Decoding the Processed Side of Clean Eating

You hear me talk about eating clean and avoiding processed foods, foods altered by people but then I go and make a recipe with milk… so what gives? I’m going to break down the reality of processed foods and how it relates to a clean eating lifestyle. Processed foods have been altered from their natural state for safety reasons and for convenience. The methods used for processing foods include canning, freezing, refrigeration, dehydration and aseptic processing.

We tend to think of processed foods as bad, but it turns out that many processed foods are not unhealthy. For example, milk would be considered a processed food because it is pasteurized to kill bacteria and homogenized to keep fats from separating. While some people prefer to drink raw milk, most of us should consume the “processed” version we find in our grocery stores.

Another healthy example of food processing is frozen vegetables. While fresh may be best, freezing vegetables preserves vitamins and minerals and makes them convenient to cook and eat all year around. Fruit and vegetable juice is also an example of a healthy processed food. In fact, some orange juice is fortified with calcium to make it even more nutritious.

Of course, there are a lot of processed foods that aren’t good for you. Many processed foods are made with trans fats, saturated fats, and large amounts of sodium and sugar. These types of foods should be avoided, or at least eaten sparingly.

Processed foods that may not be as healthy as fresh foods include:

  • Canned foods with lots of sodium
  • White breads and pastas made with refined white flour, which are not as healthy as those made with whole grains
  • Packaged high-calorie snack foods, like chips and cheese snacks
  • High-fat convenience foods, like cans of pasta
  • Frozen fish sticks and frozen dinners
  • Packaged cakes and cookies
  • Boxed meal mixes
  • Sugary breakfast cereals

These processed foods and prepackaged meals are very convenient and popular. If you do shop for these foods, be sure to look for products that are made with whole grains, low in sodium and calories, and free of trans fats. Make sure you pay attention to serving size, too, and balance out the processed foods you eat with a delicious fresh salad and some whole grain bread.

Read the Label – Additives to Avoid
You are what you eat, even when you don’t know you are eating it!  Your food label needs to become your roadmap for grocery shopping.  After a few trips, a little practice and some helpful tips you’ll be well on your way to knowing what to avoid! Here is a list of some of the most harmful and common additives that are in the average American’s diet.

Natural Flavors
Natural Flavors are naturally occuring substances approved for use by the FDA. These substances could contain flavors that come from allergy causing ingredients like nuts and wheat. If you are prone to food allergies this could be a big problem for you.

Chemical Mixtures
These are fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides that farmers spray their plants with the repel insects and weeds. Unfortunately they are not required to be listed on the ingredients of food. More often than not the residue from these chemicals remain on your food. Studies have linked these chemicals to cancer. You can avoid these toxins by washing your food with 1tsp of dish washing detergent with 4 liters of water or you can shop organic and avoid these chemicals all together.

Sodium Nitrate
Sodium Nitrite is a preservative that is found in processed meats such as Bacon, lunch meats, and other processed meats. The problem with Sodium Nitrate is that it can mix with other chemicals in the stomach to form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines have been linked to various types of cancer. You can avoid this by avoiding canned soups, frozen dinners, and buying fresh meats and nitrate free lunch meat.

High Fructose Corn Syrup
This ingredient is listed as High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Sweetener, Corn Syrup, or Corn Syrup Solids. It is found in frozen foods, sweets, breads, sauces, sodas, candy, ketchup, and countless other foods in the American diet.  HFCS is the grim reaper when it comes to your health. It brings with it a truckload of health problems including increasing your risk of diabetes , heart disease, and high cholesterol. It also can increase insulin resistance which can lead to obesity and a plethora of additional health problems. In fact High Fructose Corn Syrup tricks your brain into thinking it’s still hungry so it actually encourages over eating! Unlike other natural sources of Fructose like fruit HFCS has no additional vitamins or minerals. It has zero nutritional value. You should try to avoid foods that contain HFCS at all cost.

Artificial Colorings
You can find these ingredients under the names red #3, green #3, blue #2, and the list goes on. They are find in Candy, sodas, and other foods that seem to be unnaturally brightly colored. Studies have linked artificial food colorings to a host of health problems including cancer and thyroid problems. You should steer clear of artificially colored foods.

