Tag Archives: healthy

Take 2

14 Feb

I recently saw bloggers complain about people claiming how easy it is to be healthy, and then listing recipes that have 10000000 ingredients you would never normally buy or use more than once. It’s a valid argument, and one that reminded me why I started this blog. It’s one thing to understand nutrition and to want to make an effort to eat better, but it is 100% different to have the financial resources and access to stock your fridge with vegetables and your cupboards with almond milk and flax seeds. Seriously, there has to be another way to maintain good nutrition on a college budget and a college skill set.  And that’s why I’m going to try my best to revive this blod. I know I’ve been M.I.A, and I am truly sorry. My best explanation is that I started this during my easiest semester in college, and I came back to my hardest semester of college. I gave up everything that wasn’t school and dance to make sure I didn’t crash and burn, which was the right plan. Now I have a slightly easier schedule, and a date with the North American Irish Dance Championships in Montreal this summer, and I decided it’s time to start making an effort to cook more, and buy Wendy’s on campus less. 

I will try and make sure everything on here is still “culinary impaired” friendly, because believe me, I’m still very much a mess in the kitchen. But I will also make an effort to make sure I’m offering options for healthy meals that are cheap and affordable. I can’t promise it’ll be regular but I’ll do my best! My roommate and I want to try a new recipe every week, and then build up a few favorite to make in bulk and freeze. I’ll keep you updated on that. 

Anyways, I just wanted to check in and say that I haven’t forgotten about this blog! 

P.S. Hope my fellow east coasters are enjoying snowpocalypse part 2. 4 day weekend for us at UNC! 

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Comfort cooking for that SUPER healthy friend

20 Jun

Ever had a friend who follows strict nutritional guidelines, eg. eating certain grams of protein and carbs and certain times of the day and what not? Well, my best friend (also a dancer) has been out of commission with injury for almost a year now, and in order to stay in shape and healthy came up with a diet plan with a nutrition specialist that worked for her. I’m so proud of her, she looks amazing and is healthier than I’ve ever seen her, but my god, it makes it hard to cook for her! I try to be healthy but I a lot that she normally wouldn’t. Now to be fair, she’s normally good about eating what she’s given but I feel bad serving something I know she doesn’t really want to eat. At the same time, I can’t serve just salad for dinner, and I’m not great at fancy meats. I’m also a comfort food craver (if you haven’t noticed). It’s basically all I eat. Yesterday though, I found the answer.

Sweet potato fries.

They are possibly the greatest thing ever. They’re like regular fries. But better. SO MUCH BETTER. They have more flavor. More nutritional benefits. I’ve never been more excited about a food. How excited, you ask? This excited.

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Click the picture for the pure joy that is Karen Gillan and Matt Smith doing a happy dance. Do it.

I barely have anything to write.

Ingredients: (this is enough for about 2 people, sweet potatoes are huge so 1 potato per person probably measures out pretty well, but can you believe a serving of 2 sweet potatoes is only 89 calories! awesome.)

2 sweet potatoes

1 glug of oil

Sprinkling of garlic salt

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven at 220 degrees Celsius.

2. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes but don’t peel them.

3. Cut them into about 1/2 in circles and then slice them into fingers.

Pro tip 1: So I have no upper body strength (the ultimate irish dancer problem) and thus struggled to cut a sweet potato in the aforementioned fashion… don’t judge me. Anyways, for those of you who know how real the struggle is, it might be easier to cut lengthwise down the potato and create slices from there. They might look a little less fry like but who actually cares?

4. Throw the slices into a zip lock bag, drizzles in the oil and sprinkle the garlic salt. Shake well until all the fries are covered in a good coating. If it’s not enough just add more.

5. Spread the fries out on a pan and place in oven, cooking for 30-35 minutes. Check once around 20 minutes to flip the fries.

It’s that easy. We made these with BBQ chicken and coleslaw, all absurdly easy and yummy. I strongly recommend.

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Being Healthy Vs. Fat Shaming

1 May

Hey there! So this is a slightly unusual post but I read the most fantastic post earlier and I can’t not say anything about it. The post “Bikini Body” on Whiny Baby was featured on the freshly pressed page today, and I am SO glad it was. If you haven’t read it, please go read it. The author talks about fat shaming in society, but more importantly, why what you eat should not be in charge of you. It is such a great read, and she manages to put to words an idea and philosophy I’ve had for a while, but have been unable to describe. 

