. Mix together the almond flour, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, smoked paprika. 
5. Break the eggs into a separate smaller bowl. 
6. Dredge each piece of chicken in the egg first and then the almond flour mixture and place back on the tray. 
7. Bake for 20-25 min. until the almond crust starts to golden.
8. Serve hot and enjoy with Tessemae's BBQ Sauce!

Friday, January 24

Bulletproof Coffee

A lot of folks by now have probably heard about "Bulletproof Coffee." You know, the coffee that has butter in it? If you haven't heard of this odd concoction, I'm surprised... as its popularity seems to be building. A little over a year ago Jessie and I heard about it for the first time. A fellow triathlete sent me to this link. We were intrigued, so we gave it a shot.

We were surprised to find that the effects of drinking the coffee were pretty apparent. We had longer-lasting energy throughout the morning, and remained satiated for hours. By consuming only fat for breakfast, we kept our insulin levels low, and fat-burning on. And believe it or not, the coffee was delicious.

Some people have tweaked Dave Asprey's original recipe, including us. We've found this version to be the tastiest. We don't drink it everyday as we're adamant about food variety and believe in the concept of scaling macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) based on activity level and stress. 

Prep Time: 10min
Cook Time: 5min
Makes: 3-4 cups
Tools: Coffee brewer, blender

3 cups coffee
2tbs ghee*
2tbs MCT oil**
1/4 tsp raw vanilla powder

*Ghee is Whole30 approved, but another alternative if you tolerate dairy is grass-fed butter (butter derived from grass-fed cows).

**As Dave Asprey rightfully points out, you want to build your way up to the proper amount of MCT oil per serving. The first time Jessie and I had this coffee we used coconut oil as an MCT-replacement (coconut oil contains MCT's, but isn't 100%).

1. Brew coffee.
2. Pour hot coffee into blender.
3. Add ghee, MCT oil and vanilla powder.
4. Blend for about 30 seconds.
5. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 23

Marcona Almond Green Beans

Prep Time: 10-15 min
Cook Time: 10-15 min
Tools: Covered sauce pan or pressure cooker

1/2 - 2/3 cup Marcona almonds
1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 tbs grass-fed butter or Ghee
1 lbs green beans
1 red pepper, sliced
Himalayan sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Prep the green beans by cleaning and removing ends. Slice the red pepper into long strips. Set aside. 

2. Toast the Marcona almonds in 1 tbs of butter/ghee; add Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Saute for 5 min or so until almonds are browned; set aside.

3. Blanch the green beans by cooking them in a pressure cooker or steaming them for several min in a covered pan on high heat.

4. Turn the heat down to medium, and saute the green beans with red pepper in 2 tbs of butter/Ghee for several min until the red pepper is tender.

5. Add in the almonds to warm them, serve hot and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 22

Houston Marathon: Week 16

This is the 18th installment in a multi-part series documenting my path to the Houston Marathon.

Last week's post: Week 15   

Week 16 Primary Focus:         Taper
Longest Run To-Date:             12.75mi

My 16th week of training was one of the hardest. Not in the physical sense, but from a mental one. Imagine being in a routine, a strict and regular one at that, and then all of the sudden the routine is abruptly changed. A disruption in what is normal occurs, and it all happens right before the race. This week I was moody (sorry, Jessie), stressed, anxious... and I used the urination station quite a bit. This, my friends, is called race week.

Race Week

A lot of people believe they need to make wholesale adjustments the week leading up to a race, when small tweaks will not only suffice, but are preferable. Making major adjustments to nutrition, sleep, hydration or any other behavior isn't necessary. Small-scale changes are enough to get you race-ready. As we've already established: the work has already been done. Now we maintain.

Some of the focus throughout the week included:

  • A little more water and electrolytes (perhaps more sea salt on meals)
  • More focus on getting to bed earlier
  • Making sure I didn't skip any meals
  • Scaling carbohydrates up a bit more to ensure your glycogen tanks are full
  • Putting forth an effort to keep stress low
Outside of these items, it was business as usual. I had some runs that were short. Many of them incorporated some drills and quick bursts of speed to keep the muscles firing.

