Sunday, May 15, 2016

"So, what do you eat?"

I am a mother, dietitian and marathon runner who is often asked a lot of questions about food. It is difficult to provide a simple answer to the simple question, "So what do you eat?". Because a picture is worth a thousand words, you will have much to learn from this post. Enjoy!

My husband's homemade squash soup with a dollop of plain greek yogurt, a spinach salad, bbq'd pork tenderloin, whole grain toast, and a glass of milk for lunch. 

A peanut butter cookie my son made for me and froze so that I could enjoy it in my off-season.

A wonderful dinner out: glazed salmon, roasted potatoes, green beans and some fresh bread. I likely had a salad to start.

The usual throw-it-together lunch. It's never the same, twice. This time it was squash, cauliflower, salmon, sweet potato, roasted purple cabbage and brussels sprouts, beans and rice.

I just love my breakfast of Stoked Oats oatmeal with berries, protein powder, peanut butter and sprinkles  (chia, hemp, flax).

Sushi and kale salad treat . I think it's from Farm Boy.

Roasted vegetables, salad, and fish with a glass of milk for dinner.

More cookies baked by my son. Yes, they tasted as good as they looked.

A few types of barbecued fish - salmon, trout and marlin with some roasted vegetables on a bed of spinach and kale.

Eggs, green beans, and lentils on spinach. Chocolate Emend made with some milk to drink.
Typical dinner at work: spinach salad with leftover vegetables topped with brown rice and a can of salmon.  Placed right beside the model plate I use to teach: 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 protein, 1/4 whole grain with a piece of fruit and a glass of milk.

Always fill your cart with vegetables and fruit, first!

Kale makes for great salads and smoothies.

Blending up some oatmeal, dried fruit, protein powder, nut butter, chia, hemp and flax... make these power balls. To be honest, I didn't love them.

My sprinkles. I mix a big bag of hemp, flax and chia seeds into a large bowl then fill smaller containers with the mix. Great added to hot cereal, baking and smoothies.

 A treat I get from the grocery store as an appetizer: olives, mushrooms, feta, artichoke, and sun-dried tomatoes.

I just love this salad from Whole Foods: spinach, sunflower seeds, goats cheese, strawberries and added maple salmon. 

A Starbucks treat the night before racing in Vancouver. Must have been the evening because it was tea this time.  My usual routine is coffee throughout the day with tea after dinner. Both with skim milk, no sugar.

Squash, seeds, salmon and cranberries on a bed of greens with a balsamic dressing. A definite fave when I'm on the road.

A colourful salad I often take to potluck summer barbecues: black beans, onion, red pepper, corn, and grated cheese on top of a bunch of spinach. Top with your favourite dressing.

Smoothies help me make it to a meal if it's going to be later than usual. My go-to is spinach or kale, protein powder, nut butter, plain Liberte greek yogurt, milk or water, and frozen berries. 

Eload and gels during, and Emend after, training/racing. Always. 

Sauteed greens, red onions, chick peas and eggs or tuna.

This is my solid version of my smoothie, thanks to my friend Stacey. Same ingredients (listed above) minus the water/milk. Tastes better than it looks here!

Pre-race bland white carbs. Blah.

A bit of red wine in Europe with my husband before...

this salad and...

this pizza, followed by...

this peanut butter and chocolate gelato. We LOVED Italy!

I love breakfast, especially in Europe. I always start with the oatmeal, yogurt, fruit and nut appetizer...

and eventually end with a coffee or two!

Another dinner while at work or on the go: kale, kidney beans, beets and salmon. 

Avocado, chick peas, cucumber, tuna, purple cabbage and mesc. green mix.

Race bottles contain Eload and Carb Fly powders mixed with water. Eload gels taped securely.

A post marathon Whole Foods indulgence of my favourite salad (listed above), chocolate milk, scone, pecan square, and mac n cheese. I think I had to pace myself through this.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter. No better combination than this.

Latte and a brownie post race indulgence.

Whole wheat banana chocolate chip muffins baked for the kids' school lunches. 