This additive is found in dairy products. rBGH is a growth hormone that is injected into cows to stimulate milk productions. After approving the use of rBGH in 1993, the FDA has turned a deaf ear to the pleas of consumers, food safety organizations and scientists to reverse its approval of the hormone, or to simply require labeling of foods containing rBGH. The milk in grocery stores often contains this hormone. rBGH has been tied to prostate, colon, and breast cancer. You should look for milk that does not contain rBGH or switch to organic milk.

Omega-6 fatty acid
This often appears on labels as Linoleic acid, sunflower, sesame, corn, and soybean oil. Many frozen and processed foods contain these oils. This oil is not harmful in small amounts, but unfortunately Americans consume on average 5 times to much of these acids. This excess intake can cause high Blood Pressure and heart disease. You can avoid this excess intake by avoiding processed foods and substituting Omega-6 intake with OMega-3 from foods like almonds and fish.

This can be found on food labels as Monosodium Glutamate, baking soda, or salt. It is found in almost every food we eat, but processed foods and meats contain large amounts of salt. Unfortunately most restaurants often use Sodium in excess to season their foods. Excess Sodium can cause High Blood Pressure and put undue strain on your heart. You can avoid high salt intake by cooking at home and using herbs instead of salt.

MSG(Monosodium Glutimate)
This might disguise itself as yeast extract, gelatin, textured proteins, sodium casseinate, and many other names. This is found in many frozen foods, chips, and fast food. It has been shown to trigger migraines and make you feel hungrier than you are. You should carefully read packages to make sure there is no MSG in them.

Trans Fat
Usually this additive is listed under the name partially hydrogenated oil. It is found in many baked goods we find on our shelves. It is also in margarine. Even though a food claims to have 0 trans fats that might not be true because a company is not required to list the trans fat content if it contains under .5 grams. So you must read the ingredient list on the label.

Read a few labels on your next shopping trip and look for fewer ingredients and ones with names you can pronounce!  The more wholesome the better! 

Additional Sources:

Cooking Clean Challenge

Last week, while hearing Jim lament some of his nutrition challenges and comment on his ambitious marathon goals for May I decided that I would issue him (and myself) the ultimate challenge.  Make the average guy undergo a nutrition make-over to get more clean, lean, and mean before May 1st.  My approach to clean eating is pretty straightforward.  You have to make it work for yourself, but everyone needs help to get started and support on the journey, so once a week Jim and I are going to be getting together so I can cook and we can chat about how to eat cleaner but still packs a flavorful punch for this fast food frequent flier.  What better way to kick it off than with some clean sweet and sour chicken (no take-out here) and chocolate raspberry cupcakes?
Check out the video of the experience and the recipes are listed below.  Try this alternative to takeout the next time you have a craving for Chinese food or rich chocolate goodness!

Check out the recipes for everything we made tonight!

Sweet and Sour Chicken
This healthy and vastly reduced sodium alternative to Chinese takeout is flavorful and filling.  With or without rice (or in this case Quinoa) you can enjoy all the tastes of the Orient without the high sodium, fried meat, and unhealthy sauces. 
Serves: 6
Hands-on time: 20 minutes.
Total time: 1 hour.

  • 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp agave nectar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breasts), chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 fresh pineapple, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 12 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, agave nectar, garlic, ginger and pepper flakes. Place chicken in a large shallow dish. Pour soy sauce mixture over chicken, tossing gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and marinade and sauté for 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Add bell pepper and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until vegetables are slightly tender. Add pineapple and cook for 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately over rice for a complete meal, if desired.
  3. Prepare quinoa according to package directions.  Generally takes about 12 minutes. 

Nutrients per serving (1 1/4 cups chicken mixture; not including rice): Calories: 161, Total Fat: 1.5 g, Sat. Fat 0.25 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.25 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5 g, Carbs: 17 g, Fiber: 2 g, Sugars: 13 g, Protein: 21 g, Sodium: 404 mg, Cholesterol: 48 mg

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

These sneakily healthy cupcakes are about 80 calories a piece and pack a vitamin fortified punch with the pureed spinach and blueberries, whole raspberries, and Greek yogurt.  They will give you energy, satisfy your chocolate craving and keep you clean and calorically in check.  They are also kid approved!  🙂
Serves: Makes: 12 cupcakes. Hands-on time: n/a Total time: n/a