Throughout the week my job was hectic. I had several presentations and many to-do's as a project I'm working on reached a critical point in the plan. I hardly thought about the marathon as I was so focused on the 'next thing' in the office. One side of me thinks this was good, as it kept my mind off of potentially negative thoughts regarding the race ("Am I ready? Can I do it?"). But the other side of me thinks the stress from work may have had a ripple effect and taken a toll by affecting my sleep and potentially disrupting normal hormone levels. 

Come Friday afternoon, when I left the office, it was all-focus on the marathon. Work-related items were a thing of the past. The only thing that mattered now was Houston. Friday night I went to see Lone Survivor with Jessie and my dad. It was a great movie that put things into perspective, including pain threshold. 

Here we go

Saturday morning I slept in a bit, got up, and went on an easy tune-up run with Jessie. The weather was beautiful. My legs felt a little heavy, but again, this was by design; no need to worry. Soon after the run my mom picked Jessie and me up, we went to the airport, grabbed a flight to Houston, and were there in no-time. 

At the Houston Airport
After getting our rental car we headed off to an amazing Paleo-friendly restaurant in Houston called Corner Table. I had spaghetti squash, which was delicious.

Jessie and my mom, Pam
We then went to the Expo to pick up my race-packet which included different goodies, my bib, and my timing chip that tracks me during the race.

At the Expo
Afterwards, it was off to the hotel to get checked-in, put the feet up and relax before dinner. The hotel was conveniently located just a couple of blocks from the starting line, which made it easier for race morning logistics. The race started in Downtown Houston, so parking would have been a nightmare. Those sorts of hassles aren't worth it when you're trying to mentally prepare for a 26.2mi race.

After dinner, it was back to the hotel to organize my race morning items: shoes, clothes, watch, nutrition, etc. After unwinding and clearing my head, I was in bed by 9:15p. I laid there and thought: Holy cow, over 16 weeks ago I started this journey... and the event is tomorrow morning. My goodness time flies. Here we go.

Stay tuned for my Houston Marathon race re-cap...

Monday, January 20

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Prep and Cook Time: 20 min
Serves: 4
Tools: Heavy sauce pan with lid

1 head of cauliflower
1/3 onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs coconut aminos
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Cut the head of cauliflower into florets and steam in 1/4 inch of water in a heavy, covered sauce pan for 10 min or so until the florets are very soft.(Could also steam in a pressure cooker).
2. Drain the water and place the cauliflower into a large mixing bowl. Use a potato masher or large spoon to mash the steamed cauliflower into a 'rice like' consistency.
3. Add the onion, garlic,  coconut aminos and egg to the cauliflower and mix together.
4. Return the ingredients to the heavy sauce pan and cook further until the onion is translucent. 
5. Serve hot, add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy with fish, chicken, beef or a stir fry!

Thursday, January 16

Houston Marathon: Week 15

Week 15 Primary Focus:         Taper
Longest Run To-Date:             12.75mi

After last week's brutal workouts, this week was primarily focused on recovery. But because the race is now so close, this period of recovery is now called "Taper." 

If you recall, I started off this Houston Marathon training in a "Base" phase, focusing on strength and endurance. The goal was to lay a solid foundation on which I could begin increasing the run volume and intensity. After the Base period, we moved into "Build" where I slowly began ramping up the quantity and intensity of the runs. Runs were longer, and harder. This is where the real work was done.


It's at this point during training where tapering occurs. Depending on how fast one can recover, the taper phase can start at different points. Those that take longer to recover may need a longer tapering phase, since you don't want to show up to the starting line on race day fatigued in any way. The timing of tapering can be tricky... by starting too soon, your body will be fully primed and race-day optimal before the actual race. By starting too late, you won't be fully recovered and your race-day performance will suffer.

This is yet again another reason I utilize a coach. It's his job to determine these sorts of things. By looking at my heart rate files and other feedback I give him, he's able to determine the best schedule in which to taper.