Another beautiful bowl of oatmeal. Honestly, coming home to this and my family having my husband's waffles after I've completed a long run is the highlight of every week. It's often followed by several cups of coffee enjoyed with my husband. 

This was a red velvet chocolate birthday cake my husband and kids made for me one year. 

Breakfast out often includes eggs, fruit and toast  ... with coffee, obviously.

Another European breakfast appetizer.

Farm Boy salad bar. Can hardly tell what it is but it was definitely delicious!

Looks like another breakfast out.

My afternoon snack is often an apple with nuts or a this - a piece of toast with peanut butter and sprinkles.

Dining while at Montreal General Hospital: roast beef, vegetables, bun, grapes, milk, soup (?) and tea with a chocolate bar treat.

@JenniferSygo, Sport Dietitian 

@heidismith01, Sport Dietitian 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Eating as a Marathoner, Mom and Dietitian.

I get many questions about what I eat as a mom, elite marathoner and dietitian. And it is my pleasure to share some of my thoughts with you. 

As a marathoner, once I commence a training/racing build, I avoid sweets and fatty foods. The duration has varied from 3 months with not one bite to 9 months with a few nibbles, and is something I have done for several years now. After my marathon, I fully indulge in such things as warm chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream, butter tarts, carrot cake, and pecan squares but the novelty soon wears off, which is about the time I am ready to start another marathon build. For me, it is a healthy balance but it is not for everyone. While training and racing, it motivates me and provides psychological and physical benefits. But even though I am a dietitian who values the importance of a healthy diet, it is important to note that what one eats is really only one of many parts that lead to an athlete's success.

With each training and racing build, I slightly increase my mileage and intensity so it only makes sense to sharpen the diet. To be honest, what you will read is not really anything surprising but people are intrigued and it's an interesting topic.

As a dietitian, when I meet with people to talk about their diet for diabetes, cholesterol, and weight, I tell them that we should all eat like we have diabetes, or like we are going to get it. I use the, "Just the Basics" handout, which I follow myself and is based on the following:
1) Space meals and snacks evenly throughout the day. Never skip. Eat within 1 hr waking.
2) Limit sweet and fatty treats. Enjoy small amounts, regularly.
3) Drink 8-10 cups water, and 2-3 cups skim or 1% milk daily.
4) Make plate 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 lean protein and 1/4 whole grain at lunch and dinner.
5) Do 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily. 
I tell people to change what they think will be easiest first, then once they've succeeded, move on to the more difficult tasks. It does not happen overnight.

As a momI strongly believe in the importance of modelling healthy eating as an athlete, particularly since my kids are starting to get more involved in athletics themselves. My 9 yr old son plays rep hockey, which has him on the ice 4 times per week and my 7 yr old son is starting the next level of swimming, which has him in the pool 2 times per week.  I am a firm believer in practising Ellyn Satter's , "Division of Responsibility", which defines the role of the parent, the role of the child, and holds high the importance of eating together as a family.
I often tell my kids that the best food has minimal packaging, is reasonably priced, and home-made. Like many other kids, mine too ask for the packaged, processed, high calorie/salt/fat/sugar foods while at the grocery store, and other places, but once I tell them I can and will make something similar at home, they are usually satisfied. Or, I simply say no because I am the parent. 
I expect that my soon to be junior kindergarten daughter will ask more for these types of things since she's younger and it will be her first year of school where she sees what other kids have. But like her older brothers, I know she too will start to better appreciate real food. Kids can be picky, and they can eat a lot at some meals and not much at others, which is completely normal. As a dietitian who went into peoples' homes to help with diet-related issues, I am very grateful for Ellyn Satter's work. My kids aren't "perfect eaters" but is there such a thing anyway? And they are growing to make their own choices, not only in diet, but in many areas of life. I can't wait until Heidi Smith , sport R.D. and author of my favourite, "Nutrition for the Long Run"publishes her next book entitled, "Family Fuel" - all about how to feed a family with kids in sport. For the longest time, my kids didn't know much about fast food or where to get it. And rarely was a penny spent at arena canteens or vending machines. As a kid who also frequented the arena, I quit asking for things while there and my kids are now doing the same. You can only hear, "No" so many times I guess! But they are getting older, which includes independence and the ability to make their own choices when I am not around. So, I continue to trust that modelling the behaviour will influence them to make the best food choices. Achieving the Olypmic standard for the marathon gives me some credibility as a role model to my children and others; I know what it takes to succeed.

