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Two Healthy Habits for Endurance Athletes

By Marni Sumbal

Two strategies that I find very effective for a healthy balance in athletes and fitness enthusiasts are:

  1. Rearrange your plate with similar foods, emphasizing nutrient-dense options
  2. Assess before you act

For the first point — you will see my recipe below which could be titled either "rice bowl with veggies" or, for more nutritional value and nutrient density, "veggie bowl with rice." I find this very effective for individuals who struggle with portions, have trouble making healthy changes in the diet (to be long-lasting) or struggle with giving up (or eliminating) favorite foods. This makes it much easier to make slow, gradual changes by introducing more healthful items (like veggies) but not completely give-up some of your favorites.

As we all know, habits can be changed. Learning new behaviors doesn't happen quickly so by making a few swaps you may find yourself gravitating to a new style of eating. I also find this a fantastic tip for all those who have considered an off-limit food list to change body composition. When working with athletes I coach, we say no food is off-limits but we always address how that food makes us feel and how it helps us reach our goals, which leads me to my second point.

This is for those who struggle with second portions, deciding what to have for a meal or snack or struggling with cravings for that after-meal/mid-day sugary treat. This one is simple to suggest but often a struggle at first to implement. Before every meal or snack, ask yourself how that food will make you feel when you eat. You should strive to feel better after you eat than before you started. I find this very useful for individuals who eat a meal but always need that extra something after a meal. I certainly find nothing wrong with a nice small piece of dark chocolate but for those who always have ice cream after dinner or can't stop after one bowl of cereal or 2 pieces of bread, just ask yourself: "How will this food make me feel when I am done?"

Like I said it sounds very simple but this can make the difference of eating 1/2 cookie and feeling very satisfied with your small portion of a treat after dinner versus having 2 cups of ice cream with chocolate syrup, granola and a few berries on top.

I hope you enjoy my latest creation. It is inspired by the rice bowl at Moe’s Southwest Grill. If these vegetables are not your favorite, feel free to swap in veggies that you enjoy most.

veggie bowlVeggie Bowl with Rice

  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Green peas
  • Leeks
  • Fresh basil
  • Red bell pepper
  • Green bell pepper
  • Tofu
  • Olive oil
  • Curry powder
  • Nutty dip
  • Wild Rice — cook according to package/box/bag (if seasoning is in separate bag, I recommend using 1/4 of the seasoning rather than the entire package)
  1. In large skillet on low-medium heat, cover bottom of pan with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil.
  2. Add veggies (recommend to steam corn, peas and broccoli for 1:30 in microwave) and tofu and stir occasionally.
  3. When tofu begins to turn golden brown, add sliced leeks (you can use chives or onion) and basil (chopped).
  4. Turn off heat when mixture is soft (around 12-18 minutes depending on heat) and add 1-2 Tbsp nutty dip and stir gently.
  5. Cover and let sit for 1-2 minutes.
  6. In large bowl, add 1 serving of rice (recommend 1/3 - 1/2 cup wild rice to start) to your veggie mixture. Mix and enjoy!

Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. She is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, Ironman finisher and an Oakley Women ambassador, and she has contributed articles to a number of triathlon organizations, such as Lava Magazine, Triathlete Magazine, IronGirl.com and Beginnertriathlete.com. To contact Marni, email trimarnicoaching@gmail.com, visit trimarni.blogspot.com or become a fan of TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition on Facebook.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.

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