  • IMAG0086 1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup Sucanat, divided
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup organic Greek Yogurt
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tsp skim milk, divided
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 TBSP – 1/4 cup pureed spinach and blueberry mix
  • 1 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus more for garnish if desired
  • 1/3 cup frozen organic raspberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cocoa powder, 1 cup Sucanat, flour, salt and baking soda.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together sour cream, 1/3 cup milk, oil, vanilla spinach and blueberry puree and egg white. 
  4. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. Combine everything with a rubber spatula.
  5. Add egg whites to a large clean, dry mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip whites with hand beater or whisk attachment of stand mixer until they begin to get foamy. Add remaining 1/4 cup Sucanat very gradually to whites. Continue whipping whites into medium-stiff peaks. 
  6. Fold whites in thirds into cake batter, gently but assertively with rubber spatula. 
  7. Add raspberries and gently mix.
  8. Fill each of the 12 cupcake liners 3/4-full with batter. Tap bottom of filled muffin pan on countertop and transfer immediately IMAG0096to oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  9. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool completely. 
  10. When cupcakes are completely cool, combine chocolate and remaining 2 tsp milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds. Stir until melted chocolate is completely smooth. Spread a thin layer on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle additional chocolate shavings, a chocolate piece,or a fresh strawberry or raspberry on top, if desired.

Half Marathon

Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain. But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.

caseandmeafterSaturday is long running day.  It has been for a long time.  I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about today with excitement.  Long run days are days where you lace up your shoes hit the pavement, the trail, the track, and even the treadmill and you log the lonely miles that exist between you and race day or even just until the next run.  They hurt sometimes.  I’ve lost toenails, found bloody socks when I’ve taken off my shoes, and taken more than a few ice baths in my day.  They are long runs, hard runs, runs that put your body to the test.  Lately, I’ve been doing my long runs with Casey, and you may remember her – I mention her often and she has her story in my blog.  She’s my best friend and her racing name is Novocain… for a reason.  She overcomes the pain again and again, not relenting to it and it drives her to go further than any person should have been able to in a few short months. 

Today we ran a half marathon distance long run.  It wasn’t a race, I didn’t put on a bib or have water passed to me every few miles to give me a few sips of relief.  There wasn’t a start line where everyone lined up with nervous, excited energy and waited for the delicious sound of a gun going off or a finish line with cheers and applause.  We just ran… long smooth strides, turning often to the tune of 106 laps to accomplish the distance.  There were words of encouragement from gym friends, smiles from those we passed, and a few minor walls to conquer from start to finish.  There was no fanfare, snow fell silently outside the large glass windows as we ran, the minutes passing as we talked and the miles fell away behind us.  When we crossed our last lap, at a sprint, nothing happened, there was no fireworks or cartwheels.  The power was in the look we exchanged; a quiet glory in what was accomplished and a smile, a hug to acknowledge the moment we just shared. 

I ran a half marathon today with my best friend.   It was a quiet two hours in the late afternoon on the track… just 106 laps between friends.  

The Fitness Tech Podcast #16: The Trek, a Frozen Burrito Race, Ultra Runner Jason Jaksetic and Fat Fast Food!

itunes picOn a blustery Friday night I joined Jim and Jamie to talk nutrition, the recent races, a new ultra-marathoner friend, and an upcoming challenge I’ve issued for Jim.  We were live on uStream recording #16 for the Fitness Tech Podcast.  If you want to know when the podcast is live, follow Jim on Twitter at  If you want to contact us here at the show, email us at

We spent some time talking about the Groundhog Race in Kansas City on January 31st.  If you missed the audio and video content we did that day, it’s still available right here.  We also talked about the up coming Trek up the Tower and the 1st Annual Frozen Burrito Race in Neligh, Nebraska.  Jim will do some live podcasting from both events.  What here for more details as the events get closer.

As many of you saw last week, I shared a blog post from Ultra running athlete Jason Jaksetic and his old school “Rocky” training style.   We talked about both the physical and mental aspects of endurance training and what it takes to get an event like a 100 mile race done.  We are hoping to have Jason with us on a future show and talk about his races, his training, and what inspires him.

Jamie and I then grilled Jim on his eating habits and gave him some suggestions on how to fix it.  We once again looked at my earlier blog about fast food and how to manage the consumer traps at your favorite fast food joints.  I also issued a challenge for Jim to make some minor changes to his diet and show is progress here on the blog.  Game On! 