So here is what is important to me:

-making wise choices about everything I consume
-very little processed/packaged/refined high sugar/fat/salt/calorie foods 
-high nutrient density
-appropriate portions and energy balance
-flexibility and freedom
-optimal recovery 
-reduced fatigue 
-optimal energy
-optimal immune function
-increased performance

In order to do this, I limit or avoid: 

-refined foods
-processed foods with lengthy ingredient lists containing words I can't pronounce let alone recognize, even with a degree in nutrition!
-high-glycemic index foods
-high sugar foods
-high trans/saturated fatty foods 
-high sodium foods
-high calorie/low nutrient dense foods

And I include plenty of: 
-natural, unprocessed, whole foods
-brightly coloured vegetables and fruit
-low-glycemic index foods
-low-fat, high-fibre, and high-protein foods

So here's how it looks, none or very little (some of these foods I haven't eaten in over 20 years, or ever!):
-white: crackers, rice, bread, pasta, muffins, waffles, pastries, pancakes, cold cereal, potatoes, bagels, wraps, pretzels
-flavoured or sweetened yogurt, most cheeses, dairy-type spreads such as cream cheese, high fat milk/cream
-bacon, hot dogs, sausage, bologna, salami, pepperoni, fatty meats, deli meats

-deep fried foods
-juice or any drink other than skim milk, water, coffee/tea with milk, hot lemon water

And here's what I enjoy:  

-squash, sweet potatoes, beets, turnip, carrots, quinoa, beans/peas/lentils, oatmeal, steel cut oats, red river cereal, brown rice as my whole grains
-cabbage, spinach, kale, mesclun mix, zucchini, egg plant, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, celery, brussels sprouts, green/yellow beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, mushrooms, avocado and nearly every vegetable
-berries, apples, bananas, melon, citrus and nearly every fruit
-skim milk, plain greek yogurt, cottage cheese, small amounts of goat, feta or blue cheese
-tuna, salmon, sardines, eggs, lean poultry/beef/pork, tofu
-nut/seed butters or whole - almonds, walnuts, peanuts, pumpkins 
-chia, hemp, flax

Meals So what does it look like? Here's a typical day...
-plain low fat greek yogurt + cottage cheese + walnuts
-steel cut oats or red river cereal or oatmeal + berries + protein powder + nut/seed butter + chia/hemp/flax
- grapefruit
- coffee x 2
Lunch (1/4 lean protein, 1/4 whole grain, 1/2 vegetables with 1 cup skim milk)
-leafy greens (mesclun mix/spinach/kale) with vegetables + tuna or salmon or sardines + brown rice or quinoa

-pureed: plain low fat greek yogurt + kale + protein powder + frozen berries + nut butter
Afternoon Snack* and coffee x 2
Dinner (1/4 lean protein, 1/4 whole grain, 1/2 vegetables with 1 cup skim milk)
-chicken breast or pork tenderloin or lean beef (I often go to my brother-in-laws blog for ideas)
-spinach or mesclun salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
-cooked vegetable, usually something green like brussels sprouts, green beans or broccoli
-brown rice, quinoa, squash or sweet potato 
Evening Snack*
-if dinner is early, around 5pm, I will usually have a medium-sized snack otherwise it's small, with a big cup of tea 

1) chopped apple or pear + greek yogurt + brown rice + cinnamon + almonds + hemp seeds + raisins or chopped prunes 
2) greek yogurt + cocoa or chocolate protein powder + raw slow cook oats + chia seeds + walnuts or nut butter 
3) a small bowl of cottage cheese and 2 plain rice cakes with some natural peanut butter

4) a quick n' easy piece of fruit & a handful of nuts - my favourite is a gala apple with plain, unsalted peanuts 

As a R.D., I struggled for the longest time with the use of protein. I'm a big believer in the big picture, getting what you need from your diet, so would often cringe when people asked me about protein use, knowing full well that their diet and other lifestyle choices could use other, more productive modifications first. There are those people I counsel who reek of cigarette smoke and insist that organic food is the only way to go. And then there's terribly inactive people who consume copious amounts of expensive, convenience foods yet insist healthy eating is expensive. I digress, back to protein. The toughest crowd is the young athletes, particularly adolescent males who desperately want to build muscle mass. Protein is important but we can only do so much about our genetic makeup.

