I love it when I come up with a recipe that is healthy, and passes the kid taste test – this recipe hit it out of the ballpark on both accounts! Even my quinoa-hating daughter loved them – I only told her about the quinoa after she had decided that she loved them! My kids like to call them “meat muffins” because they are made in muffin tins – which makes them even more fun!
I have already made this recipe twice, and my kids regularly ask for it – so I plan to make it again this week. The leftovers make a great (hearty) after school snack, or a quick meal – but in my house, they don’t last for long!
Put the sugar into the vinegar and stir until it dissolves. Then add all the ingredients together, stir to combine – taste & adjust. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. This step can be done a day or two ahead.
This recipe is great with steamed broccoli with some grass fed butter and mashed potatoes. Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days (they won’t last that long)!
*A note about quality – I always make sure to go for grass fed beef – to avoid hormones, antibiotics, and other additives – plus grass fed beef is higher in omega 3s and 500% higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional beef – which studies have found helps to burn fat (read this article to learn more). I also always choose organic for zucchini – because conventional zucchini is highly likely to be GMO, which I avoid because there is evidence that GMOs could be harming our gut health and even increase our risk of cancer. And finally – I always look for organic pastured or free range eggs – which also have a higher amount of omega 3s and no antibiotics or hormones.
Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.
©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.
This crust is gluten free and delicious – and easy to make!
Directions to Make the Pizza Dough:
Suggested toppings: carmelized onions, arugula, tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, thinly sliced red peppers, slices green or black olives, and shredded goat or sheeps milk cheese.
I just watched the Showtime documentary Stop at Nothing the other night, this powerful film profiles Lance Armstrong’s obsession with winning, fame, and power.
Watching that film got me thinking about the one thing that all serious competitive athletes have in common is – they have a very powerful desire to win. In order to win, an athlete knows they need to set goals, train hard, and that means that they need to be able to push through pain and overcome adversity. Often they have to make sacrifices in other areas of their lives to truly commit to their chosen sport.
The better an athlete gets at their sport and the tougher the competition gets – the harder it gets to stay on top. I understand the immense pressure Lance Armstrong and other serious athletes are under to win.
Unfortunately, Lance chose to take the illegal and unethical path of using banned substances to gain an unfair edge. It eventually cost him everything – his Tour de France titles, all his lucrative contracts, and the respect of the world. His actions and choices led to disgrace. I hope one lesson that young athletes can learn from Lance’s mistakes, is that it is not worth compromising your character to win, and that trying to rely on the “quick fix” might come back to bite you in more ways than one. Because even some of the legal substances that athletes think will help them gain an edge can potentially lead to deficiencies in other areas of performance or recovery, and potentially even serious health trouble (ranging from dehydration to cramping and even organ dysfunction). Just because a product might make your muscles look bigger, does not mean that they are necessarily stronger, or will make you be able perform better.
The good news, is there are a number of natural and healthy ways for athletes to gain a competitive edge today. One area that all too often gets overlooked is the power of using foods to improve performance and recovery. And the cool thing about nutritional approaches? Beyond the performance & recovery benefits, they can also offer other health benefits ranging from disease prevention to brain function and balancing mood. The first step is simple –
Just get the junk out!
Realize that the majority of people (yes, even athletes too) are eating way too many processed foods and getting too much sugar (read about what happened to a man who ate 40 teaspoons of sugar a day in just 60 days – which is a little more than the average teenage boy gets). The more processed foods in your diet – the more energy the body has to expend on detoxification, the more bogged down the body will become, and the less energy you will have for your training. Processed diets are nutritionally deficient – and athletes need nutrients to perform and recover. Another thing that happens to the body when the diet has too much sugar or processed ingredients – inflammation. An athlete’s enemy, inflammation leads to swelling, pain, and can degrade performance, range of motion, flexibility, and recovery. Inflammation raises our risk of overuse injuries, asthma, and almost every major disease. Simply cleaning up the diet and staying properly hydrated, and getting more plant-based foods, high quality grass fed or organic proteins, and cutting out the junk – will give an athlete an edge over the competition.
Got a clean diet and ready to take it a step further? Check out these superfoods to see if they can help to take you and your performance to the next level.