The podcast has had some tremendous growth in the last two weeks.  Thanks listeners for making this adventure fun and successful!  We included some awesome outtakes…make sure you listen all the way thru the podcast.

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Intro and Exit Music from “Motion” by Adelaide.  Hear more great tunes at

Fast Facts About Fast Food

“The journey of a thousand pounds begins with a single burger.”
Chris O’Brien

You get off work and you’re tired.  You pick up the kids and sitting in traffic you come to the conclusion that you don’t want to make dinner and the kids are screaming in the back seat that they are “STARVING”.  Looking at your watch you realize it’s nearing dinner time and you aren’t even sure what’s in your fridge at home to make.  Up ahead on the next corner the golden arches appear… what do you do?
Before you stop and order something take a look at what you are getting yourself into and what you can do to take control and keep it healthy.

The negatives of a Fast Food Culture

High Calories
Fast food, as is no surprise to anyone contains significant calories and the density of those foods is misleading to the body. Fried foods actually contain twice the calories than before they were fried. If you compare a typical fast food meal with other same-sized meals that contain a more healthy balance of food groups, you’ll find that the fast food is much denser than the alternative. Some fast food combinations can provide almost 100 percent of an adult’s recommended daily caloric intake with just one meal. By eating a Big Mac and fries, the body consumes almost twice as many calories as you would if you ate the same weight of pasta and salad. I blogged about high glycemic foods… this is what I’m talking about!  The glycemic response of taking in these many calories is treacherous to the body’s fat stores and the muscles abilities to try to absorb quality calories.

Many fast food choices contain harmful fats that negatively affect the body. From fatty meats to fried food, fast food is full of trans fat that has been linked to coronary heart disease, strokes, obesity, liver damage and even cancer. Although the scientific evidence is not conclusive, high levels of trans fat consumption have been linked to diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, erectile dysfunction, and infertility.

A fast food meal delivers plenty of unhealthy ingredients to the body, but it’s also important to realize what a fast food meal isn’t belly_fat_providing. Most fast food doesn’t contain any healthy ingredients like fiber, vitamins or minerals. Instead, processed food contains too much salt, sugar, artificial additives and preservatives. Replacing a healthy meal with a fast food meal deprives the body of essential nutrients that are a key part of a healthy, well-functioning body.

Oversized Portions
Clever marketing campaigns continually try to influence what kind of fast food to purchase and in what quantities. The acceptable  meal sizes and portions that an adult should consume are ignored when it comes to fast food. Restaurants sell meals that are beyond average size, and then they give the customer the option for even bigger meal combinations. People get a false sense of an appropriate portion size, and they ingest even more unhealthy fast food in order to feel full.

The documentary “Supersize Me” introduced America to some of the pitfalls and dangers of eating fast food on a regular basis.  Here are some of the statistics determined. 

  • Each day, 1 in 4 Americans visits a fast food restaurant
  • In 1972, we spent 3 billion a year on fast food – today we spend more than $110 billion
  • McDonald’s feeds more than 46 million people a day – more than the entire population of Spain
  • French fries are the most eaten vegetable in America
  • You would have to walk for seven hours straight to burn off a Super Sized Coke, fry and Big Mac
  • In the U.S., we eat more than 1,000,000 animals an hour
  • 60 percent of all Americans are either overweight or obese
  • One in every three children born in the year 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime
  • Left unabated, obesity will surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in America
  • Obesity has been linked to: Hypertension, Coronary Heart Disease, Adult Onset Diabetes, Stroke, Gall Bladder Disease, Osteoarthritis, Sleep Apnea, Respiratory Problems, Endometrial, Breast, Prostate and Colon Cancers, Dyslipidemia, steatohepatitis, insulin resistance, breathlessness, Asthma, Hyperuricaemia, reproductive hormone abnormalities, polycystic ovarian syndrome, impaired fertility and lower back pain.
  • Only seven items on McDonald’s entire menu contain no sugar
  • Diabetes will cut 17-27 years off your life
  • The World Health Organization has declared obesity a global epidemic
  • Surgeon General David Satcher: “Fast food is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic”
  • Most nutritionists recommend not eating fast food more than once a month
  • 40 percent of American meals are eaten outside the home
  • McDonald’s represents 43% of total U.S. fast food market

