Food for Thought

Thinking-Out-Loud2

 

A few articles recently got me thinking about food in our culture. I’ve been reading Mark Bittman’s columns in the New York Times for awhile, and he focuses on bringing the focus back to real food. Many of his suggestions for improving the food ‘industry’ are great. But the Times publishes articles on eating ‘this’ and not ‘that’ all the time, and the Wall Street Journal is just as guilty, reporting on research that we should restrict the time during which we eat – until, of course, the next piece of advice rolls around or the government changes its mind again. And these, for a New Yorker, are some of the most reputable publications we look to for news. Don’t even get me started on all the ‘diet tips’ and ‘secrets to weight loss’ that appear on the cover of every girlie magazine around!

One of the many downsides to this constant focus on how we treat food, instead of on just eating food, is that everyone begins to feel like it’s completely acceptable to comment constantly on the eating habits of other people (or even worse, to act like an amateur nutritionist dispensing advice that may or may not hurt the recipient). I get so many comments from acquaintances, ranging from shock if they’re with me at a post-run brunch at the volume of food my sturdy 5′ self can consume, to lectures on eating more when I just have a cup of tea or small glass of wine while out (because they don’t know that I’ve already eaten my fill, or simply am not hungry, and somehow don’t understand my routine of eating when I’m hungry, even if it’s at weird times!). I’m motivated to spread the word that this whole commenting on what other people are eating thing is not okay, unless the comment is (a) how delicious it looks, (b) ‘can I have the recipe?’ or (c) a question about my allergies (which some people hate, but I don’t mind, because some of mine are weird and most people have never met someone allergic to oranges, so I consider it a learning experience). But otherwise, my mantra is live and let live.

Even though I’ve moved past letting those comments affect my behavior, I still think they have a bad effect on promoting distorted body image and eating habits, especially among the young. I used to read those lists of ‘Top 10 Foods to Avoid’ or whatever they’re titling them these days, and suddenly decide that I had to cut out salmon, or something else completely ridiculous, and feel guilty if I slipped up. I’d try to copy ‘guilt-free’ recipes and in the process I didn’t just retain the guilt, I lost the joy in food. Now, I basically ignore everything I see and hear that purports to be advice on food, because the best advice, it turns out, is listening to your own body (and your doctor, of course!) I’m eating way more than ever before as I ramp up my running and add in new workouts, making sure to fuel and refuel properly. Between that and the fact that I need to eat every couple of hours to feel alert and focused, what I eat on a daily basis (showcased in my WIAW) tends to be mostly whole, unprocessed foods (with some ice cream and my own homemade baked treats, of course!) in pretty large quantities – I can put away a LOT of fruit and yogurt! And it suits me just fine.

 

2% Greek yogurt with peanut butter, blueberries, and a crumbled Caramel Apple Cinnamuffin - YUM

2% Greek yogurt with peanut butter, blueberries, and a crumbled Caramel Apple Cinnamuffin – YUM

 

But I didn’t just decide to share my own eating habits as a snapshot of my own life – I want to make it part of my effort to show the world that food means something different to everyone, and that no one should have to deal with other people commenting on what they eat, or feel ‘guilty’ at any time. There are some inspiring reads out there from other bloggers on this same topic, and I’ve linked a few of them here: Better Than Sprinkles on ‘Guilt-Free’, the Pickyrunner Food Story, and focusing on food itself at Running With Spoons. It’s wonderful to know that others out there have the same goal, and it’s my fervent hope that change is possible!

 

 

 

 

This is my Thinking Out Loud Thursday – I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you ever get frustrated when others comment on your food choices? Do you think we’ve all become a bit too food-obsessed?

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

 

Welcome to WIAW!

