Friday, May 31, 2013

Reebok Spartan Race [+FREE Race Giveaway!]

If you're a regular PB&P reader, you know I'm a big fan of setting goals and challenging yourself to see what you're made of, whether it be in the gym, at work or in your personal life!  For runners and other fitness enthusiasts, a Spartan Race is a perfect opportunity to do just that.  To find out exactly what you're made of...and according to the folks at Reebok Spartan Race, "you'll know at the finish line."

So...what is Spartan Race?
Spartan Race has been a leader in obstacle races since 2005 and has been voted #1 obstacle race by Outside Magazine.  

Spartan Race features a race for everyone beginning with the entry level Spartan Sprint (3+ miles and 15+ obstacles), intermediate level Super Spartan (8+ miles and 20+ obstacles), the advanced Spartan Beast (12+ miles and 25+ obstacles), and the ‘99.9% need not apply’ extreme level Death Race. 

Spartan Race prides itself on ripping its racers out of their comfort zones, and therefore does not provide course maps or details on what obstacles will be encountered.  But for an idea of what you might expect during a Spartan Race, check out the video below:

So are YOU up for the challenge?  What are you waiting for?!  Enter my giveaway below for a chance to score a FREE entry to a Spartan Race of your choice!  AROO!

And don't worry! If you're not lucky enough to win the FREE race entry, just follow this link to receive 15% off when you register for a race.  So sign up, show up and don't GIVE UP!


Disclaimer: The awesome folks at Spartan Race are providing one lucky PB&P reader with a free registration to any open heat Spartan Race in the continental U.S.  I have not been compensated for writing this post.  Only entries through Rafflecopter will be eligible for selection.  Giveaway ends 6/15/13.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Try Vegan Challenge Recap

Earlier this month, I posted about the Try Vegan Challenge from Food & Nutrition Magazine, declaring that I would "go vegan" for a week in an effort to show that a completely plant-based diet is not only healthy, animal-friendly and environmentally sustainable...but it can be tasty too!

My goal was to follow a completely vegan diet for 7 days, although the challenge only technically asked for 5 days and allowed room for slip-ups.  Spoiler alert:  I didn't make it 7 days and I cheated on Day 1!

As I mentioned, I normally follow a vegetarian diet and my main meals are plant-based with dairy and eggs complimenting the meals or serving as snacks.  Therefore, I didn't think I'd have too much trouble making the transition from vegetarian to vegan.  It's part of both my personality and my job to be a planner, so I made sure to meal plan and set myself up for success in this challenge.  My main concern during meal planning were snacks.  Some examples of my typical snacks are Greek yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese and cottage cheese.  None of which are vegan!  So I substituted with things like pita chips & hummus, fresh fruit, sandwich thins & nut butter, and trailmix. 

Rather than post my food logs from the 5 day period, I figured it'd be easier to focus on my struggles and victories with the vegan diet. 

1.  Birthday cake.  I made the mistake of starting this challenge the day after my birthday, when all my coworkers wanted to celebrate with delicious (non-vegan) chocolate ganache cake.  I didn't even make it 24 hours before my first slip-up!

Not-so-vegan birthday cake.

2. I missed my yogurt.  I'm a big fan of Greek yogurt.  I enjoy it on a daily basis and at all times of the breakfast, snack time and even as a subsitute for sour cream in my meals!  It's absence was really noticeable and probably my biggest struggle!
3. Take-out with friends.  One night, I had Southern friends visiting, and they really wanted good ole New York pizza!  This was my second (and only other) slip-up.  Another night was sushi take-out with a girlfriend, and although I didn't have much trouble finding myself a vegan meal, I really wanted salmon or tuna!   And I had to be very careful when it came to ordering/sharing appetizers!  When following any kind of restrictive diet, you have to make sure to ask a lot of questions when dining out or ordering in.  Always check what ingredients are in things like batters, sauces and condiments.
Veggie roll + edamame!
1. Focus on real, whole foods.  This is my aim anyway, but cutting out dairy and eggs forced me to be creative and make smart choices to get adequate calories and protein.  A lot of newbie vegans struggle with what to eat and end up eating a lot of processed "meat substitute" products, which negates any effort to consume a healthier diet.  [When in doubt, consult a Registered Dietitian to develop a vegan/vegetarian/flexitarian/whatever meal plan to make sure you're getting adequate nutrients!]

