Category Archives: health

Salad Towers: Salmon, Squash, Seeds & Sesame Toppers

My brain and your eyes could probably take a break from all this incessant MCM talk. Today’s a mind-taper day, and a reminder that there’s another big aspect of training – well, life, in general – that has gone mostly unmentioned here. THE EATS.

Working from home allows for more flexibility with meals. If I were in the office, you’d still see a lot of pumped-up salads, they just wouldn’t be plated quite so nicely. And they wouldn’t be consumed in the backyard sunshine – my way of supplementing lunch with some Vitamin D. I choose a salad for lunch because it ensures a huge vegetable serving, is completely versatile for flavors and toppers, and gives me a high volume of healthy foods.

WIN, Win.

Let’s walk through a basic salad construction….

I don’t consume meat or poultry, but protein is always part of the salad equation here. I opt for one or more of the following: fish (usually leftover from the night before – baked/grilled), pumpkin seeds, chopped nuts, hard-boiled egg and/or avocado.

You don’t have to have “greens” to make it a salad, but I usually do. I buy the organic mixed greens from Trader Joe’s and may mix in some raw kale, arugula and/or spinach for extra nutrients. Then I pile on the rainbow! My goal is to have at least 3 colors in my salad, which may come from peppers, onion, carrots, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, dried/fresh fruits, avocado and/or leftover roasted veggies from last night’s dinner.

At the end, I go for a little flavor with a “dressing” of sorts. I never do a store-bought dressing, nor do I take the time to mix anything together. I keep it simple: fresh lemon squeeze, drizzle of EVOO or a drizzle of Sesame oil.

Here are a few salad towers I’ve created lately:

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The season hasn’t changed much here in California, but the display at Trader Joe’s suggests it may officially be fall. And therefore we have squash.

Tower toppers: leftover roasted salmon (seasoned with chili powder), roasted kabocha squash (seasoned with cumin, salt/pepper), chopped cucumbers, red peppers and carrots, sunflower seeds. Dressing: sesame oil.

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If there’s only one thing you takeaway from this post: you cannot have too much avocado on your salad.

Toppers: tomatoes (still farm-fresh at the farmer’s market!), cucumbers, avocado, red pepper and sunflower seeds. Dressing: lemon squeeze, salt & pepper.

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I like to have my salads with a side of brain-puzzle, too.

Toppers: baked Mahi Mahi (seasoned with dried green chile powder), chopped carrots, cucumber and pistachios. Dressing: drizzle of EVOO.


What are some of your go-to weekday lunches?

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Filed under health, Nutrition, recipes, training

Eating in Moderation: Timely holiday thoughts from Seth Godin & Malcolm Gladwell

One brownie makes you happy, a second brownie, maybe a little more. The third brownie doesn’t make us happy at all, and the fourth brownie makes us sick.”

Seth Godin, “The Moderation Glitch

Malcolm Gladwell describes this in his new book, David & Goliath, as the “inverted U”. “For a while, more input gets you more results, but then, inevitably, things level off, and then, perversely, get worse.” – SG


The holiday seasons now sound like a broken-record in my head; every year I’m writing and reading list after list of “how to” survive, prevent weight gain, stick with the workout routine, etc. Healthy holiday eating tips can easily be found EVERYWHERE – magazines, blogs, podcasts, radio and TV shows, social media, etc. They’re rarely novel, yet consumers bookmark, dog-ear and save them for calling upon when motivation is low and dessert consumption is far past the point of content.


Image source.

“Moderation is a marketing problem.”  –SG

What I’ve learned:
No one wants to hear “everything in moderation”.

They may want you to authorize the “eat whatever you want just exercise a LOT!” plan, or a strict list of what NOT to eat, or maybe an exact meal plan, calorie count, shopping list, and perhaps while we’re at it, a personal at-home chef to make sure that healthy cooking gets done. I certainly don’t blame anyone for wanting any or all of the above – remove the guesswork of nutrition, the time spent deciphering all of the research and tips, and voila! We dine happy. Right?

Well, no, it’s never that easy.

But it IS simple: Eat in moderation*.
Enjoy food while you’re eating it. Move on, and go move.**

*Turn off the mental debates of this nutrient over that one; stop calculating how many calories in each bite, and put away the scale. Use a plate isn’t the size of a medium pizza, fill it with a variety of foods (and colors), and dine slowly so that your stomach can do its job and let you know when its full.

**Use your muscles to do something that motivates you, challenges you, or just gets you out the door for some fresh air! It doesn’t matter what that activity is; it’s important that you enjoy doing it, and you both want and make it part of your routine.

awesome …there is this exception. #truth


“If the data shows us that in so many things, moderation is a better approach than endless linearity, why does our culture keep pushing us to ignore this?

…This is the wine drinker who goes from the health benefits of a daily glass of wine to the health detriments of a daily bottle or two. This is the runner who goes from the benefits of five miles a day to knees that no longer work because he overdid it.