So now that I’ve been at this blogging thing for a few months, I’ve learned a lot more about the whole universe of writers out there sharing their thoughts and lives. It’s provided me with so much inspiration, and made me feel like part of another community, which is awesome. In the spirit of many of my favorites, I’ve decided to post a ‘What I Ate Wednesday’ on the first Wednesday of every month. This definitely makes me feel like I’m more integrated into the blogging community, but it’s also important to me because while I post many of my recipes here, what I eat on a daily basis obviously includes so much more – and I think it’s totally possible to eat for both health and happiness! Part of my growing love for cooking is experimenting with new foods, and figuring out ways around my allergies when trying different dishes. But there are some standbys I can’t live without (apples, Greek yogurt, eggs, baby carrots) that you’ll probably see in every future WIAW post. So without further ado, this is a little look at how I lived and ate yesterday!

 

Two muffins to start the morning

Two muffins to start the morning

Pre-run breakfast: A good little cautionary tale is how I ran my first half marathon last year without eating beforehand and taking in about 5 sips of water, then basically threw a temper tantrum when my parents and I went to JG Melon for brunch about an hour after finishing and there was a wait to be seated, so was taken to the diner up the street and not only ordered like an impatient kindergartner, but ate a plate of sweet potato fries bigger than my face and was promptly sick. Sad face. I’ve realized that anything more than a 10k for me requires a little fuel in the tank. I hate gels and goo, and I’m allergic to many bars, but I can stomach one of my little muffins, a perfect mix of protein and carbs. This time, it was two Banana-Maple-Oat Muffins.

 

 

Rudi's GF spinach wrap with white Cheddar, turkey, and scrambled eggs

Rudi’s GF spinach wrap with white Cheddar, turkey, and scrambled eggs

Post-run brunch: My schedule is a little strange because I’m a law student – I have class in odd blocks of time and fit running, reading, working at my internship, blogging, and other daily activities around those hours. So on Tuesdays, for example, I end up eating lots of little meals and snacks. I had a wrap with turkey, eggs, and Cheddar cheese with some cucumber slices, with a chaser of cottage cheese with some blueberries, for a post-run refuel before I headed to school. Oh, and about two bottles of water and a cup of coffee to rehydrate. (I hydrate more than pretty much anyone else I know, but hey, whatever works!) 

 

School and internship snacks: I had class from 11am-3pm, so I had a yogurt with GF apple cinnamon cereal, a Braeburn apple, and another muffin. Then, I was at my internship from 3:30-6pm, and I had a bag of baby carrots and one of those little to-go packs of hummus, along with a second yogurt. Honestly, my snacks are pretty repetitive – they have to be small and sturdy enough to throw in my backpack, and it’s hard to bring more than one thing that needs an ice pack. I’ve started freezing yogurts and using those as the ice for other foods if I want to bring a real lunch, but then I have to wait for them to thaw to eat them, which is sort of unpredictable! I also drank about four bottles of water and a bottle of Propel.

2% Greek yogurt with apple cinnamon O's

2% Greek yogurt with apple cinnamon O’s

I poked that little hole in the top of the muffin to pack in some peanut butter before wrapping it up to take along!

I poked that little hole in the top of the muffin to pack in some peanut butter before wrapping it up to take along!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bowl of Veggie Quinoa 'Pagodas' with chicken, cheese and more veggies

A bowl of Veggie Quinoa ‘Pagodas’ with chicken, cheese and more veggies

Dinner: I was home early enough to whip up a home-cooked meal, so I went for one of my big bowls. I just bought a box of Ancient Harvest quinoa pasta on sale and tried it for the first time as a base – it was pretty good. I never really ate a lot of pasta as a kid, except for mac and cheese, because I didn’t like tomatoes or tomato sauce (luckily I’ve reformed!) and I’m allergic to pesto. But I’m starting to try it more often. I topped it with chopped grilled chicken breast, the 365 brand of mirepoix (basically peas, carrots, corn, and green beans) and a bunch of Parmesan cheese. With another bottle or two of water, of course.