2. Increased intake of fruits, veggies and healthy fats!  Although my meals looked fairly similar each day, I definitely noticed a boost in my normal intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.  My bag of food for work (pictures below) always included things like pears, fresh strawberries, brussels sprouts, carrots and hummus, nut butters and avocado.


Overall, this was a very interesting challenge!  Even though I'm a Registered Dietitian and long-time vegetarian, I still was able to learn a lot from the experience.  I obviously have a lot of practice with reading food labels, but this experiment sharpened those skills.  I also had to get creative and develop strategies to overcome obstacles that I'm sure a lot of people face when converting to a vegan diet, which will ultimately make me a better practitioner! 

And on a personal note, I learned I'm not interested in becoming 100% vegan myself! At least not at this time!  :) 

Tell me...are you interested in becoming vegan? Vegetarian? What do you think you'd miss the most?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Try Vegan Challenge

Lindsay (Lean Green Bean) recently wrote a post on why she doesn't label the way she eats.  As a fellow RD and someone who loves food, I totally related to this post.  Everyone is constantly searching for the "best" diet, when in reality, the "best" diet is whatever works for YOU.  It doesn't really matter if you're paleo, carnivore, vegan, gluten free, etc. unless it is in line with your personal goals/beliefs and helps you live a healthy and happy life!

If I had to put a label on my own diet, I'm a "pescetarian".  What does that even mean, you ask?  Well I haven't eaten meat for almost 3 years now.  I occasionally eat seafood and fish.  I eat eggs.  I eat dairy and use butter.  But I loathe having to clarify my diet that way.  Yet vegetarians are always questioned on their intake and their motivations.

"Why do you not eat meat?"  (Why DO you?)
"You're just one person, are you really going to make a difference?" (I hope so!)
"How do you get your protein?" (Let me worry about that!)

One of my vegetarian lunch specialties
When you hear (or see) that someone DOES eat meat, the next step isn't to rapid-fire question them on specifically what types or cuts of meat they eat.  So why do vegetarian-style eaters face this?  For this reason (and a few others) I try not to discuss my own diet all that often.  As a dietitian, you can imagine this is difficult.  But food is such a sensitive and personal subject.  I don't like having to justify my choices and definitely don't want to push my beliefs on anyone else.   I'm in this field because I love food.  And I understand that most other people do too.  I don't care what your "diet" is, I just love helping others enjoy food while living a healthy life.

With all that being said, I do believe meat, seafood and dairy can all fit into a healthy lifestyle.  I believe some choices are better than others when it comes to meat and dairy.  Most importantly, I also firmly believe that it is possible to meet all of your nutritional needs on a diet that eliminates any or all animal products, if you so choose!

The vegan and vegetarian lifestyle is gaining interest and growing in popularity, especially as more information about our food industry becomes available to the public.  Vegan diets promote compassion for animals and are environmentally friendly.

As for me, I'm not sure I'm ready to give up my beloved Greek yogurt or post-run chocolate milk just yet.  But my interest was piqued (who knew it wasn't peaked?) when I read about a "Try Vegan" Challenge in Food & Nutrition Magazine, a publication of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  The contest itself is only open to Academy members, but I'd like to challenge my readers too!  F&N Magazine is asking nutrition professionals to document their effort in trying a vegan diet for 5 days (with a chance to win a Vitamix!).

Although this challenge is for 5 days, anytime in the month of May, I'm actually going to try to "go vegan" for a full week, starting Tuesday May 7th.  I'll be tweeting and posting about the challenge and I invite you to join me!  Will you TRY VEGAN for 5 (or 7 if you're brave) days?!

TELL ME...Do you put a label on your diet?  Are you interested in adopting a vegan diet? Or do you want to stick to your carnivorous ways?  Feel free to ask me questions and update me if you're giving it a shot!