There is hope!  Even McDonald’s is cleaning up their act.  According to this article from lists these top ten restaurants represent the best out there when it comes to fast food!  Surprise, surprise, McDonald’s cracked the top ten and is making great strides in healthy food options for consumers!

panera_logo #1 Panera Bread
Over 1,230 locations nationwide (and in Canada) This bakery-cafe-based eatery wowed our judges with a comprehensive menu of healthy choices for every meal.
Look for: Delicious, nutrient-packed combos like a half–Turkey Artichoke on focaccia bread with a bowl of black bean or garden vegetable soup. Danger zone: Sticky buns and cheese danishes are on display at the counter.

jasons500 #2 Jason’s Deli 206 locations in the West, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South About one-fifth of all its ingredients are organic, from blue-corn tortilla chips and whole-wheat wraps to field greens and spinach. Plus, its creative salads—like the Nutty Mixed-Up Salad with organic field greens, grapes, chicken breast, feta cheese, walnuts, dried cranberries, pumpkinseeds, raisins, and organic apples—make you actually want to order the greens. Look for: Being able to build any sandwich on an organic whole-wheat wrap. Danger zone: High-sodium counts on some sandwiches; if sodium is a concern, stick to the ultrahealthy choices.

2992259528_a23f94d501 #3 Au Bon Pain 280 locations nationwide A pioneer in healthy fast food, Au Bon Pain serves up sandwiches, soups, salads, and hot entrees made with whole grains, veggies, and hormone-free chicken. Look For: Yummy low-cal soups, from Jamaican Black Bean to Fire Roasted Exotic Grains and Vegetables. Danger zone: The sodium counts can get high if you don’t pay attention.

noodles-company-full-logo #4 Noodles and Company 204 locations in West, Midwest, South Here, you choose from three food types: Asian, Mediterranean, or American, then within each style, pick from four noodle bowl options. Lean proteins—hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken, beef, shrimp, and organic tofu—can be added, too. Look for: The whole-grain linguine—usually hard to find when eating out. Danger zone: The desserts. The only options are two kinds of cookies and a Rice Krispy Treat bar that checks in at 530 calories and 19 grams of fat!

ss_CornerBakeryCafe #5 Corner Bakery Cafe 111 locations in West, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South What sets Corner Bakery apart? A fantastic breakfast menu, which is rare in the quick-serve world. But Corner Bakery also has healthy salads, sandwiches, and soups made with whole grains, fresh, lean meats, and vegetables, as well as great portion-controlled combinations that make limiting calories a no-brainer. Look for: Healthy oven-roasted chicken that comes on most pastas and salads. Danger zone: You have to go to their Web site to get nutritional info.

chipotle_logo_original #6 Chipotle 800+ locations nationwide Buffet-style Chipotle gives every customer complete control over her burrito, taco, or salad.  And you get to build it with fresh, local ingredients. In fact, Chipolte won high marks for its commitment to organics, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, and produce sourced from local suppliers, which is revolutionary in a chain this big. Many of its entrees can be low-sodium, if you choose add-ins such as the fajita veggies and green tomatillo salsa. Look for: Burrito Bowls, which let you skip the tortilla—and the extra carbs. Danger zone: The dark side of a buffet is that you can go wild. So you have to go light on cheese and sour cream.

atlbread.0305 #7 Atlanta Bread 106 locations in 24 states (Southeast, West, and North) This innovative bakery also features whole-grain bread, fresh sandwiches (including paninis), and hearty, healthy soups and salads. It earned high marks for great sides, too, including fire-roasted black bean and corn salad. Look for: The entree salads like Salsa Fresca Salmon Salad: grilled wild Alaskan salmon filet on greens with fire-roasted black bean and corn salsa and a pineapple-mango vinaigrette. Danger zone: Pasta entrees at some locations are offered with bread … that’s a whole lotta carbs!