Read it? Good. I wanted to reply to this because I claim to advocate “healthy eating” on this blog (which I don’t actually do that much of, I know, but just go with me here), and I want to make sure nobody has any misconceptions about what I mean by healthy. I’m a not so secret pinterest lover, and when I’m busy not writing history papers, I’m off browsing some category of pinterest. I have a few I frequents (cute baby animals anyone?), and I have a few I try to avoid. One of the latter is the Health & Fitness section. I know that a majority of pinners on pinterest only have good intentions, and pin all this stuff as a motivation to get in shape and stuff, but they have completely got the idea of being healthy wrong and have instead turned to fat shaming.

So let me be clear. Being healthy DOES NOT equal having no fat. You DO NOT need this body to be healthy: 

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Have you ever seen ANYBODY do this? High heels, really?

 

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Who actually looks like this?

I’m sure those girls are healthy and fit and incredibly in shape (presuming they aren’t photoshopped- which is a VERY large presumption to make) and I have no problem with that. I have a problem with the culture that tells us that we’ll only be healthy (or attractive, but I’m not going down that rabbit hole right now) when we look like that. Um- no. I don’t look like that…at all, and I lead a healthy lifestyle. For me, healthy isn’t having no tummy and no waist. Healthy to me means trying to balance out the absurd amount of bread and nutella I eat with the dancing I do. Honestly, I convinced myself to practice for 3 hours once solely based on the fact that I finished an entire tub of nutella by myself the week before. I don’t claim to only eat grains and greens. I don’t claim to be a health expert. But I DO know that I am a healthy individual, love handles and all, and I am so ok with that.

The second that I realized this and become ok with myself, I LOVED myself. I gained self confidence in my appearance, in my dancing, and other aspects of my life. I’m a little of topic, but you know, love a bit of a ramble. So I’ll try wind up here. LOVE YOURSELF. ENJOY COOKIES. And never, ever, EVER hate yourself, or let someone make you feel ashamed for what you eat, or how you look. 

Now I want brownies. And I’ve discovered I’ve run out of everything chocolate in my apartment (read: nutella). TRAGEDY. Ok I’m done.

Nutrition for Dancers

23 Jan

This is a little out of line with the general theme of this blog, but I strongly believe there are not enough resources out there to provide dancers with accurate information about nutritional goals and guidelines tailored specifically for someone with a lifestyle as demanding as that of a dancer.

It is well known that dancers, gymnasts, figure skaters (female athletes in aesthetically plus physically demanding sports) are at high risk for eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, body dysmorphism etc. Dancers are conditioned to aspire to a perfect body, that they believe will help them perform optimally and achieve perfection. This is however a very false, and unhealthy myth.

Many dancers, in an effort to achieve this unhealthily slim figure, are consuming less than 70% to 80% of recommended dietary allowance for total energy, and often weigh 10-12% below ideal body weight. This doesn’t seem so bad, until you consider the risks associated with low body weight.

When a female is consistently below an appropriate body weight for her height and build, she puts herself at risk for the female athletic triad. What is the female athletic triad, you ask?

Female triad:

  • Amenorrhea: the absence of  a period in a woman who is of reproductive age 
  • Anorexia: an eating disorder involving distorted body image, irrational fear of weight gain and intentional starvation leading to drastic weight loss and often other health complications
  • Osteoporosis: decreasing of bone density and deterioration of bone tissue, leading to increased bone fragility and risk of fractures

The scary part of all of this, is that the negative consequences resulting from the female triad have yet to be shown to be reversible by pharmacological means. In plain English- drugs can’t revert the health complications resulting from the female triad. You’re facing lifelong complications or chronic illnesses that could end your career as a dancer

The International Association for Dance Medicine and Science has published a fantastic fact sheet on dancer nutrition, that I am going to reproduce here with my own comments. Credit goes to them for anything in quotations, link can be found here. I have italicized the take home points.

“To perform at their best, dancers need to be well fueled for classes, rehearsals, and performances.

The main challenge facing many dancers is ingesting sufficient quantities of food to meet the energy demands of dance. The first step in planning a high performance diet is to be sure that the dancer is obtaining adequate caloric intake. The easiest rough estimate of how many calories a dancer requires during heavy training is 45-50 calories per kilogram of body weight for females and 50-55 calories per kilogram of body weight for males.” To put this into perspective, a girl weighing around 120 lbs should be eating around 2700 calories a day.