 

 

My peanut butter cup sundae with sprinkles

My peanut butter cup sundae with sprinkles

 

Dessert: I love ice cream, even in winter, so as my own way of telling the snow it was time to go away, I made myself a little sundae – peanut butter cup ice cream with a little extra peanut butter and some chocolate chips, plus my favorite allergy-free rainbow sprinkles tossed in for good measure. I also had another apple, Pink Lady this time. And a cup of apple cinnamon spice decaf tea.

 

 

 

 

I really like salted rice cakes as a delivery vehicle for PB + J - something about that sweet n' salty combo!

I really like salted rice cakes as a delivery vehicle for PB + J – something about that sweet n’ salty combo!

Evening snack: some rice cakes with peanut butter and raspberry jam. Nothing fancy! And, admittedly, yet another apple. Empire, if you’re wondering. I’ll be perfectly honest, I eat far more apples than the one a day your doctor recommends – easily two or three a day in fall and winter. It’s a little less in the warmer months, when peaches and berries are in season and added to the mix, but even then, apples are just so easy to grab and go, or to slice up and enjoy with a little peanut butter. They go well with both sweet and savory foods, and to be totally honest, I don’t feel like I’m done with meals without finishing off an apple at the end sometimes.

 

 

 

So there you have it! 6 ‘eating times’ in a day, with food in a variety of shapes and sizes. I pretty much eat within the 8am-to-8pm range, so it’s every couple of hours. And I enjoy every bite!

 

So I refill that water bottle about 10x a day...and altogether this gets me through 24 hours!

So I refill that water bottle about 10x a day…and altogether this gets me through 24 hours!

 

 

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

Running Disney: Fueling Me Gluten-Free

Whether fueling up for the race to come, or tucking in to a celebratory feast, food is essential for the health and happiness of all runners (and really, all humans)! As a gluten-free runner with several other allergies, I’m used to making my own pre-race meals so there’s no risk of illness or allergic reaction before I even toe the starting line. But lucky for me, Disney is so wonderful with allergies, I didn’t need to worry during my Walt Disney World Half Marathon trip. First, Disney sent me lists of gluten-free and nut-free foods available at certain restaurants in the parks and hotels prior to my trip so I could peruse and plan. Then, when I made each dining reservation, there was a place to note any allergies to give the chef a heads up. And each eating experience over the course of my trip far surpassed my expectations.

 

Gluten-free Udi's dinner roll with salted butter

Gluten-free Udi’s dinner roll with salted butter

For a pre-race dinner on Friday night, my family and I arrived at The Wave of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort the early side because of the timing of the race the next morning, but since many other runners had the same idea, the dining room was already bustling! Because there were allergies noted on our reservation, the chef came over to speak with our table and she let me know which menu items were appropriate. I chose the seasonal sustainable grilled fish, a swordfish with roasted potatoes, onions, and butternut squash – a delicious dish. An extra perk was the basket of gluten-free rolls sent out along with the regular rolls. Usually, I kick back while family and friends indulge in the carby precursor to dinner, but having my own rolls on which to slather the sea-salted butter was great! Though warm, they were a bit crumbly, but just having the option was unusual and wonderful.

 

 

Gluten-free Mickey waffles

Gluten-free Mickey waffles

After the half marathon, I wolfed down a banana and a bottle of water, then headed back to my hotel with my family to shower and get ready for a celebration brunch. We were staying at an Epcot-area resort, convenient for both the finish line of the race and for eating at the Captain’s Grille at the Yacht Club Resort. Just like the prior evening, the chef came over to our table. He would have been happy to walk me through the breakfast buffet options, but I was sold the minute he mentioned gluten-free Mickey waffles! I ordered those with scrambled eggs and fruit on the side. Served warm with maple syrup and powdered sugar, this was easily the culinary highlight of my trip because I got to eat one of my favorite childhood comfort foods and feel like a kid again while basking in the glow of my recently run 13.1!

