be your own personal chef

Nutrition Navigation: Traveling for races

Welcome to back to my ongoing series: Nutrition Navigation. The idea behind the series is part of the vision behind the cookbook I am working on, that is, bridging nutritional knowledge/needs and great food. In this series, I will focus on specific training periods or training needs (like peak training or post-long run), on a specific nutrient (like Vitamin D) or a specific food (like Kale) and show you how that translates into real, healthy, gourmet meals. Often times that means I will provide a snapshot of a days worth of meals or a collection of ideas, recipes or methods. Have questions or want to see something specific covered. Email me with your special requests! Please note, I am NOT a registered dietitian and these views reflect only what have worked for me as a runner and personal chef.


One of the hardest things to navigate through for me as a special needs eater is traveling for races, especially internationally. After being careful and consistent through my training with my diet, it would be a shame to things go to the crapper, literally, before a race. After 3 years of being on the 100k National Team and traveling internationally for those races plus others (like NF100k) and numerous races all over the country, I have devised some strategies to make sure I go into the race feeling good, without stomach issues and also well fueled. 

  1. Pack your bags. Although most countries will not allow you to bring in fresh produce, meat, dairy, nuts or seeds, you can bring in things like gluten free granola, packets of peanut butter (I use individual Justin's Nut Butters), real food bars, gluten free pastas and breads.
  2. Find a grocery store. The first thing I do when I arrive somewhere is fine the closest health food store. In the states, this likely means a nearby Whole Foods but I managed to find one in Australia too. If you have a fridge in your hotel room, stock up on perishables you'll need (like Almond milk for your GF granola) and fresh produce. 
  3. Be boring. I am a foodie (obviously) but before a race, I am not trying to mess with anything new and so I stick to simple things (like salad) that I will know all the ingredients in. Often times I will go to a salad bar for multiple meals before a race (like they have at Whole Foods-with lots of options) and build my pre-race meal for that.
  4. Eat a big breakfast. If I bring my own granola or cereal plus nut butters, I can make a sizeable breakfast by adding fruit and eggs from the morning buffet at most hotels. I tend to eat a bigger breakfast when I am traveling because I am not certain there will always be food available to meet my needs while I am out and about.
  5. Stick to your plan. I have a normal prerace meal I like to eat and while on the road I work very hard to have the same thing: plain potatoes, salad and meat: either chicken or steak, but with no sauce or additions. If you need special accommodations for your pre-race meals, don't be afraid to ask. Most hotel restaurants should be able to make you something according to your needs or point you in the direction of a place that can. Call ahead and plan accordingly.
  6. Get enough. One of the things I struggle with the most while traveling is getting enough food. Often times, before a race when traveling I will be so concerned at not eating the wrong foods, that I don't eat enough or let myself get too hungry. Arm yourself with bars you can eat and pieces of fruit you can supplement with.
  7. Ethnic eats. Thai, sushi, mexican are some of my favorite types of cuisine. They also happen to be predominately gluten free or way more so than American/European cuisine. I seek out restaurants that are ethnic when I need a heartier option than salad. I try to aim for sitdown restaurants of these styles, skipping the processed and fast food style places. But that goes for all eats.
  8. Treat yourself, after the race. This one is two-fold. In the spirit of not doing anything different, it is smart not to add back anything new before the race. It also means saving yourself from potential stomach issues from trying the local delicacies or special treats. After the race, by all means- reward yourself with the local fare or special treats!
  9. Plan for the plane. I am not a fan of airplane food and I try my best to bring my own food for the plane. This is important on the way to a race (so you don't ingest something your body won't like/to stay properly fueled) and equally important on the return trip when you are likely to be radically more hungry.
  10. Ask the question. One thing I got over pretty quickly was the embarrassment of asking for special requests. Need soy milk? Ask for it. Wondering what options they have for a gluten intolerant? Inquire. For example, at our hotel in Leura in the Blue Mountains, Australia, they actually had gluten free bread on hand and all I needed to do was request it. I would have never know if I didn't ask.
What works for me:

I personally learn from examples. Even though I can understand a list (like above) or a set of instructions, often times I am able to synthesize it best by viewing an example. I thought for this series, I would include an example of what a typical travel day of meals looked like.

Breakfast: gluten free granola (from home) with soy milk, fruit and scrambled eggs from hotel buffet. Coffee with soy milk.

Lunch: salad and chicken from a local cafe. dressing on the side.

Dinner: thai food out. Got my favorite curry which has potatoes, coconut milk and chicken (though there ended up being about two bites of potato in this). Served with rice.


Snacks: fruit with peanut butter packet from home or a "long-black" and a artisan chocolate.


Be Your Own Personal Chef: Part II




Welcome back to my second new series: Be your own personal chef. Over the past few months, we have been taking a page out of my personal chef book and sitting down on Sundays to plan out our week's menu and shopping list for Monday-Friday. We pull all the recipes we are going to use (if we use any) and make a grocery list so we only have to shop once a week. This saves a huge amount of time AND money. We have committed to doing a meatless day once a week as well. In this series, I will share with you our weekly menu plan and any (actual) recipes we use! The idea behind this series is to give you some inspiration on how to be your own personal chef and get fired up in the kitchen. Be sure to check out my other series: Nutritional Navigator for more ideas!


While I am working on my next installment of Nutritional Navigator, I decided I should post up what we have been cooking and eating this week. This weeks menu had a lot of light fresh ingredients to celebrate spring and the nice warm weather. We also have committed to doing a meatless meal once a week and this week we actually had two because our dinner guest Thursday night was a long time vegetarian. I really enjoyed how light and fresh everything was. Great flavor combinations. We used a lot of recipes for inspiration this week but added our own spin.