“A low caloric intake will not only compromise energy availability, it can also lead to an under-ingestion of many micronutrients that could affect performance, growth and health. After calculating the number of calories needed, the next step is to estimate the necessary amount of carbohydrate, fat, and protein, the building blocks of the diets.”

“Carbohydrate
A dancer’s diet should be composed of about 55-60% carbohydrate, 12-15% protein, and 20-30% fat. During heavy training and rehearsals the amount of carbohydrate should be increased to about 65%. The reason is that carbohydrate is the major energy source in muscles. Ingested carbohydrate is broken down into simple sugars (glucose) in the digestive tract then stored in muscle in the form of glycogen, the primary fuel for energy production. Dancers who do not ingest sufficient carbohydrate in their diet will compromise their ability to train because of low muscle glycogen levels. They may feel more fatigued during classes and rehearsals.”

I want to go ahead and dispel any “oh I don’t eat carbs I’m a dancer I have to be skinny” nonsense right now. Stop. You’re doing yourself a disservice. Carbs are HUGELY important in a dancer’s diet. If you don’t eat carbs, you won’t have any energy. Dancing without carbs is like trying to drive with no fuel. It just doesn’t work!

To achieve a high carbohydrate diet, food choices should be complex carbohydrate (bagels, cereal, bread, english muffins, pasta, rice) rather than simple sugars, because complex carbohydrate has many micronutrients associated with it (nutrient dense) while simple sugars are nutrient poor. The estimated carbohydrate need is 6-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight.

In addition to meals, other times when carbohydrate ingestion is important are before, during, and after class, rehearsal, or performance. About 1-2 hours prior to these activities, a small carbohydrate snack should be consumed. This will increase glucose levels in the circulation and “top-off” muscle glycogen stores. A carbohydrate snack, such as a bagel or commercially available “energy” bars, can provide the added boost needed for optimal performance.

During long rehearsals it is also important to ingest some carbohydrate to maintain circulating levels of glucose to prevent fatigue. A good way to ingest this carbohydrate is in solution such as sports drinks that are specially formulated to contain the right amount of carbohydrate (6-8% glucose) to empty from the stomach quickly. Ingesting carbohydrate in a solution provides the added benefit of fluid replacement.

After a period of dancing, the muscles require an adequate supply of carbohydrate to replenish the muscle glycogen stores. Because the fastest rate of glycogen re-synthesis occurs in the 2 hours following exercise, it is important to ingest carbohydrate as soon as possible after a long or strenuous exercise period to refill muscle stores and be ready for the next activity.”

“Fat
Fat from the diet provides structure for all cell membranes, comprises the insulating layer around nerves, forms the base of many hormones, is needed for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, and is an important fuel for muscles. The estimated grams of fat in the diet are about 1.2 gm per kilogram of body weight. Because ingestion of high amounts of saturated fats is associated with chronic disease, the recommended amount of saturated fat in the diet should be less than 10%.

Muscle and adipose (fat) tissue store fat in the form of triglycerides. During exercise, triglycerides are broken down into fatty acids which are metabolized to produce energy for muscle contraction. Fatty acids are used as an energy source in the muscle for endurance activities such as during a long rehearsal where the body is continuously exercising for over 20 minutes at a time. A diet too low in fat can have serious health consequences and ultimately can impair performance.”

“Protein
Adequate protein ingestion is essential for all dancers who are training. For those dancers who are not building muscle, protein is needed to repair the breakdown of muscle fibers that are stressed by constant use. Protein is also used as an auxiliary fuel, and it is important for synthesizing the many enzymes necessary for metabolism. The estimated protein need is 1.4-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For non-vegetarians, chicken or turkey without the skin are excellent low fat protein sources. For vegetarians, tofu, seitan (wheat gluten), and mixtures of beans and rice are good protein choices. Protein powders are not necessary, even for male dancers, if they are following the recommendations above. If a protein supplement is warranted, the best choice is milk powder. The high tech and expensive protein supplements on the market are not any better than simple dry milk.”

