Each January, we commit to getting healthy and fit. Then winter doldrums set in and we set our deeply-felt resolutions aside and curl up under a blanket on the sofa.
The spring comes and with it a renewed commitment to be our best (or perhaps it’s simply the deeply-held dread of taking off our layers and revealing what we have wrought over the winter months). For whatever reason, getting fit and spring go together like love and marriage.
As you move from inactive to active, your nutrition needs change. As you work out, you break down muscle that needs to be re-built to grow and make you big and strong. So you need good quality complex carbohydrates to fuel your workouts and plenty of plant-based protein to re-build the tissue you break down and generate new muscle.
Here are some of my favorite pre and post workout dishes. I rely on them to keep me strong for a strenuous session and to help my sore and weary muscles recover after a good butt-kicking!
Everyone loves hummus, rich, creamy, decadent. This version, made from fresh soybeans, is light, protein-packed and satisfying with the extra bang of omega-3 for speedier muscle recovery.
Makes 3-4 servings
2 cups shelled edamame
1 ½ tablespoons sesame tahini
2 teaspoons fresh ginger juice
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon sea salt
Generous pinch cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh flatleaf parsley
Bring a pot of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Boil edamame for 5 minutes. Drain well and cool to room temperature.
In a food processor, combine cooked edamame, tahini, ginger juice, 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice and puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and fold in parsley.
Power Berry Smoothie
There are smoothies and then there’s this smoothie. Sweet, creamy, dairy-free and rich in antioxidants from the berries, this smoothie is loaded with omega-3 essential fatty acids making it as good for you as it is yummy. Cool, huh?
Makes 2 smoothies
1 ripe banana, peeled, cut into chunks
½ cup fresh/frozen blueberries
½ cup fresh/frozen strawberries
½ cup fresh/frozen raspberries
1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup flax powder
2 teaspoons flax, hemp or chia seed oil
2 teaspoons brown rice syrup
Unsweetened soy yogurt, as needed for thickness
Combine all ingredients, except yogurt in a blender and process until smooth, slowly adding yogurt to create a smooth creamy smoothie texture, about 3 tablespoons, usually.
Quinoa Tabouleh with Avocado
Quinoa is hands down the best whole grain for post workout recovery. High in complete protein and easy to digest (and cook!), this tiny grain is a powerhouse of energy. Adding omega-3 to the mix and you have the perfect combo of strength and recovery.
Makes 3-4 servings
1 cup quinoa, rinsed very well
2 cups spring or filtered water
Cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons avocado oil
½ teaspoon brown rice syrup
6 to 7 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
2 cloves fresh garlic, very finely minced
½ roasted red bell pepper, cut into small dice
¼ red onion, cut into small dice
2 to 3 plum tomatoes, seeded, cut into small dice
½ cup small dice cucumber
½ avocado, ripe, but firm, cut into small dice
Add quinoa and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt; cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until quinoa has absorbed all the water and has opened (a small “tail” forms on each grain, like a tadpole), about 25 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a mixing bowl, fluff with a fork and allow to come to room temperature.
While the quinoa cools, whisk together ½ teaspoon sea salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, lemon juice, oil and rice syrup. Set aside.
When the quinoa is cooled, fold in oil mixture and all the vegetables, tossing very gently to incorporate, but not break the avocado into mush. Serve within 2 hours of making this dish or it will get soggy. (If making ahead, do not add the oil mixture until close to serving time.) Makes 3-4 servings.
Cook’s Tip: It is important to wash quinoa very well, as it is coated with an oily substance called saponin, that can make it taste bitter.
Citrus-Scented Seeded Muffins
Within 20 minutes of finishing your workout, you want to replenish your glycogen stores. But before you grab a soda or candy bar, think about these little jewels. Prepared ahead, they pack fiber, omega-3 and protein with a delicate sweet flavor to keep you stoked.
Makes 24 mini-muffins
1½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup avocado oil
3 tablespoons brown rice syrup
½ cup coconut sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 1 orange
½ cup combined lemon and orange juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 to 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon ground chia seeds
2 teaspoons chopped sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons chopped pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 24-cup mini muffin pan.
Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Combine oil, rice syrup and coconut sugar in a small mixing bowl and whisk well. Remove from heat and whisk in zests, juices and vanilla. Mix into dry ingredients and slowly mix in almond milk until a smooth batter forms. Fold in seeds until incorporated through the batter. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling cups two-thirds full.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops of the muffins spring back to the touch. Cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing the muffins from the cups. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.
Cook’s Tip: You can freeze these in pairs so you won’t be tempted to eat the whole batch. Thaw them in portions to keep your discipline in check.
Tomato Salad with Mint
After a hard workout, you need some protein, but you may also want something a bit lighter. This power-packed salad gives you a bit of everything. Antioxidants, omega-3, protein, sweet taste…and if you serve it with whole grain bread, fiber. Perfection.
Makes 4-5 servings
3 large ripe, but firm, tomatoes, coarsely chopped, do not peel or seed
½ red onion, cut into very thin half-moon slices
1 cup cooked or canned cannellini beans (if using canned, rinse well)
½ cup finely chopped fresh mint
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2/3 teaspoon sea salt
Generous pinch cracked black pepper
Combine tomatoes, red onion, chickpeas and mint in a bowl. Whisk together oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Gently toss salad with dressing to coat and set aside to marinate for 30 minutes before serving to make tomatoes easier to digest.
Peanut Butter Cups
After a hard workout, something sweet replenishes your glycogen stores so you don’t feel wiped out. I nstead of peanut butter cups that land on your hips, try these babies. They’re lower in calories, high in protein, rich in omega-3 and simply yummy.
Makes about 24
Arrange candy papers on a baking sheet.
Temper the chocolate: Melt 1 ½ cups chocolate in a double boiler or in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water and stir until chocolate melts and reaches 119o. Remove from heat and place on a dry towel (do not let water hit the chocolate) and dry the bottom of the bowl. Stir in remaining chocolate until the temperature reduces to 86o. Stir until smooth. Return the bowl over the boiling water and stir for 5 seconds. Remove to the towel and dry the bottom.
Combine peanut butter, rice syrup and salt in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture is soft and smooth.
Spoon tempered chocolate into each candy paper to fill them 1/3-full.
Spoon peanut butter on top of chocolate in each cup, filling 2/3-full. Top each cup with chocolate, filling cups full. Set aside until set, about 30 minutes. You can speed the setting process by placing the cups in the fridge.