5 Performance-Enhancing Superfoods:
Although not typically the first thing that comes to mind when talking about athletic performance, mushroom’s are one of nature’s most powerful superfoods – and could be an athlete’s secret weapon. Mushrooms are a type of fungi, or bacteria that can offer a wide range of health benefits ranging from immune-boosting to performance-enhancing effects. They have been used medicinally in Asia for thousands of years. Although you will get health benefits from adding a few button mushrooms into your omelette, for performance enhancement, athletes will want to look to medicinal-grade mushrooms like cordyceps, reishi, turkey tail, and lion’s mane. An ideal way to incorporate them into an athlete’s diet is with certified organic mushroom powders, which can be added to things like smoothies, soups and drinks. Interested in seeing how mushrooms can boost your performance?
A local company called Mushroom Matrix, offers organic mushroom powders, and have extended a 10% off coupon for me to share with you, enter: rebalancelife at checkout to get your 10% discount. Some Mushroom Matrix organic powders to try:
Make sure to choose organic when purchasing mushrooms or mushroom powders/supplements.
2. Beetroot juice or powders
Google beetjuice and performance, and you will find a plethora of articles touting the benefits – “beets are like legal blood-doping” and “like taking performance enhancing drugs.” At the Olympic training center in London – athletes were eschewing the brightly colored sports drinks and downing bright pink cocktails of beet juice, pineapple, ginger and orange juice instead. The benefits of beet juice come from their high content of nitrates, which are converted in the body into nitric oxide – which causes blood vessel dilation, and improves energy production and usage – which makes the body more efficient, and supports the heart to do it’s work. You can juice whole organic beets, or buy a beetroot powder. I recommend if you do incorporate beets/use a powder, to make sure it is non-GMO or organic. Add some spinach, chard and celery to your drink too – as they also are high in nitrates. One example of a organic beet powder to try is Superbeets organic beet powder, just 1 teaspoon is equivalent to eating 3 organic beets.
One thing to point out with beetjuice – it can change the color of your stool and urine. So don’t freak out the day after trying beet juice when your toilet water looks pink.
3. Chia seeds
From the book Born to Run: “In terms of nutritional content, a tablespoon of chia is like a smoothie made from salmon, spinach, and human growth hormone.” An ancient Aztec superfood, chia seeds may rival mushrooms as one of the oldest performance-enhancing foods. Chia seeds gave the ancient Aztec warriors the long-lasting energy and endurance they needed to go into battle. Chia seeds boost endurance, energy, hydration, focus/attention, and reduce inflammation. Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, and are also high in fiber, protein, and have a number of minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium – all important for athletes. Omega 3s are shown to lower inflammation – critical for recovery and injury prevention. Unlike flax, chia is rich in antioxidants, which means it will not go rancid after grinding, and helps to prevent free radical damage. Chia seed are uniquely hydrophillic, so when they come in contact with water, they form a gel-like substance. This chia gel slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, helping to level out bloodsugar and maintain energy/endurance. Chia gel also holds on to water, which helps to maintain hydration – very important for an athlete. Always make sure to consume chia seeds with plenty of water or liquids to prevent dehydration, I like to soak the chia seeds for about 5 minutes before consuming to ensure they are hydrated. Add chia seeds to your smoothie, or make chia pudding.
4. Virgin Coconut Oil
Medium chain fatty acids (MCTs) which are found in coconut oil have been known in the body building industry for a few decades as a superior form of fat. Medium chain fatty acids are more readily converted to energy by the body, so it is also less likely to be stored as fat. Coconut oil is more easily digested, so it is less likely to cause stomach upset than other fats. Taking coconut oil in the morning helps to train the body to use fat as fuel, instead of glucose. If an athlete can get their body out of sugar-burning mode – that can be a key advantage over the competition. I recommend adding a teaspoon or two of coconut oil to your morning smoothie, chia pudding, or oatmeal. A 1978 study also found that coconut oil increases the body’s production of hGH within 30-90 minutes of ingesting it. Coconut oil has some other key advantages – first, it is a m
5. Goji berries
Another ancient superfood with a rich history, the goji berry is a small red berry that has a slightly tart flavor. Also known as wolfberries, they can be eaten raw or made into a tea. Goji berries are known to naturally increase the body’s production of human growth hormone – which is known to improve performance and also has anti-aging effects.
