Athlete Friendly and Gluten Free Pizza

I do my best to eat well.  I am a firm believer in the importance of what we ingest on a daily basis plays a significant role in our body’s immediate health, health down the road when we get older, and athletic purposes.  Choosing the right foods to eat at specific times of the day will help the body recover from previous stress placed on it during training and as a result help us perform better in the races.

Like everyone else out there, I crave junk food every once in a while and succumb to the pressure.  When our body craves something, it may be lacking a nutrient found in the food… the trick is knowing what the body wants and finding other ways to fill that need.  Over the last few days, I was really craving pizza.   I decided that I was going to make my own pizza from scratch to make it healthier and full of good protein sources.  And like every good pizza, it starts with a good crust (in this case, gluten-free) with very simple ingredients:

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1/2 9oz bag of spinach
  • 3-4 carrots, shredded

Preparing the crust:

  1. place rice and lentils in water and soak for about 8 hours
  2. Drain the water and place all ingredients in a food processor (adding water if needed to help it blend together) until it forms a paste
  3. Spray a cookie pan with nonstick spray
  4. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes
  5. remove crust from oven

I decided to make a Mediterranean style pizza.  I put artichokes, olives, mushrooms, and spinach on it (I wish it was summer and had a garden fresh tomato to put on it too).  I covered it with about 1.5 lbs of mozzarella cheese and put it back in the oven until the cheese just started to turn golden brown (about 15 more minutes)

I let it sit for a few minutes, then cut it.  To finish it off, I sprinkled some balsamic vinegar on it.

If you want to make it vegan, simply do the following and use instead of the cheese.  Pour over the pizza toppings and enjoy:

Vegan mozzarella

1 c Water

2 sm Cloves roasted garlic

2 tb Fresh lemon juice

1 tb Tahini Paste (the larger amount the cheesier it is)

1/4 c Nutritional yeast

3 tb Quick-cooking rolled oats

1 tb Arrowroot (or cornstarch)

1/8 ts Dry mustard

1 1/2 ts Onion powder

1/2 ts Salt; or salt-free seasoning


Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, and process until completely smooth.




Vegetable Cashew Saute


  • 1 (16 ounce) package whole wheat rotini pasta
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark sesame oil
  • 3 cups chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • 1.5 cups chopped unsalted cashew nuts


  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the rotini 10 to 12 minutes, until al dente, and drain.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the 2 tablespoons sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar.
  3. Heat the 1/4 cup sesame oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the broccoli, carrots, red bell pepper, mushrooms, shelled edamame, and cashews. Mix in the sesame oil sauce. Cover skillet, and cook 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender but crisp. Serve over the cooked pasta.



Potato and Spaghetti Squash Casserole


  • 5 cups potatoes, diced
  • 6 cups spaghetti squash, baked
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • ¾ cups parm. Cheese
  • 4 egg whites
  • 9 oz bag spinach
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic salt
  • Flax seed (optional)



  1. Boil potatoes until tender and then drain water
  2. Add spinach, salsa, and diced tomatoes and wait until the spinach cooks down
  3. add onions, cream cheese, parm cheese, egg whites, squash, and spices/salt
  4. cook until bubbly and all the cheese is melted

Sweet Peppers and Wild Rice

Sweet Pepper Wild Rice Salad

½ cup uncooked wild rice

1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth, divided

1 ¼ cups water, divided

¾ cup uncooked long grain rice

1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped

1 medium sweet yellow pepper, chopped

1 medium zucchini, chopped

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

4 green onions, chopped

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

2 tbsp lemon juice


In a small saucepan, combine the wild rice, 1 cup broth and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 50-60 minutes or until rice is tender.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the long grain rice and remaining broth and water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-18 minutes or until rice is tender.

In a large nonstick skillet, saute the peppers and zucchini in 1 tbsp oil for 3 minutes.  Add onions; saute 1-2 minutes longer or until vegies are tender.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Drain wild rice if necessary; stir into vegie mixture.  Stir in white rice.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Drizzle with lemon juice and remaining oil; toss to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.



West African Stew


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sliced onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch half slices
  • 1 large tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed cream mushroom
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 (15 ounce) can chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped spinach


  1. Heat oil in skillet. Add onion and garlic. Cook until onion is tender.
  2. Add potatoes and tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes. Add raisins, cinnamon, red pepper, broth and water. Heat to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat 15 minutes.
  3. Add chickpeas and spinach. Heat through. Serve over cooked rice or couscous, if desired.