Another point about this phase of training is that it's not just simply kicking back on the couch with zero activity. As you can see, this week I still ran, it just wasn't a lot. Some of the runs were active recovery runs to help with the load from last week; other runs were simply meant to keep my legs awake and muscles firing without taxing them too much.

The work is done

Remember cramming for exams in high school or college? I can. I can vividly remember trying to soak up as much information as I could before the exam started. If only it were that easy with marathon training... if only I could cram up until the last minute before the gun goes off on Sunday, January 19th. 

After last week's work load, I knew all of my training for the Houston Marathon was complete. In other words, there's nothing more I can do to improve my fitness for the race at this point (because you need recovery time to actually benefit from the workout). The only thing I can do is ensure I recover properly, and don't screw anything up by tweaking my foot, getting sick, etc. As I roll into race week, the goal will be to tune-up my mental focus and simply engage in maintenance on my legs: rest, stretching, shorter runs, etc. Because at this point, the work is done.

Back to the Houston Marathon home page.

Sunday, January 12

Houston Marathon: Week 14

This is the 16th installment in a multi-part series documenting my path to the Houston Marathon.
Back to Work          Week 2               Week 5               Week 8               Week 11 
Baseline                 Week 3               Week 6               Week 9               Week 12
Week 1                  Week 4               Week 7               Week 10              Week 13

Week 14 Primary Focus:         Build
Longest Run To-Date:             12.75mi

Wow. Big week. Five different runs accounting for the most mileage I've put in throughout all of training. Not only did I run the most this week out of any other week, I ran 50% more than the next highest week. My legs felt it. I know this sounds contradictory to last week's post, but take note that the longest individual run I've still yet to do is under 13mi (less than a half-marathon). That is still significantly shorter than most online running plans that encourage 20+ mile runs.

This week was tough, no doubt. But the workouts were separated with at least 8hrs of sleep, adequate nutrition and proper hydration. In the span of four days I had Yasso 800s and two 2hr tempo runs. The 2hr tempo runs were hard, as I was running on loaded legs. The second of the two was particularly tough as I ran in 20 degree windchill temperature. With 20+ mph winds, it felt like I was running uphill at certain points during the run. It was a great mental workout.

Friday, January 10

Houston Marathon: Week 13

Week 13 Primary Focus:         Build
Longest Run To-Date:             12mi

The mileage and intensity continued to increase this week, despite the Holiday Season (Merry Christmas to you, too, Coach Mike!). I had four different runs this week. Two of them were 90min endurance runs, while the other two focused on speed and pacing. This week -- yet again -- I topped my overall cumulative mileage for the week at almost 29mi.

Three weeks away from the race, one might start to worry. The most mileage I've logged in a given week is just under 29mi, and the longest individual run I've done is 12mi. For grins, I went and looked at a few different online marathon training programs. I glanced at what the cumulative mileage would be for someone at the same point in their training as I am (t-minus 3 weeks).

Here's an example from Hal Higdon's website:

Yes, you're reading that correctly. The total mileage I should have run, according to this program, was right around 50mi, including a 20mi individual run. I've completed a few 10-12mi runs in my training, and my legs were shot. I couldn't imagine how long it'd take me to feel recovered after a 20mi run.

Am I worried?

No. You see, if you couldn't already tell, the training strategy is different. Of course the question is: "Does it work?"

Well, in just a few weeks we'll find out.

Back to the Houston Marathon home page.

Wednesday, January 8

Herbed Salmon

Prep Time: 5 min.
Cook Time: 10 min.
Serves: 2 people
Tools: Grill 

salmon filets
Salt, pepper and dill to taste
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbs butter (or Ghee for Whole30'ers)

Instructions for cooking on the grill:
1. Herb the salmon with salt, pepper and dill.
2. Melt butter (or Ghee) and lemon juice together. Set aside by grill.
3. Cook the salmon herb side down on the grill to sear it. Cook for a couple min. to get nice grill marks. Remove the salmon
4. Place aluminum foil on the grill and drizzle the melted lemon juice and butter over the foil. Add the seared salmon to the aluminum foil skin side down to nicely poach the salmon till it's fully cooked. 
5. Remove from the grill and enjoy! 