“Micronutrients
Vitamins and minerals comprise the micronutrients in the diet. Water soluble vitamins are the B vitamins and vitamin C. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble. The B vitamins play important roles in energy production (especially thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6) and in red blood cell formation (folic acid and vitamin B12). Deficiency of these vitamins can impair performance. Vitamins A (beta carotene), C, and E function as antioxidants that are necessary for the repair of over-stressed muscles and are needed to help muscles recover from strenuous classes and rehearsals. Vitamin D is important in bone formation.

Minerals are classified into macrominerals that are needed in levels of over 100 mg/day and microminerals (trace minerals) that are needed in levels of under 100 mg/day. Macrominerals are calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, but only calcium will be discussed because of its importance for dancers. There are 9 trace minerals but only iron and zinc will be discussed because of the possible deficiency of these minerals in dancers.

Calcium is important in bone formation. During the first 2-3 decades of life, bone mass is developed and thereafter, bone formation ceases. It is essential to ingest adequate calcium during the bone growth years. Low bone mass and low calcium intake are also associated with increased risk of stress fractures. The richest source of calcium is dairy products.

Iron is a trace mineral needed to carry oxygen in the blood because it forms part of the hemoglobin molecule. Oxygen is used for the production of energy in muscle cells. Dietary iron is of two types, the heme, found in meat, and non-heme, less absorbable type found in plants. Dancers should include some lean red meat in their diet to obtain adequate iron. However, if dancers are vegetarians, then they should be careful to ingest foods rich in iron, like whole grains. Because vitamin C increases the absorption of non-heme iron, ingesting a source of vitamin C along with food will maximize absorption of non-heme iron. Red meat is also a good source of zinc which is a component of several enzymes important in energy production and plays a role in red blood cell production.

Dancers should be cautious about taking vitamin and mineral supplements because supplements containing only selected micronutrients could do more harm than good. Excessive amounts of one can interfere with the absorption of another, and megadoses of some vitamins and minerals could be toxic. Adjusting the diet so that it is rich in micronutrients is the recommended means of obtaining necessary micronutrients. Furthermore, there are numerous phytochemicals in food that impart important health benefits.

To obtain all important micronutrients, dancers should increase the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables (recommended 5 servings of fruit or vegetables per day), whole grains, dairy products, and lean red meat. Because not all vitamins or minerals occur in all foods, dancers should ingest a wide variety of foods. A calorie restricted or monotonous diet could lead to a deficiency in some of these vitamins and could impair the ability to train strenuously and recover. As an insurance policy, a multivitamin/mineral supplement containing equal to or less than the recommended level of each micronutrient will provide a balance that is not harmful. Read the label carefully before purchasing a vitamin/mineral supplement.”

Restricted diet= restricted performance. 

“There are many dietary supplements on the market designed to enhance performance or decrease body weight. Dancers should be warned that these supplements are ineffective or even dangerous. Dietary supplements can be marketed without adequate proof that they are effective or safe.”

Fluid
Exercise increases heat production by muscles. Cooling the body depends on evaporation of sweat from the skin. Sweat losses during a hard class or long rehearsal can be substantial-up to 2 liters/hour. Fluid loss results in dehydration that can impair performance and mental functioning, such as the ability to quickly pick up complicated choreographic combinations and execute them effectively.

A cup (8 ounces or 250 ml) of fluid every 15 minutes is recommended. Whenever there is a break in class or rehearsal, the dancer should have ready access to fluid, and they should be encouraged to drink because the thirst mechanism does not keep up with the body’s need for fluid. A water bottle or sport drink should be part of a dancer’s “gear,” and, if possible, the dancer should be able to bring the bottle into the studio for frequent drinks. Following class and rehearsal, dancers should continue to increase fluid consumption for the next few hours. Avoid carbonated drinks and large quantities of fruit juice.

A simple way to monitor hydration is to check urine color: clear to light yellow is hydrated; yellow to dark yellow means dehydrated. One caveat, vitamin B supplements will result in yellow urine and make this dehydration “test” inaccurate.”

I know that was long, so congratulations if you made it here and you’ve read everything above! I hope this helps to guide fellow dancers towards a healthier lifestyle.

Now for some useful resources:

Any fellow Irish dancers: this is a wonderful pamphlet on Irish dance nutrition

If you’ve ever had any questions about the nutritional value of what you eat, this site will answer your questions.

Again, thank you for reading, I hope that someone out there found this useful!

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