Using nutrition is a healthy and ethical way for athletes to improve their performance, endurance, and recovery.
Note: although some foods can impact performance immediately, others will take longer to build up into the system – so allow up to 4 weeks of consistently taking them to reach the full benefit. Also, some people might notice a difference/benefit from adding superfoods, while others may not.
The other benefit of adding superfoods to your diet – is that they can offer many benefits beyond just performance and recovery enhancement – ranging from immune-boosting to disease-prevention.
A final word of advice to gain an edge? Don’t undervalue recovery. Like all things in nature, the body has a yin and yang, and in order to perform at your best – you need to be allowing your body the time to recover in order to perform at your best (read: The Yin and Yang of Sports Recovery and Are you Headed for Performance Burnout?).
Some links to studies/articles:
My son loves soup. You name it, he loves it. Chicken noodle, clam chowder, beef stew, lobster bisque, miso, lemon artichoke chicken, and even cream of broccoli soup. Sometimes we stop at Whole Foods for a snack, and more often than not he has – you guessed it – soup! The other day we were stopping in for a cup of soup when I saw it – broccoli cashew soup! Wow – what a cool idea, a dairy free cream soup made with cashews. We had a little taster, and both loved it. The lightbulbs started going off – oh the things I could make with cashew cream – cream of broccoli, clam chowder, alfredo…. I couldn’t wait to put my chef hat on, and give it a go myself. In fact, we had had broccoli with dinner the night before, and as I always do – I made extra, so I had some steamed broccoli already in the fridge. I grabbed some cashews, chicken stock (I love this new chicken bone broth from Pacific foods), and we were off. This is the delicious result!
Creamy Broccoli Soup:
Store any extra soup in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Want me to let you in on a little secret?
Word on the street is that Chick-Fil-A nuggets are injected with pickle juice! I know – crazy, huh?!
I can not confirm nor deny that Chick-Fil-A injects or marinates their nuggets in pickle juice – but I decided to see if it worked!! So I made up my own version of pickle-juice marinated chicken nuggets at home…and of course, they had to be gluten-free and boosted with superfoods too!!
They were a hit! So I thought I would share the recipe…
Chick-Fil-A Style Gluten Free Nuggets
*Avoid using any kind of pickle juice that contains artificial colors – I like Bubbies or other natural brind/fermented pickles. If you don’t have time for this step, you can skip it – just season the chicken or egg wash with a sprinkle of Himalayan salt.
Enjoy with some organic ketchup, BBQ sauce, or this:
Quick n’ Easy Honey Mustard Sauce:
Stir all together, taste & adjust. Serve with chicken nuggets.
Wanting a yummy superfood boosted mac n cheese to go along with this recipe? This free Cooking with Superfoods eBook has a gluten-free mac n’ cheese recipe that is loaded with butternut squash and boosted with nutritional yeast!
If you ever catch yourself about to say, “it has been a while since the kids have been to the doctor.” Or ” We haven’t been sick in a while.” Stop yourself, just resist the urge. Because the minute you do, someone will get sick. Murphy’s Law.
‘This week it happened to us – both my kids got that nasty upper respiratory thing. One is still home sick – on day three now. So in addition to the Olive leaf, Elderberry, Vitamin C, and zinc (read more tips for Cold and Flu prevention here)- it was time to pull out the serious medicine – and make s big pot of Homemade Healing (gluten free) Chicken Noodle soup! My son is a big fan of soup – so there was nothing he would like better on any given day, especially when he is sick.
Sara’s Mexican Style Chicken Soup
If you have never made chicken soup at home before – do not worry, it is really easy – I promise! I will walk you through it, and even give you two different flavor options: traditional chicken noodle, and Mexican style. Until we moved to San Diego, I had never even heard of Mexican style chicken soup. But now it is one of my favorites! So you can make one broth – and turn it into two soups!
First: Make your chicken broth.
If you want to make some Mexican style – while the broth is cooking, chop the following:
Store leftover broth in airtight container in the refrigerator (store the rice noodles in a separate container).
As seen on Fox 5 San Diego, on June 18.