Instructions for cooking on the stove: 
1. Herb the salmon with salt, pepper and dill.
2. Melt butter (or Ghee) and lemon juice together in a large sauce pan. 
3. Cook the salmon in the large sauce pan herb side down for a couple min. 
4. Flip the salmon over and drizzle lemon juice on top. Cover for 5 to 10 min until the salmon is pink and flakey. 
5. Remove, top with cashew ginger sauce and enjoy! 

Monday, January 6

Jessie's Healthy Travel Kit

Eating healthy while traveling can be tough (we've written about it before here & here). Often times our diet can get out of sync: unfamiliar restaurants, airport food, no access to a kitchen, etc. Jessie heads out of town for business tomorrow, and she's leaving prepared with different snacks. Below are some foods to consider for your next trip, whether you're trying to remain Whole30-compliant, or would just rather have healthier options in general. Enjoy!

Starting at the apple, working our way clockwise...

These snacks are either perfect by themselves, or can compliment a meal (e.g. adding the tomatoes, jerky, etc. to some lettuce as a salad option).

Houston Marathon: Week 12

Week 12 Primary Focus:         Build
Longest Run To-Date:             12mi

This was another tough week as I logged the most mileage since I started training back at the end of September. The most mileage I logged in one week before this week was just over 25.5mi. My runs were a mixture of longer endurance runs with some speed/pacing. As an example, on Saturday I had a 90min endurance (zone 2/3) run scheduled, and on Sunday I had a 1hr pace (@ 6:50/mi) run. As I continue to build, it's amazing perspective to think that in one week I ran the total distance of a marathon -- yet it was spread out over four runs.

Massage Therapy

Jessie and I are firm believers in massage therapy as a way to expedite recovery. Although there are conflicting reports on the benefits of massage, this study seems to confirm what Jessie and I have experienced first-hand: massage appears to work. And at the bare-minimum, it promotes relaxation, helps reduce stress and feels darn good! Throughout all of my training I've been getting a massage at least twice per month. With the help of my coach, I carefully plan when the best time is to get one. Massage is always best saved for recovery days, and should be the last function of the day (e.g. after the easy spin on the bike, not before).

Jessie and I are members at Massage Envy, a large massage chain with locations all over the U.S. We go here because it's conveniently located near our home, and it's affordable. Sometimes these large chains will get a bad rap, which is why we'd encourage you to try a few different massage therapists, find one that does a good job, and stick with them. If it's in your budget, we highly recommend regular massage!

Back to the Houston Marathon home page.

Sunday, January 5

Paleo Herb Mayonnaise

2 pasture-raised egg yolks (room temperature preferable)
1 tbs spicy brown mustard
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1-2 tbs lemon juice
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1/3 macadamia nut oil
1/3 cup avocado oil
Add a dash of MCT oil if desired! 

*If you want a different herb flavor you could add parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, or make it a curry flavor.

1. Put room temperature egg yolks, mustard, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, cilantro in a small bowl of a food processor.
2. Mix oils together - melted coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, avocado oil into 1 cup
3. Slowly drip the oil mixture into the egg yolk/herb mixture. Drizzle the oil over the mixture for about 3 min. until a good emulsion forms.
4. Mix with tuna, salmon, sardines, left over meat from the night before and have a great salad ready to go!
5. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 4

Cashew Ginger Sauce

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 5 min
Serves: 4 people

1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tbs fresh ginger
2 tbs butter (Ghee for Whole30'ers)
1/4 cup water (or to desired thickness)

1. Emulsify cashews, coconut milk, coconut aminos and ginger in high-powered blender. 
2. Melt butter in a sauce pan. 
3. Add blended ingredients to sauce pan and heat. 
4. As the sauce thickens, add water to make the sauce to your desired consistency. Stir consistently for several minutes. If you're not able to serve immediately, set aside, warm up and stir when ready. 
5. This sauce is great on salmon, sea food, poultry  and fresh vegetables like broccoli. 
6. Enjoy!
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