Vitamin B12 and Vegetarian Athletes

Many people know that vitamins and minerals are necessary for basic functioning.  There are two basic types of vitamins, fat soluble and water soluble.  The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K.  the rest are water soluble.  It is possible to overdose on fat soluble.  But if someone ingests too much of the water soluble vitamins, the extras are dumped in the urine.  However, B12 doesn’t follow the same rules as other water soluble vitamins.  It can actually be stored in the liver with supplies that will last someone years.  One of the most common deficiencies in people that experience is actually a water soluble vitamin, Vitamin B12.  People most at risk are  athletes who are limiting calories or have specialized, consistent or restricted eating plans (avoiding meat, diary, and/or eggs).

Vitamin B12 plays an extremely important role in the body.  B12, along with the rest of the B vitamins, is a  ‘micronutrient’ and is used to convert proteins and carbohydrates into energy.  B vitamins are also used for cell repair and production.    Vitamin B12 specificially plays a role in red blood cell production and maintenance of the central nervous system.  A study at Oregon State University showed that even a small deficiency in B vitamins decreased the athletes ability to perform at high intensities and also delayed muscle recovery/repair after workouts.  With the knowledge of what B vitamins do for the body, its easy to see why a slight lack of these in the diet can result in drastic outcomes for athletes trying to perform well for race day, or even recover fast enough for their next working later in the day or tomorrow.

Since a vegetarian or vegan diets tend to limit or completely remove animal products, the natural sources for vitamin B12 are not going to be consumed by the individual.  These sources include eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, and milk products.   However, many fortified cereals contain all of, or most of the recommended daily intake of B12.  Additionally, if you buy a milk substitute, most of brands of almond, rice, soy milk are fortified with 50% of the recommended intake of B12 per 8 oz. serving.  With foods being fortified with B12, it is much easier than it was several years ago to consume enough each day.  However, many of the new “all natural” or “organic” cereals are not fortified.  So people that tend to buy these types of cereals are at a greater risk of a deficiency.

The daily recommended intake for B12 is about 2.4 mcg.  However, this number isn’t consistent across the board of experts.  A lot depends on the person’s ability to absorb the vitamin, their activity level, and many other factors.  Below are some common foods that contain higher levels of B12:


Sources of Vitamin B12
Food[58] µg vitamin B12/100g
beef liver 83.1
turkey giblets 33.2
pork liver sausage 20.1
Raw Pacific oysters 16.0
Cooked Alaska king crab 11.5
Raw clams 11.3
Simmered chicken giblets 9.4
Cheese 3.3
Beef (uncooked sirloin) 1.15
Egg (raw, whole chicken’s egg) 0.89
Whole cow’s milk 0.45


As mentioned above, only animal sources naturally contain B12.  So people eating a restricted diet should closely monitor their B12 intake.  But, even if their daily intake isn’t enough, the results won’t begin to show up for several years since B12 is stored in the liver.  Vitamin B12 deficiency is characterized by anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Neurological changes, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. Additional symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include difficulty maintaining balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue. The neurological symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can occur without anemia, so early diagnosis and intervention is important to avoid irreversible damage.  Some of the neurological changes caused from B12 deficiency can be irreversible.

For myself, after being vegan for nearly a year, I decided that it wasn’t a good thing for me to continue doing.  Personally, I feel like I’m cheating if I take multivitamins to replace nutrients (although I do take a multivitamin occasionally).  I decided to start including eggs and cheese again, and meat about once a week.  With the fortified cereals that I eat, I am getting enough B12.  I don’t drink milk, but rather make my own soy milk, so the soy milk I consume doesn’t have B12 in it either.  If someone is unwilling to change their diet to include animal sources of B12, another really good source of B12 (and all the B vitamins) is something called nutritional yeast.  Just a 1/4 cup of it contains 150% of the RDA of B12 for the day and 9 grams of protein.  It has a cheesy flavor to it, and if used correctly can be a tasty alternative to cheese on vegetables, in casseroles, and many other dishes or soups.


For more information on vegetarian diets and protein, click here.

For more information on vegetarian diets and iron, click here.


Vegetarian diets, Triathletes, and Iron

This is the second of an undetermined amount of articles that will help triathletes (or athletes in general) make an educated change to either reduce meat consumption or become vegetarian.  This article will focus on acquiring enough iron in the diet, which is a big concern of people, especially athletes.  First let’s being with why iron is important in the diet and why the body needs iron to function properly and perform at the levels endurance athletes demand from it.