Today’s families are so busy, finding the time to be healthy is not always easy! Add a picky eater into the mix, and it makes it even more complicated! These 8 tools can make being healthy more convenient, fun and easy. I think of tools like these as investments in my families’ health. And although you might not be able to invest in all of them at once, create a wish list and start to budget for the tools you will use the most.
I am a big proponent of getting kids into the kitchen whenever possible. Because if they make it, they will be more likely to eat it! One of my favorite recipes for kids to help with is homemade fish sticks. My daughter and I first made these together when she was 6 years old – and she did most of the work! I just cut the fish and got an assembly line all set up, and she got to work making all the fish sticks – which freed me up to make the dipping sauce (which she could have probably done too). She tends to be a bit of a picky eater – but these are one of her favorites, I think partly because she thinks about them as “her fish sticks,” and they are!
Our family recently went gluten-free, and so I decided to try to re-create this family favorite with popchips in place of the breadcrumbs – and they were even better than the original recipe! The fish sticks turned out so great, that I decided to try to make a few different recipes with popchips! I like popchips because they are popped not fried, gluten free, all natural, and they come in lots of yummy flavors – great for these 3 delicious, fast & easy recipes!
popchips Fish Sticks
Note: These fish sticks are good brain & mood food because they contain chia seed, which is a SUPERFOOD. Chia seeds are high in minerals, protein, fiber and ALA omega 3s – which help boost:
*If you can not find ground chia seeds, you may replace it with flax meal, or just omit it from the recipe.
popchips Coconut Shrimp
Serve plain or with a Sweet Thai Chili dipping sauce; also great over a bed of baby greens with thinly sliced red onion, mango chunks, and a fresh lime dressing.
Sweet Thai Chili Dipping Sauce:
Directions: Put all ingredients into a small saucepan, heat on medium high until just boiling, then reduce heat to low and simmer stirring occasionally for a couple of minutes. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool slightly while preparing/cooking shrimp.
My daughter is not a big fan of coconut, so I decided to try one more flavor…
popchips Parmesan Garlic Popcorn Shrimp
Serve plain or with the dipping sauce recipe for the fish sticks (above).
Eggplant Parmesan & Roasted Tomato Stacks – Great for Meatless Monday!
This is a lighter take on Eggplant Parmesan – requires no breading or frying. Because there is no breading, this is gluten free, and since you don’t fry it, it has fewer calories and less fat.
It is fun to make, so get the kids involved!
Garnish with a spring of basil and additional Parmesan and marinara if desired.
This recipe is a delicious vegetarian meal. Are you one of the millions of Americans going meatless one day a week? “Anyone can do it, and it doesn’t require major sacrifice. Even if you eat a typical American diet replete with processed, junk and fast food the other six days of the week, going meatless on Mondays will still cut your carbon footprint, improve your health and reduce demand for factory-farm meat.” -Mark Bittman for More Magazine.
Fall is here, and alongside the colorful leaves are a variety of colorful squash. Butternut squash is rich in fiber, vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins A & E. A wonderful food for baby, butternut squash also makes a delicious soup. Pears are also in season and make a wonderful first food for baby because they are less likely to cause an allergy, and are easy on the digestive system.
If you are planning to make a butternut squash & pear puree for baby, you are already halfway to making Butternut Squash & Pear soup – so the whole family can benefit from Fall’s bountiful harvest! Making homemade baby foods and soups are a snap with the Baby Bullet, it makes beautiful fruit & vegetable purees.
Making the same food for baby and the rest of the family saves time and money, and it also means that the whole family can benefit from the nutrients and enjoy a meal together. Eating together as a family has many benefits, read: The Importance of the Family Meal.
Butternut Squash, Ginger & Pear Soup
Rinse & pat dry the outside of your squash, slice it lengthwise and place it cut side down on a lined baking sheet. Put it into a preheated 400 degree oven. Peel, slice and core the pears, cut the onion into large chunks and toss in a little olive oil, set aside in a bowl.
After the butternut squash has been in the oven for about 20 minutes, pull it out and put the pear slices, the onion and the garlic on the baking sheet. Return the baking sheet to the oven. After about 25 minutes, check to see if the squash, pears and onions are fork-tender. Once they are fork-tender, pull the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes. Return anything that is not fork-tender to the oven to cook longer.
The whole family can sit down to dinner to enjoy butternut squash and pears together!
© copyright 2015 Sara Vance