Habits are the other half of the glitch. We learn a habit when it pays off for us, but we’re hardwired to keep doing the habit, even after it doesn’t.”  – SG


What You Do Every Day

I use this quote over and over for a reason – if you take this into account EVERY DAY, it will matter.  (And clearly because I love it. So well put, Gretchen!) The way we eat, drink and/or workout (or don’t) for one holiday matters much less than how we do all of the above every day before and after the celebrations. The approach we take towards our health on a daily basis matters more than the approach we take towards the holiday dinner buffet.

Habits, and goals, matter. They drive decisions, mental chatter, and eventually, outcomes.  Think about yours, and keep them in mind.

Make yourself proud

Because honestly, that’s what will matter at the end of the day: how you feel.


HAPPY Holiday season!

I hope you’re enjoying the time with family, friends, seasonal tunes and your  traditional favorites!


Filed under food, health, motivation, Nutrition

Calorie Conversations II: Weighty Issues on Food Quality

In a long over-due follow-up to the first conversation we had around Calories, this post takes a bigger bite out of the energy in = out argument, and the “healthy living guidelines” that have left us in the same place for too long . There’s more to the equation…


The recently hyped and debuted HBO special The Weight of the Nation combines the knowledge and campaign efforts of the three major public-health institutions in the United States: Institute of Medicine (IOM), Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Sunday night, my Mom and I watched the end of the third installment and then backtracked  to see the beginning of part I.

Weight of the Nation HBO obesityinamericamap CDC

I didn’t learn anything new; they aren’t telling us things we haven’t heard 100 times already*. They preached on:

For weight maintenance energy in {should} = energy out
One calorie here = one calorie there, whether it’s fat, sugar or protein
Exercise more, sit less. We need to
Overweight & obesity lead to chronic health conditions, significantly raising an individual’s risk of heart disease, Type II Diabetes, etc.

Obesity is a health epidemic.

*Disclaimer: I haven’t watched all 4 parts beginning to end; my judgment is premature premature, but based off of what I’ve seen thus far.

We know all of this, right?

If all things were as simple as scientists want them to be, we wouldn’t be thousands of pounds and billions of healthcare dollars deep into this crisis. The answer won’t be found in one simple math equation, and the problems won’t be solved by any one government or non-profit agency. The weight of our nation won’t change from food taxes or nationwide recommendations or government mandates.

It’s hopeful that the national scale will budge, as the four-sided boulder that HBO has created with these three agencies begins to roll.

An individual can only change when they’re ready. I do believe in the power of education in any media, but this essential step is only a catalyst, not a solution. It’s only effective when we know the whole story, not the bits & pieces that are supposed to ring true for “everyone”.

So, what’s not being said loud enough? What’s missing from the energy equation, exercise recommendations and nutrition guidelines?

In an interesting complement to the HBO series, Newsweek’s cover recently featured an infant holding French Fries, quoting “When I Grow Up, I’m Going to Weigh 300 Pounds. Help!”

NewsweekLogo-1 [Converted]

This article uncovers history and stats that we don’t see plastered over any diet book, dietary recommendation or physical activity suggestion. It intelligently looks past the basics, and dishes out some advice that challenges what science tells us to be true.

Not all calories are created equal. We metabolize forms of sugar differently; our bodies need protein and fat for different processes; set-points vary by individual, based on factors such as activity level, age, genetics, etc.

I don’t believe that an exact balance of calories in and calories out is the solution to weight maintenance. It hinges on what those calories are made up of, and what our body has been trained to do with them.

To paraphrase a section of Gary Taubes’ Newsweek  featured article:

“Glucose is metabolized by virtually every cell in the body, the fructose (also found in fruit, but in much lower concentrations) is metabolized mostly by liver cells…some of the fructose is converted into fat, the fat accumulates in the liver cells, which become resistant to the action of insulin, which is the hallmark of type 2 diabetes. The steady accumulation of fat in our tissue – a few tens of calories worth per day, leading to pounds per year, and obesity over the course of a few decades.”

In short, our body recognizes foods high in processed/added sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, etc. differently. Consuming 100 calories of fruit vs. a 100 calorie processed “snack bar” won’t result in the same digestive processes. The same is very likely true for other processed nutrients – hydrogenated oils, some saturated fats, etc.

Of course we shouldn’t be eating thousands of calories of fruit each day (I’m not sure your digestive tract could handle that fiber intake), nor should every calorie of soda (or candy, snack bars, etc.) be replaced with natural sugars – there is some level of energy balance to think about. But the take-away is that even when you are consuming the amount of calories you need, it does matter what foods you’re choosing. We have to start thinking outside of the numbers.

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Think about (i.e. read ) what is on that ingredient list, and why you’re eating something out of a box, wrapper or can. Is there a better choice available?

Think about what any and every food is doing for you, aside from satisfying a hunger pain. There is always room for an indulgence (or two) – dark chocolate, I heart you – but with health-conscious consumers on the rise, even those can be short on ingredients and high in quality nutrients.


With another three other parts to the Weight of the Nation series, we have a lot to talk about! The productions are well done and engaging; there’s no doubt that these will strike a note with people. But as always, there’s more to the story.

{Any requests for Calorie Conversations, III ?}

Let’s hear it – what do you think about the quality of calories vs. just a number to add or subtract?

Are you watching Weight of the Nation ?


Filed under about me, Dietitians, food, health, Nutrition