Protein Powder 
I believe the first time I started using protein powder was when I was training in a particularly hot and humid summer for a fall marathon. I simply couldn't ingest the appropriate amount of protein necessary to recover from training. I use New Zealand grass fed cow whey protein isolate, which is the same protein that is in Emend Recovery Formula, something I can't live without! I consume about 6 cups of Emend, immediately after each 2-3 hour training session. Not only does in aid in muscle recovery but replaces lost fluids and electrolytes, and gives me some time until I get home to cook and eat my next meal. It makes my recovery. 

Protein Bars  
I rarely consume protein bars because the texture and taste does not appeal to me. I prefer eating real food, and know there are hundreds of poor quality protein bars that are simply glorified chocolate bars. I kinda feel the same about protein bars as I do about granola bars, which I do not buy for my kids! Marshmallows and chocolate chips, really? Anyway, I think the best place to go is a "Goodness Me" or "Whole Foods" type store to get the best protein with the least amount of added junk. Must read those labels!

This is a fairly straight-forward topic and here's what I use: 
-daily omega 3
-daily pre/post natal vitamin/mineral
-daily iron 

Pre-Race Foods
Carb-loading has always been a major component before racing a marathon. For the two days prior to race day, my diet consists of mainly bagels, bread, rice and pasta with moderate protein and minimal fat, sugar and fibre. 

In Summary...
Like I said, diet is only one part. I certainly don't obsess about it. 
I enjoy routine and familiarity but also flexibility and variety, changing things up as I go.
There's always new findings from different sport nutrition studies so I'll try to keep up on some of that but to be honest, I don't get too excited about much of it, rather wait until I see consistency. 

Sport Nutrition Links/Websites:

Australian Sports Commission 
My Sport Science
Dietitians of Canada - Sports Nutrition (Adult) 
Dietitians of Canada - Sports Drinks
Coaching Association of Canada
Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport
Eat Right Ontario - Sports Nutrition
Canadian Sport Institute 
Jennifer Sygo, M. Sc., RD
Stacey Michelle - Health and Fitness (much of my diet is influenced by this woman!)

Heidi Smith Nutrition

Note: this blog post entitled, "Eating as a Marathoner, Mom and Dietitian" will be updated on occasion. Information subject to change. Last modified: June 16, 2015.

Disclaimer: This blog is presented for informational and educational purposes only and is meant to complement the advice and guidance of a registered dietitian. This blog, is not intended and should not be construed as the delivery of medical care. Persons requiring diagnosis or treatment are urged to contact their primary health care provider for appropriate care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding nutrition, health, a medical condition, food, beverage, product, supplement, nutrient or drug-nutrient interaction. The creators of this blog disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided here

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hockey and Sport Nutrition

From Heidi Smith, Sport Registered Dietitian

Nutrition and Hockey Performance, Does Diet make a Difference?
Kindly supplied by Heidi Smith, Sport Dietitian, from “Nutrition for the Long Run”, available from the Health and Performance Centre, University of Guelph (cost $15 taxes included) or go online to

Hockey is a fast and demanding sport requiring proper fueling to reach peak performance. Repeated bouts of high intensity, anaerobic shifts result in rapid decline of glycogen stores. Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrate. It takes 24-48 hours to fully replenish our limited stores after intense exercise. Without glycogen for energy, your performance will suffer. A recovery eating plan is essential to speed glycogen recovery before playing again the next day.

Therefore the hockey player’s diet must continually replenish carbohydrate stores. Carbohydrate loading in the days before a tournament and in between games has been shown to increase: distance skated, number of shifts skated, amount of time skated within shifts and skating speed.

What to eat the day before a tournament?