mcdonalds #8 McDonald’s 14,000 locations nationwide Admittedly, I was hard on the fast food chain – and with good reason but among the big burger-based chains, McDonald’s is leading the way in overhauling its menu to offer more heart- and waist-friendly fare. Take the Happy Meals, which you can order with a side of apple dippers (with low-fat caramel) instead of fries and low-fat milk or fruit juice instead of soda. (Now the trick is just getting your kid to go for them!) And if you’ve gotta have fries, McDonald’s are made in a healthy canola-blend oil and come in at just 230 calories for a small. The Grilled Chicken Classic sandwich and wraps are healthy choices, too (just skip the mayo or sauce). So is the salad with Paul Newman low-fat balsamic vinaigrette. Registered dietician Moore notes that an Egg McMuffin, at 300 calories, is a smart alternative to other “calorie-laden biscuit breakfasts.” And our whole panel commends McDonald’s for spelling out the nutritional information right on the back of its tray liners. Look for: The chain’s 260- to 270-calorie Snack Wraps (choose grilled chicken) for protein without a lot of unwanted carbs. Danger zone: Although McDonald’s made our list, this is still the land of supersizing and giant sodas. It’s up to you to request a small or even a kids meal size portion.

einstein-brother-bagels #9 Einstein Bros. Bagels 649 locations nationwide Einstein Bros. offers healthier alternatives like reduced-fat shmears, hummus, and peanut butter—a great way to add healthy fat to breakfast (or lunch). It also serves a Good Grains bagel that has an impressive 4 grams of fiber. In the mood for a salad? You can order any in a half-size. For kids, try the bagel dog (picture a Pig-in-a-Blanket with bagel-style bread as the “blanket”) and a fruit salad upgrade. Look for: The high-fiber Veg Out on a sesame seed bagel. Danger zone: “Overstuffed” size sandwiches are a calorie nightmare.

tacodelmar #10 Taco Del Mar 270 locations in 22 states You may have noticed that Baja-style Mexican cuisine—think: fresh ingredients and fish instead of beef and chicken—is a growing trend. Whole grains are easy to get here, with whole-wheat tortillas available as an alternative in burritos. The chain gets high marks for its new 320-calorie chicken burrito, available at most locations.
Look for: The 460- to 555-calorie Mondito-size burrito, which fills you up but keeps fat and sodium in check. Danger zone: The breakfasts. In particular, steer clear of the Mondo Breakfast Burritos, which are more than 1,000 calories.
So, even if you have to eat out there are options to keep you healthy and even clean!

Dear Diary…

gym So a lot of people ask me about my social life as a working, training, coaching, single mother.  My job consumes a lot of my daylight (and late night) hours, my training routine is pretty rigid, and I obviously am with my daughters a lot so that leaves about three seconds a day to have a real life.  During racing season that intensifies.  On the weekends I don’t have my girls I usually am racing and coaching and so I go to bed early so I can get up early. TRANSLATION: I don’t find myself out socially very often these days choosing training over going out and while I realize how lame that makes me it’s what I do and it makes me pretty happy all things considered.  People often shake their head and roll their eyes when I talk about it, so I have a new answer I even took for a test drive tonight. 

My friend called me tonight from L.A. and asked me how I was and of course I launched into all my training and events (which to most people is ridiculously boring) and to her credit she listened patiently and then waited a beat before asking, “So do you have any non-working out things going on?  Like, maybe a social life?”  I stammered for several moments awkwardly dancing around the question trying to figure out exactly how to answer her and I finally just said, “Yes, I DO.  I am in a pretty serious relationship actually…his name is Gym.” 

Ah… my Gym.  I get chills thinking about it.  My Gym really is perfect for me.  And while I’m being honest and not to brag or anything, but it’s a pretty committed relationship and we both know it.  He doesn’t have weird quirks or commitment issues – he’s always there for me waiting with open arms, (er doors) and he let’s me call the shots, which I kinda like.  He’s patient and let’s be honest… on the physical front – he really makes me sweat.  We see each other almost every day, sometimes for several hours at a time or even more than once and even if show up to see him in a bad mood I always leave feeling refreshed even if I am exhausted.  I’ve even driven through snowstorms and freezing cold temperatures just to get to him and it’s always worth it.  We spend weekends and most holidays together.  My parents have even met him.  (They think he’s great too.)  I get to wear whatever I want – even sweats – and he doesn’t care.  And I don’t ever do my hair or put on make-up to see him. (Secretly, I think he kind of prefers me that way).  He’s met a lot of my friends, in fact we all hang out together and he’s really good to them too. 