Our weekday menu:
Monday: Asparagus Stir-Fry with Tofu, rice 
Tuesday: Very vegetably Spring Soup with Chorizo
Wednesday:Lamb Skewers (inspired by this recipe). Sweet Potato salad with preserved lemons and green olives. Eggplant with pomegranate molasses. 
Thursday: Indian Vegetable Curry with Tamarind and Chilies (from Everyday Greens). Saffron Rice.
Friday: Roast kale, onion, sweet potato and jalapeno. Seared and roasted bone-in chicken breast.
Other items: Homemade maple almond butter with chia seeds. Whole Wheat Coconut Pineapple Muffins (adapted from my gluten free coconut pineapple muffin recipe which will be in my future cookbook) for the Baker.





As I mentioned, we got a food processor and I am obsessed with making nut butters. I have become addicted to nut butters again but I don't think that is a bad thing. This maple almond butter with chia seeds tastes like graham crackers. It is amazing.


Homemade maple almond butter with chia seeds


Ingredients:
  • 2 cups almonds
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • pinch of salt
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss together almonds, maple syrup and chia seeds. Spread out on a sheet tray and roast for 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on the nuts, don't let them burn.

In a food processor, add the nuts and turn on. Let process for 3 minutes. Then with a spatula wipe down the sides and continue processing. Continue this process until the nuts release their oils and turn into a beautiful silky smooth butter. This takes a bit of patience but no fancy tricks. Once the nuts are a smooth butter add in the salt and process for 1 more minute. Store in a jar with a tight fitting lid. 

That's what we are cooking and eating. How about you? Do you do a meatless day?



Want to learn how to be your own personal chef? Check out my Culinary Coaching Services. Love the idea but don't have the time and energy? Check out my Personal Chef Services.

Be Your Own Personal Chef: Part I

Welcome to my second new series: Be your own personal chef. Over the past few months, we have been taking a page out of my personal chef book and sitting down on Sundays to plan out our week's menu and shopping list for Monday-Friday. We pull all the recipes we are going to use (if we use any) and make a grocery list so we only have to shop once a week. This saves a huge amount of time AND money. We have committed to doing a meatless day once a week as well. In this series, I will share with you our weekly menu plan and any (actual) recipes we use! The idea behind this series is to give you some inspiration on how to be your own personal chef and get fired up in the kitchen. Be sure to check out my other series: Nutritional Navigator for more ideas!


My first installment of Nutritional Navigator guided you through a typical taper week. Thankfully, that means this week is a recovery week from my big race this past Sunday. After months of hard training, an unsuccessful first attempt at qualifying for the Olympic Trials and success at last, this weeks menu reflects some well deserved celebration and not training typical meals for me (stay tuned for an upcoming blog on my great bread experiment). We wrote this menu after my race and ironically enough, I was craving pretty normal healthy foods instead of anything wild and crazy. I have had some weird cravings in my life, but after Sunday I was just craving the comfort of the familiar with a few exceptions.


Our weekday menu:
Monday: Tequila-spiked slow cooked chicken
Tuesday: Dinner out at Bar Tartine
Wednesday: Shrimp tacos. Shrimp marinated in chili powder and lime. Roasted sweet potatoes, onions and garlic with ancho powder. Fresh cabbage slaw with jalapenos. Primavera tortillas
Thursday: Vegetarian pizza. Fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce, hot peppers, mushrooms, onions and garlic (meatless meal).
Friday: Homemade lamb sausages. Lemon roasted potatoes. Braised chard.
Other items: Homemade chocolate hazelnut cashew butter ("nutella"). Homemade Banana "Nutella" Muffins. (Recipe below)


We just got a food processor and my absolute favorite thing to make is nut butter. I wanted an excuse to try out creative nut butter recipes and what better way than to make homemade nutella. I didn't have enough hazelnuts on hand to just do hazelnuts so I mixed it up by adding some cashews.


Homemade chocolate hazelnut cashew butter

  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup melted chocolate
Directions:
In a food processor, add the nuts and turn on. Let process for 3 minutes. Then with a spatula wipe down the sides and continue processing. Continue this process until the nuts release their oils and turn into a beautiful silky smooth butter. This takes a bit of patience but no fancy tricks. Once the nuts are a smooth butter add in the melted chocolate and process for 1 more minute. Store in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

Banana Nutella Muffins
  • 2 cups GF flour mix (see below)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup homemade "nutella"
  • extra banana slices for topping
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place paper liners into muffin tins (12). 
Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl or standing mixer. In the food processor, combine the ripe bananas with other wet ingredients, except nutella and process into a smooth paste. Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add in nutella and stir until incorporated.

Pour batter evenly into muffin cups and top with banana slices. Bake for 26-28 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and store in a tupperware container. Enjoy with more homemade "nutella".

GF flour mix:
  • 1 cup tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
  • 1cup potato starch
  • 1cup buckwheat flour
  • 1cup sorghum flour
  • 1 cup coconut flour
Combine all flours in a large container with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously to combine. Store in the freezer.

Note: These muffins were my first attempt at the recipe. They were good as is but the recipe still needs a bit of tweaking.

That's what we are cooking and eating. How about you? What was your favorite meal you made this week?



Want to learn how to be your own personal chef? Check out my Culinary Coaching Services. Love the idea but don't have the time and energy? Check out my Personal Chef Services.