The day before: Try to graze on high carbohydrate foods throughout the day. Eat every 3-4 hours throughout the day. Choose low fat, moderate protein, high carbohydrate foods. Drink lots of fluids because every gram of glycogen is stored with 3 grams of water.

For the drive to the tournament: pack foods such as Fruit, trail mix, yogurt, sandwiches, sport drinks, juice boxes, sport bars etc… OR if you stop to eat go for foods such as Subway (low fat toppings) or Wendy’s grilled chicken baked potato (See section on Eating Out).

Dinner the night before: Don’t overstuff yourself. You want fast digestion so you feel light and fast the next day.

Choose (higher carbohydrate):
Pasta, bread and salad (light on the cheese, no cream sauces)
Grilled Chicken, rice and veggies
Clubhouse sandwich with salad (hold the mayo and fries until after the tournament)
Pizza with veggies and chicken toppings

Avoid (higher fat choices):
Pizza with sausage and pepperoni
Lasagna (too much fat)
Large steaks
Chicken wings
Caesar salad
Alcohol (slows glycogen storage)

What to eat when eating out? (Restaurants)

Look for key words that describe low or high fat foods
Words to describe:

Low fat: grilled, steamed, baked, broiled, boiled, marinara, poached
High fat: frying, sautéing, au gratin, alfredo, cream, butter

Fast Foods
- Plan meals that are less than20 g of fat & snacks less than 10 g of fat.
- Choose a grilled chicken sandwich instead of high fat burger.
- Order beverages that are caffeine free ie: juice, water, clear pop, caffeine free tea or milk
- Control portion sizes by splitting your meal with others and avoiding “super sizing” your meals
- Try to add carbohydrates: baked potatoes, salads, juice, milk or frozen yogurt
- Subs shops order high carbohydrate, low fat options
- watch out for higher fats from cheese, sauces and mayo
- Check out the grocery store before, during, or after a trip. Pick up fresh fruits, dried fruit, chopped vegetables, bagels, soynuts, granola bars, low fat cheese, yogurt

What to eat the morning before the game:
 Try to eat 2-3 hours before the game
 Choose high carbohydrate, moderate protein, low fat
 Higher fat items take longer to digest and therefore can feel heavy in your stomach. We want to avoid foods that take longer to digest. We want quick energy the day of the game.
 Eat foods you are used to eating. Do Not try anything new the day of the game!

Ideal meals before the game:
Cereal, juice, oatmeal (any hot cereal), milk, fruit, toast (get butter on the side), peanut butter, poached/hardboiled eggs, scrambled eggs (ask for no oil on the grill if possible), ask for egg beaters (some hotels carry this), egg white omelets, bagels, light cream cheese, ham instead of bacon, pancakes/French toast (easy on the butter and syrup).

Avoid (high protein, high fat):
Cheese omelets, sausage, home fries, muffins (usually high in fat and sugar), sugary cereals, too much coffee (can cause GI upset).

Eating between games is critical for recovery!!

Remember that you are already maxing out your glycogen stores. If you eat within 15 minutes of the game you can double your speed of glycogen recovery (which is slow to begin with). Maximizing your energy stores means you’ll be ready for your next game!

 Choose foods that are high in carbohydrate and moderate protein

Immediately following a game: (within 15 minutes)
Chocolate milk Sport drink – Gatorade, Power Aide
Fruit Juice Fruit – banana, oranges, apples
Yogurt Sport bar
Peanut butter & Jam Sandwich

Between games:
Munch on high carbohydrate, moderate protein, low fat foods to satisfy your hunger. Think of it as small frequent meals and snacks rather than one big meal. Follow the pre-exercise guidelines according to the time of your next game:

For more tips and links visit Heidi Smith is one of the Sport Dietitians from the Health and Performance Centre at the University of Guelph. They work one on one with all levels and ages of athletes from beginner to elite. Call (519) 767 5011 ext. 1 for details on an appointment.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sports Supplements

Tom Kennedy interviewed me for this article last year. Enjoy the read.

The sports supplement industry is a steadily growing machine fueled mainly by advertising in specialist weightlifting and bodybuilding magazines.

