Koslo's Nutrition Solutions

Friday, October 29, 2010

The born again cook and the vegan black bean brownie experiment

Now that I have been a doctor for almost a month and finished with school, I am starting to remember and rediscover some of the fun things I used to do. One of my goals now that I don’t have to work like a crazy person all of the time doing rewrites and research while working, is to cook my dinners on the stove – yes the stove – instead of just microwaving everything. The other is to rekindle my creative cooking spirit by experimenting with recipes. When I lived in Fort Collins, CO I cooked from scratch and regularly made all sorts of vegan and vegetarian delights from soups and ratatouille to muffins and quick breads.

To start on my goal, I did my first cooking experiment last Saturday. I literally had this recipe saved to my computer desktop for almost a year and finally had the time to make it. I must say I was a bit intimated by the sound of it: vegan black bean brownies. I found the recipe online from The Happy Herbivore and adapted it to create my own version. In my version the brownies are higher in protein and lower in sugar and could be used in place of an energy bar for a pre- or post-workout snack or anytime you want something healthy.

Since I am easing myself back into cooking I still took some shortcuts. I would have had to stand on a ladder to get my food processor down off of the kitchen shelf so I opted to put everything in my Vita-Mix. Second, I didn’t want to deal with the “do this first, do this next”, so I mixed all of the ingredients together at once and it worked out just fine. Then the last short cut I took involved using a different baking pan than the traditional 8 x 8 pan. I mean who wants to mess with cutting up a pan of brownies into somewhat equal squares? I used a muffin tin – I know – who would have thought? I even used muffin papers and it made things very easy and the bottoms didn’t even stick to the paper.

• 2 scoops soy protein powder (optional)
• 2 medium bananas
• 15 oz organic canned black beans
• 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa for baking
• 1/4 cup granular Splenda
• 1/2 tbsp cinnamon, ground
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/4 cup oat bran (or regular oats)
• 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 8x8" pan and set aside (or use muffin tins and paper). Drain and rinse the beans to remove excess salt. Combine all ingredients, except oats, in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth, scrapping sides as needed. Stir in the oats and pour batter into the pan. Bake approx 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before slicing. If you find these brownies are too soft or too fudgy, add another 1/4 cup oats or flour.

Note: I was trying to fill the whole muffin tray (i.e 12 muffins) but there wasn’t quite enough batter so I made 11. They turned out pretty small so next time I think I will aim for 9.

Nutrition Facts – based on 9 servings using the soy protein powder. The number in parentheses is without the protein powder and you will see the only difference is in the calories and protein, both of which are slightly lower.

Serving: 1 brownie
Calories: 124 (100)
Fat: 1 g
Carbohydrates: 22 g (21 g)
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 9 g (4 g)

And the taste? They turned out really good with a nice chocolate flavor and consistency. I couldn’t even tell that there were beans in them. Next time I think I will omit the cinnamon as it was a bit overpowering. This was fun! Stay tuned for more easy, healthy recipes and go get baking!

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Nutrition for pilates and yoga

Now that I am finished with my PhD I have time to go out and enjoy life more, and to that end I took my first pilates class on Saturday. Since I am getting older and want to continue running and cycling for many years, I thought it would be a good addition to my weekly workout routine. I looked up the benefits of pilates and found them to include: the ability to build strength and endurance by building lean muscles due to the emphasis placed on repetition; the ability to increase the strength and size of stabilizer muscles; the benefit of a mind-body workout; injury prevention by balancing the muscles in the body; and the development of strength in the core muscles. I enjoyed the workout and found it to be more challenging than I expected.

Being the dietitian that I am, my thoughts naturally turned to nutrition for pilates and similar practices such as yoga. What should you eat to fuel your pilates/yoga workout? I did some research and found that there are two common problems that generally distract people from finding their inner calm: gas and a not-quite-right feeling in your stomach that interferes with concentration. Bear in mind that pilates and yoga do not burn as many calories as aerobic activities so the fueling focus should be on ensuring that you have adequate energy for your workout without making your stomach too full or gassy.

In pilates there is a fair amount of emphasis on working the abdominal muscles, while in yoga certain positions place pressure on the abdomen at the same time you are to be relaxing. Also in yoga you are sometimes in an inverted position which can result in gas production. And everyone passes gas, both as burping and as flatulence. Each person produces about ¾ liter of different gases in their intestinal tracts daily. Flatulence results from fermentation or the chemical breakdown of substances in food by bacteria that live in your colon. Many factors affect this production so here are some practical solutions to curb excess gas production:
• Limit your lactose intake. Lactose is the milk sugar in dairy products and many people are unable to completely digest it.
• Avoid large amounts of the sugar alcohols sorbitol and mannitol. Read ingredient lists as these alcohols are used to sweeten sugar-free gums and candies and when ingested are fermented by colon bacteria.
• Eat small meals especially if your diet consists of high fiber foods like beans and broccoli. By consuming gas-forming foods in smaller amounts you will produce less gas throughout the day.
• Consider adding a probiotic to your daily regimen to help regulate your digestive system.

Now what about focus? If you want to achieve a clear, relaxed mind then you might want to avoid or limit the amount of caffeine you have before a class. Likewise with energy drinks – plain water should be your drink and enough to ensure you are adequately hydrated.

Eating for yoga and pilates requires a careful balance of the right foods at the right time. Eating too much before class and you will feel heavy, gassy, and have trouble concentrating. Eating too little may result in stomach grumbling and light headedness which will also distract you from your calm.

So what is the bottom line? Focus on small meals of high quality fresh foods and plenty of water for hydration. If your class is first thing in the morning try a piece of whole wheat toast with apple butter. If your class is in the evening have a snack in the middle of the afternoon that is high in complex carbohydrates, has a small amount of lean protein, and a small amount of good fat. Try apple slices with almond butter, a slice of whole wheat bread with a few slices of lean turkey meat, egg whites, or hummus, or try a string cheese and a few carrots. Smoothies make great pre- and post-workout snacks too and the options are limitless. Just include some protein (hemp, whey, soy, rice), some fruit, nut butters, oats, etc. Vary the types and amounts of ingredients based on the time of your workout and your individual digestive system.

Keep these tips in mind and next time you do pilates or yoga you should truly find your inner calm.

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