 

Gardens Kiosk

Gardens Kiosk

 

That wasn’t the end of the fantastic food. Dining in the Disney parks was just as allergy-friendly. Eating lunch one afternoon in the Animal Kingdom at Restaurantosaurus, the waitress at the counter had the manager come out to take our party’s order. The manager brought a binder that was full of substitute foods for all sorts of allergies, from Amy’s macaroni and cheese to Tofutti ice cream. I had a simple grilled chicken and cheese sandwich on a gluten-free bun with apple slices as a side instead of fries. I was too full for dessert, but I was tempted when we walked by the Gardens Kiosk, a special allergy-free dessert booth with a variety of Enjoy Life, Babycakes, and Lundberg Farms treats.

 

 

 

Gluten-free grilled chicken sandwich and apple slices

Gluten-free grilled chicken sandwich and apple slices

I’m not a big fan of Mexican food, but my family is. For dinner at La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion, the chef kindly made me a plate of simple grilled mahi mahi and vegetables and a side of gluten-free white corn tortillas. If you’re gluten-free, this would actually be a great choice overall, as most menu items with the exception of flour tortillas were already GF, including the tortilla chips and all the sauces. I’m a bit more limited because the orange and avocado allergies obviously cut out guacamole, but for someone who is just gluten-free and loves Mexican food, I’d recommend either here or the sister Cantina and San Angel Inn.

 

 

Candy cane ice cream with rainbow sprinkles

Candy cane ice cream with rainbow sprinkles

I was completely spoiled for choice with desserts. I had cherry vanilla ice cream at Beaches and Cream at the Beach Club resort, and candy cane ice cream at the soda fountain at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel. At the Main Street Confectionery in the Magic Kingdom and Seashore Sweets on the Boardwalk, I even found Minnie’s Bakery Rice Krispies Treats that were certified gluten-free! (They did contain milk and soy, as the ears were covered in milk chocolate. I asked one of the chefs at dinner one evening to confirm that the sprinkles and jimmies used at Disney were gluten-free.)

 

 

 

 

Roasted salmon and asparagus with cherry tomatoes and cauliflower puree

Roasted salmon and asparagus with cherry tomatoes and cauliflower puree

My family ate several meals at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel and at Downtown Disney restaurants. Todd English’s Bluezoo, Fulton’s Crab House, and Wolfgang Puck were all wonderful options for a seafood lover like myself. All the waitstaff were extremely friendly and asked about allergies when we were first seated. The shrimp and warm mixed greens, roasted salmon, and sautéed corvina with brussels sprouts I had at each establishment were all melt-in-your-mouth delicious. However, I was a bit surprised that none of them offered any gluten-free grain substitutes (even though they’re all on Disney property, they are not operated by Disney, and so they do not carry the same items). I was completely fine with it, since I usually don’t eat any grains or baked goods that I haven’t made myself, but something to consider if you, like me, found it a special treat on a race-cation to be so catered to!

 

Admittedly, there were some calorie- and wallet-bombs for the unsuspecting...

Admittedly, there were some calorie- and wallet-bombs for the unsuspecting…

To sum up, fueling for a run at Disney on a gluten-free, nut-free, orange-free, and avocado-free diet was easy and fun. The chefs and other staff at all Disney restaurants, whether ice cream stands, counter-service luncheonettes at the parks, or signature dining rooms at the resorts, were friendly and accommodating. I was amazed at the sheer variety of substitute foods and menu alterations available, even coming from Manhattan. Of course, the prices for food at Disney are high, but one great surprise was that those substitutions did not cost a penny extra, whereas in Manhattan, asking for gluten-free toast instead of rye will set you back an extra dollar or two, and vegetables instead of fries up to $5! And those prices were actually comparable to Manhattan eateries for the most part (a gut-wrenching thought to those of us who reside there, and a warning shock to anyone from more reasonable America). Some people think of Disney as a turkey leg, chocolate fudge brownie sundae, healthy athlete’s nightmare, but I found instead that it was simply a place where they would make any guest anything they wanted – as in the rest of life, it was up to you how you wanted to eat and treat your body!

 

 

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© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.