Monthly Archives: July 2015

How to make your own energy bar

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Bars

almond butter chocolate chip bar square smallHere is an easy recipe to make some tasty energy bars for your workouts.  They are dense and chewy, and taste like brownies.  These bars are a bit of a departure from energy bars that are full of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and other wholesome ingredients —  which is the kind of bar I typically prefer on slower paced  bike rides, cross country skis, or hikes, where the low intensity makes it easy to digest the seeds, nuts, fats, and fiber in the bars.

I like these Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Bars for more intense workouts or intervals – when you need a burst of sweetness that goes down easily (kind of like an energy gel that actually tastes good).  A lot of sugar is a not a great thing for inactive people or when you’re sitting around, but it’s definitely the preferred way to fuel intense workouts. I’ve expanded upon this a bit below (see Eating During Workouts).

almond butter bars no backbroundIngredients

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup oats (I used large flake)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan, or consider using parchment paper for easy removal from the pan* (a new technique for me, but I’m sold! You’ll find some tips on how to do this here and a video here).
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour, oats, chocolate chips, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients (sugar, almond butter, oil, vanilla, and egg). Stir until well-blended. Add flour mixture ¼ cup at a time. Batter will be stiff (wooden spoon recommended!).
  4. Spread/press batter in bottom of prepared pan. Wetting your hands will make this easier.
  5. Bake at 350º for 18-22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean (try not to overbake). Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 15 bars (or 16 squares).

almond butter chocolate chip bars tall2_small

Nutrition Notes

For eating outside of workouts, this bar recipe is likely healthier than most cookies or bars.   Whole grains (whole wheat flour and oats) replace the more typical refined white flour (and you probably don’t need to worry about the gluten in the flour). I also used this baking strategy, substituting almond butter for most of the butter. Almond butter provides heart-healthy fats instead of saturated fat, as well as protein, fiber, and minerals that many people don’t get enough of, as you can see in the graphic below. Peanut butter works in these bars too.  (For comparison, I also show coconut oil, which is a popular fat in baking these days).

nut butter coconut oil butter nutrition 2_small

 Nutrition Per Bar

  • 135 calories
  • 2.3 g protein
  • 5.6 g fat
  • 12 mg cholesterol
  • 25 g carbohydrate
  • 1.6 g fiber
  • 71 mg sodium
  • 120 mg potassium
  • Iron: 5 % Daily Value
  • Calcium: 3 % Daily Value

Eating During Workouts

An endurance athlete’s preferred fuel during exercise is muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate). Long endurance training or intensity sessions deplete muscles of glycogen, so it’s important to consume carbohydrates to replenish these stores with carbohydrate-containing foods.

Some foods that are good for us aren’t always the best thing to eat before or during intense exercise, which diverts blood flow from the stomach to the working muscles, which can interfere with digestion (this can lead to cramping, bloating, and nausea in some individuals).  This graphic illustrates extremes of this concept (you can learn more about what to eat before working out here).

foods to avoid before hard efforts small

 More Recipes to Fuel Your Workouts

You’ll find more information about Sports Nutrition Strategies here

You’ll find more healthy recipes here


Share This:

This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about a new weight loss calculator, guidelines for exercising in hot conditions, trending food stories predicting obesity, the science of being hangry, protein intake recommendations, defending corn,  “natural” sugars and health, the chemistry of wine, and more.

scaleNew NIH weight loss calculator. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has made their Body Weight Planner available to the public (researchers have been using it since 2011). The math model behind the Body Weight Planner was created to  forecast how body weight changes when people alter their diet and exercise habits (it is based on this publication, Lancet 2011). The calculations reflect the discovery that the widely accepted paradigm that reducing 3,500 calories will shed one pound of weight does not account for slowing of metabolism as people change their diet and physical activities.

Of course, the calculator results are estimates and likely not appropriate for all. For example, the amount of calories listed to maintain my weight was way too low (I’m small and athletic), while others noted the number listed was too high for them. It’s still a  worthwhile tool that might provide motivation and a calorie reality check for those needing to shed a few pounds.

Training & competing in hot conditions? This week’s Globe and Mail outlines five updated sports science guidelines for exercising in the heat. (Alex Hutchinson, Globe and Mail).

Trending food stories predict a country’s future obesity rate. A 50-year analysis of all the food words mentioned in major newspapers (e.g., New York Times, London Times) predict a country’s obesity rate in 3 years, according to researchers at the Cornell Food & Brand Lab. More sweet snacks and fewer vegetables mentioned predict greater obesity.  (Cornell Food & Brand Lab, BMC Public Health).