According to the Nutrition Business Journal, in the United States alone, the dietary supplement industry is worth $23.7-billion.

The industry consists of products such as protein powders, amino acids, creatine, nitric acid, glutamine and even human growth hormone but what do they actually do and are they really necessary?

Brantford’s Krista DuChene is a registered dietitian and elite athlete who follows an impressive creed of “I practise what I preach.”

DuChene is a good candidate to discuss the topic as she not only knows the science of nutrition but has the athletic experience to back up what she says.

She works with local dietitian agency, Therapy Specialties, has been a registered dietitian for seven years and is an active elite marathon runner and says healthy living is about sticking to the basics.

“The food guide gives us what we need - grain products, milk products, vegetables and fruit, meat and alternatives,” she said.

DuChene is currently ranked eighth in Canada for marathon running, having recently won the Mississauga marathon with a time of 2:51:38 and placing second in the Toronto Ten Miler with a time of 60:07.

Currently, she is training for the Toronto Marathon and endures a four-month training program which includes bike rides, swimming, runs ranging from 15-40 kilometres, pilates/core work, light weights for strength and stretching for flexibility.

Whether training and fuelling her own body or giving advice to her patients, DuChene recommends a very simple and inexpensive recovery drink and warns against supplements with “bells and whistles.”

“The best recovery drink is chocolate milk, it has the right balance,” she said. “When it comes to protein powder and bars there can be too much of certain things such as calories, caffeine, salt and sugar when really everything can be obtained through the food groups and a healthy diet.”

Dietitians of Canada and the American Dietetic Association released a joint position paper in 2008 supports DuChene’s attitudes towards the “bells and whistles” of the steadily growing supplement industry.

In the paper, Nutrition and Athletic Performance the organizations wrote "… recommended protein intakes can generally be met through diet alone, without the use of protein or amino acid supplements.”

The most common supplement products are protein powders and amino acids that are said to help with the repair and growth of muscles.

Human growth hormone, or HGH, is a hormone that the body produces naturally to provide energy and develop and repair muscles.

There are products on the market that contain HGH but according to they are not recommended due to their potential harmful qualities.

Creatine is another supplement that is frowned upon as it has been known to cause side effects such as dehydration, seizures, irregular heartbeat and cramping.

Joe Hughes, owner of Big Joe’s in Brantford, has been a competitive bodybuilder for 10 years and has been in the business of selling supplements for a little more than two years.

In his opinion, supplements are beneficial for anyone working out even as little as three times a week.

While Hughes agrees with DuChene, in that protein and other nutrients can be found in the food groups, he doesn’t believe that is the right approach.

“I would agree that food has everything in it but there’s certain things you need abundances of and if you just get them from food, you’re also going to get a lot of carbohydrates and other things you don’t want.”

When getting into the sport, Hughes said he researched medical journals and applied a trial and error technique to discover what supplements worked well for him.

For the average Joe, he recommended talking to someone in the industry who knows what they are talking about or applying a similar method to what he did but erred on the side of caution when it comes to internet research.

So with the sports nutrition market flooded with so many products it is understandable to feel a little confused or overwhelmed - on one side of the spectrum you have dietitians who are “reluctant to recommend something to replace food.”

On the other side, you have those in the business of building muscle who use supplements to “allow faster results targeted towards a specific goal.”

(Give us your opinion : Do you think supplements are necessary when working out or recovering from strenuous physical activity? Please comment below. )

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

2010 National Marathon Champion

Enjoy reading about my national championship run with a time of 2:39, click here.
What a thrill! My eload drink and 6 gels were just right! It's so important to run races the way you train, when it comes to nutrition.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nutrition 101

I regularly counsel people for diabetes, cholesterol, weight and blood pressure. What are the two main messages I ask clients to remember?
1. Make your plate 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 whole grain, and 1/4 lean protein with a glass of skim or 1% milk at lunch and dinner.
2. Include 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily. You can do this in 10 minute periods but must have your heart rate elevated.
I challange you - take two weeks to try the two tips above. Go for it! What do you have to lose?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saucony Sponsorship

I am thrilled to be officially sponsored by Saucony for 2010!