Iron’s main role in the body is for blood cell function.  It plays a fundmanetal role in the hemoglobin molecule. Hemoglobin is the molecule that carries oxygen to the tissues from the lungs and returns with carbon dioxide from the cells.  Although iron is both plentiful and obtainable from a wide variety of foods, iron deficiency is still the most common form of mineral deficiency. The most susceptible groups to iron defiency are children and adolescents, pregnant women, women of child-bearing age, athletes (due to a phenomenon called “heel strike anemia”), and older adults.

Iron also plays other roles in the body, such as:

  • Supporting the action of many enzymes (especially for energy production)
  • Antioxidant
  • May have anti-cancer properties
  • Powerful immune-system booster

Just like fat, carbohydrates, and protein, not all iron is created equally.  There are two forms of dietary iron are available: Heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is effectively animal hemoglobin and is found abundantly in meat and animal products, especially kidney and liver, and is very well absorbed by the body. Non-heme iron is the mineral form of iron and is found in plants. Non-heme iron is poorly absorbed, which makes acquiring adequate amounts of iron in a vegetarian diet difficult.  Even though someone might be eating enough non-heme iron according to the nutrition labels on food, they may not be absorbing enough as it passes through their body.

Heme-iron is absorbed at a rate of about 25-35%, and non-heme iron is absorbed at only about 3%! There are tricks to increase iron absorption.  While eating sources high in iron, eat something that has a high Vitamin C level.  Vitamin C breaks down the iron before it gets to the gut and increases absorption.  Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, strawberries, melons, dark green leafy vegetables and potatoes.  Also, avoid eating foods high in calcium (dairy, etc.) because the calcium binds with the iron making it next to impossible for the iron to be absorbed.  Other factors may decrease the availability of iron. Coffee and tea consumption at the time of a meal can significantly decrease iron absorption.

Many foods in a vegetarian diet contain a high amount of iron, and should be eaten regularly to get enough iron.  If you feel the need to, take a multi-vitamin with iron in it to boost the amount of iron in your diet.  The daily recommended intake of iron per day is about 17.8 milligrams.  Below is a table of vegetarian foods that are high in iron labeled in milligrams:


Breads and cereals
wheat bread, enriched 1 slice 0.6
wheat bread 1 slice 0.5
whole grain cereals 1/2 cup 4.5-9.5
iron fortified cereals 1 cup 1.1-4.5
iron fortified cereals (100% DRI) 1 cup 17.8
Macaroni, noodles, enriched 1/2 cup 0.7
Fruits and vegetables
dried beans, cooked 1/2 cup 2.6
dried peas, cooked 1/2 cup 1.7
lentils, cooked 1/2 cup 2.1
greens, cooked 1/2 cup 1.8
dried apricots 10 halves 1.9
dates 5 1.2
raisins 1/4 cup 1.4
prunes 5 medium 1.2


Food Serving Size Iron % Guideline
soybeans 250ml 9.3 mg 52%
raw yellow beans 100g 7 mg 39%
lentils 250ml 7 mg 39%
falafel 140g 4.8 mg 27%
soybean kernels 250ml 4.7 mg 26%
toasted sesame seeds 30g 4.4 mg 25%
spirulina 15g 4.3 mg 24%
candied ginger root 30g 3.4 mg 19%
spinach 85g 3 mg 17%


Other foods high in iron are quinoa (2.8 mg/1 cup cooked), egg (0.9 mg), and green beans (1.1 mg/1 cup).

 So, if you make the switch to vegetarian or a reduced meat diet, how will you know when the iron levels are low?  Before that question is answered, here is a list of symptoms of being iron deficient:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Irritability
  • Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
  • Brittle nails
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
  • Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia
  • An uncomfortable tingling or crawling feeling in your legs (restless legs syndrome)

Because of the lifespan red blood cells (about 90 days), iron defiency anemia won’t show up for a few months.  The most notable change will be a consistent lack of energy despite how much sleep.  Your friends and family may notice you being more irritable.  To be on the safe side, go to your doctor before the switch to see how your iron levels are, and get the level checked periodically throughout the year.

If you find yourself in a state of iron deficency, you may need to consider taking a iron supplement.  Eating meat that is high in iron (red meat, liver, etc.) once or twice a week may be needed too.


For information on getting enough protein for endurance athletes, click here.

For information Vitamin B12 and its role in athletes, click here.


Quinoa and Vegetable Hash with Eggs

Quinoa and Vegetable Hash with Eggs


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cups cubed and cooked sweet potatoes
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese


I also like to add a few extra garden vegetables if I have them on hand such as zucchini, summer squash, and spinach, etc.