If I am being totally honest, It’s not perfect.  There are sometimes I don’t want to see him or when I get to him I’m just not all that excited about it but I never regret it and when I leave he always makes me smile.   It never gets boring either, we make sure of that. No two days together are ever the same.  If I drive by his place and I’m too busy to stop it makes me sad and sometimes I dream of him at night.  I can’t imagine my life without him.  He makes me so happy.  So, diary, I think… no…I know… I’m in love…with my Gym…


More Clean Comfort Food! Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs with Pesto

casserole For virtually everyone across the country right now, you are snowed in, iced over, or just downright cold… it’s been a rough couple of days with the weather. NORMALLY, I would have just womaned up and gotten out my shovel calling it an excuse for more cardio and strength training, but 8 – 10 inches of fresh powder and drifts up to 3 feet facing me on my massive driveway made that a pipe dream.  So, last night I sat warm and cozy in my kitchen sipping hot tea with lemon watching the snow flew past my windows (a friend of mine was snow blowing my driveway and walkways)  I contemplated what every person must in a moment like this… carb loading.  And I digressed rapidly into a spiral of carb fantasies from which I won’t quickly or easily recover.

My running partner doesn’t know it yet, but we are running a half marathon distance for our long run this week and so I let my mind wander about all the possibilities of the carbs I’d get to eat in preparation.  It’s not an out-an-out glut fest, mind you, but I do get to increase my carbs in my later meals a couple days before the long run and it could, quite possibly, be one of my favorite parts of racing season; well outside the racing part.  Let me put it in perspective.  I love to cook and what Playboy is to men, Clean Eating Magazine is to me… It’s like crack on Christmas when I think about all the delicious possibilities that come in clean carbohydrate form… I rarely follow the recipe as is, and often times I change it on the fly but it is a great place for me to find some really great foods.
So, on a dark, cold, snowy night like last night all I could think about is one thing…baked spaghetti and meatballs.

Baked Spaghetti and Meatballs

Serves 6: Enough for my girls and I to have it twice!  You can take liberties with several ingredients too switching it up each time or keeping it classic.

Olive oil spray
1/2 pound whole wheat pasta noodles (you don’t have to use spaghetti noodles… my girls like to pick out different kinds each time like elbow macaroni, fettuccini, angel hair.  I have found some great gluten free pastas here for those of you with those concerns)
2 cloves of garlic pressed
2 TBSP Olive oil
1 ounce of Parmigianino cheese, finely grated, (I have used mozzarella in a pinch)
1/3 cup organic tofu (or cottage cheese)
6 ounces of lean ground turkey or chicken (note: chicken breast strips work well in this recipe too! Or for the vegetarians out thee you can leave this step out entirely!)
1 TBSP wheat germ (substitute with gluten free bread crumbs or omit to keep gluten free)
1 TBSP milk (almond milk works well here too)
2 1/2 cups roasted tomatoes
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 handful baby spinach

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Lightly mist a large casserole dish with organic olive oil spray; and set aside.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. drain rinse and then set aside.
In a food processor combine garlic, spinach, and basil until finely chopped.  Add half of the cheese and the olive oil.  Remove 1 TBSP of the blend and set aside in a medium bowl.  Add tofu to the mixture and process until smooth.

Add turkey, wheat germ and milk to the bowl with the basil mixture and mix gently until well blended.  Form mixture into small balls (about 24 total).  Heat a skillet over medium/high heat.  Mist with nonstick spray and add turkey balls until browned – about two minutes.  Add tomatoes to the skillet reduce heat to medium and simmer until meatballs are cooked through – about 8 minutes. I sometimes add a bit more garlic with the tomatoes at this point as well. 

Spoon 1/4 cup tomato-meatball mixture into bottom or casserole dish.  Toss spaghetti with remainder of the mixture and transfer half to the casserole dish.  Dot tops of noodles in the dish with half of basil mixture.  Cover with remaining spaghetti mixture and dot top layer with remaining basil mixture and sprinkle with the remainder of the cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven until bubbling – about ten minutes. 

Remove foil and bake an additional ten minutes.  Let set for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Information using whole wheat spaghetti pasta, tofu, and ground hamburger.  Different ingredients will alter the nutrition.

Serving size: 6 ounce servings
Calories: 254
Carbs: 34
Fat: 8
Fiber: 6