  1. place oil and onion in a skillet and sauté
  2. add cooked sweet potatoes and parsely, sauté until the edges of the potatoes are brown (if adding additional veggies, add them at this time too)
  3. add cooked quinoa, salt, pepper and cheese to taste
  4. in a separate pan, cook the eggs as you like.
  5. Divide dish in half and put on egg over the hash.

Lentil Casserole

Lentil Casserole


  • 2 3/4 cups water
  • 3 cubes vegetable bouillon
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 cups dry brown lentils
  • 6 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (8 ounce) package sharp Cheddar cheese, grated and divided
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs


  1. In a saucepan, bring water and bouillon cubes to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 50 minutes, or until rice is tender and all liquid has been absorbed.
  2. Heat oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook zucchini and onion until tender, but still slightly firm, about 5 minutes. Stir in cumin, oregano, lentils, and about 6 cups water gradually. Bring to a soft boil, and continue cooking until lentils are tender, 45 to 60 minutes, adding water as needed.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  4. Mix the cooked rice together with the lentils, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in 3/4 of the Cheddar cheese, and transfer mixture into a 9×13 inch pan. Mix remaining cheese together with the breadcrumbs, and spread evenly over the top of the dish.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven just until cheese has melted, about 10 minutes.



Information on Reducing Meat Consumption or Becoming Vegetarian

I often get asked the question of why I went vegetarian at the beginning of 2009.  Some of the other questions I get frequently are:

  • How do you get enough protein?
  • Will I lose weight if I become vegetarian?
  • What about getting enough iron in your diet?
  • It seems like a lot of work.  How do you do it?
  • Do you miss meat?


In the not too distant future, I hope to answer all the questions above.  If I answer them all at once, the article will be very long, and you probably won’t read all of it!  I hope you find these articles beneficial and informative.

My goal of this entry is not to push a specific diet on you, because I believe that everyone’s body is different and requires slightly different nutrition to function at the levels we, as athletes, demand from our bodies.  However, if you are interested in trying to become veggie, and just need a little bit of advice on how to do so both economically and efficiently, then I think this may help you.  If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them through the “Contact Me” section.

Protein:  Depending on the level of vegetarian you want to pursue (lacto-ovo-, lacto-, ovo-, or vegan) will determine how easy it is for you acquire the protein that you need.  Most Americans eat way more protein than is needed.  Most athletes need 0.5-0.8 grams of protein per pound.  For example, I’m about 158 lbs.  So I would need anywhere between 79 and 126 grams of protein per day.  I would bet that most Americans (that may or may not be athletes) get the low end of their protein requirements in just the dinner they eat.

Just like carbohydrate and fat, not all protein sources are created equal.  Powerhouse protein sources, or “complete” proteins, are those that provide you with all 20 amino acids necessary to rebuild and repair damaged tissue.  Complete protein sources are found in such animal foods as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, milk as well as soy foods.  In contrast, many vegetarian protein sources, including legumes and nuts, are missing several of the necessary amino acids needed to build.  Most vegetarian based foods need to be combined to attain all the essential amino acids; for example, tortillas and beans, rice and lentils, peanuts and wheat bread.  Fiber found in plants does make it slightly harder for the body to absorb the protein.  So aiming for the high end of the spectrum of protein requirement for your body weight would be suggested.  Vegetarian diets providing adequate energy and a variety of protein-containing plant foods will supply all the essential amino acids needed for efficient protein metabolism, thereby enhancing recovery from exercise and helping to prevent muscular injury.

Before I started eating vegetarian, I did a lot of research on different protein sources and which amino acids were found in each one.  After looking at several different websites, I found one that has what seems to be an exhaustive list of every food out there:


There are several graphs and charts on every food in their data base.  Since we are on the topic of protein, I’ll focus on the chart that gives information about the amino acids in each food and the scoring system.  Let’s use lentils as an example:


The graph that deals with the protein quality of the food contains all the amino acids our bodies can’t synthesis on its own (these are the “essential” amino acids).  You’ll notice that all the amino acids “bars” are full except Methionine+Cystine.  Also, the protein score is 86.  The way that this website scores the protein quality is anything less than 100 is considered incomplete.  To help us out, if any food scores less than 100, a link is provided below the graph to provides other complimentary food sources to give you all the amino acids.  Click the link under legumes, and several pages are given for possible things to eat together with the lentils.  One of these is rice.  Click the brown rice link and notice the protein quality.


Brown rice only scores a 75, but the Methionine+Cystine amino acid bar is full, but the lysine is lacking (which is why it scores less than 100).  However, since the lysine in lentils is adequate, these two foods compliment each other well.


For information about consuming enough iron for endurance athletes, click here.

For information on Vitamin B12 and its role in athletes, click here.