The weight of becoming a new dad. Fatherhood effect or dad bod? The average new dad gains weight, while non-father peers lose weight. (The Atlantic, reporting on American Journal of Men’s Health)

Can you catch up on lost sleep?  A New York Times reader asks if they can re-pay a long-term sleep debt (15 years of poor sleeping).  Research shows that not sleeping enough harms brain and body health, and increases risk of chronic disease.  Making up for lost sleep during the week on the weekend doesn’t work, but one expert says that a well-timed 20-minute nap can benefit as much as 1 hour or nighttime sleep.  (Ask Well: New York Times)

corn-87332_640In defense of corn.   We hear a lot about the cons of corn. As Tamar Haspel writes in the Washington post this week, corn has a bad wrap (monocrops, industrial farming, 90 U.S. acres devoted to corn, subsidies, etc.). She makes the case for corn as the “single most important food crop on the planet,” comparing corn to wheat, rice, potatoes, and other crops. An eye-opening and thoughtful piece! (Tamar Haspel, Washington Post)

Feeling hangry? Why we can get grumpy when we’re hungry.  Find out about the physiology of hanger, and why some people are more susceptible to being angry when they need food.  (The Independent)

Healthy or Hype AgaveDon’t be fooled by “natural” sugars (maple syrup, honey, agave).  A huge pet peeve of mine is people touting “natural” sugars as healthy.  If it works better in your recipe or dish, go ahead and use it, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a lot better for you than sugar.  Sure, some options may contain more minerals than refined sugars, but sugar is sugar (and if you think “natural” or “organic” makes it healthier, you might very well eat more of it!).  Unfortunately, this trend is quite common, and I appreciate when it gets called out. This week, obesity Yoni Freedhoff objected to a newsletter by St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation telling patients that honey and maple syrup are one way to cut down on sugar consumption. (Yoni Freedhoff, Weighty Matters).

Food Fight! Alternative Proteins.  Sustainable protein options that are less damaging to the environment are a hot topic. This week Kirstin Weins of the No Baloney Blog compares some of the nutrition of insects, algae, quinoa, legumes, fish, chicken, and beef.  Surprisingly, crickets take the win! (No Baloney)

Current dietary protein recommendations need updating, experts say. A paper published this week emphasizes the role of protein in a healthy diet.  The paper notes that current recommendations for protein intake are outdated and based on older protein analysis techniques.  (Science Daily, reporting on Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, July 2015)

how much proteinHow much protein do you need? Although most people are eating enough protein, many could choose better protein sources and optimize how they distribute their protein intake throughout the day. For example, the average person eats too much protein for supper, and too little in the morning. Almost everyone can benefit from including some protein at most meals and snacks to help control blood glucose levels and feel full longer. Athletes and older individuals are groups that can benefit from better protein distribution. You’ll find more information on protein, daily protein requirements, protein content of common foods, recommendations for athletes and older populations here).

Should you eat yogurt covered snacks? 5/5 experts say NO. Yogurt “coating” is more like frosting, and a far cry from yogurt. Typical ingredients include sugar, partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, yogurt powder, emulsifiers and salt.  (Time)

The Chemistry of Wine ACS Reactions simplifies the complex chemistry behind wine (ACS Reactions).

noodle salad isolated smallRice Noodle Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

I’m pretty excited about this  new  “salad” recipe. I’ve been making it weekly and tweeking the recipe to come up with this version that combines quite a variety of ingredients. Rice noodles, sweet peppers, fresh herbs, tomatoes, and feta cheese in a honey-lime dressing give this dish Asian, Mediterranean, and Mexican influences . . . sounds odd, but the flavours blend together beautifully!

Don’t be dissuaded if you are, like me, not typically a fan of cold pasta-salad style noodles. Rice noodles make an entirely different type of salad; they are lighter than pasta or wheat-based noodles, and are better at absorbing flavourful and zesty dressings like this one.

Share This:

Rice Noodle Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

This is a light and refreshing salad that is a tasty and eye-catching side dish for almost any meal, and a perfect potluck dish. This salad combines rice noodles, sweet peppers, fresh herbs, tomatoes, and feta cheese in a lime dressing, giving this dish Asian, Mediterranean, and Mexican influences . . . sounds odd, but the flavours blend together beautifully!

Don’t be dissuaded if you are, like me, not typically a fan of cold pasta-salad style noodles. Rice noodles make an entirely different type of salad; they are lighter than pasta or wheat-based noodles, and are better at absorbing flavourful and zesty dressings like this one.


lime-small_pubdomainHoney-Lime Vinaigrette
  • Juice and zest of 2 limes (should yield about ¼ cup lime juice)
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Some heat: ¼ – ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, or hot sauce, or ½-1 tsp. chopped hot green chili like jalapeno (optional, to taste)
  • 1 small package (225 g) rice stick (flat) noodles; this should yield about 4 cups of cooked noodles
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
grape tomatoes_smallMix-Ins: vegetables, herbs, & feta
  • 2½ cups of chopped sweet peppers (green, yellow, or orange are good colours to complement the tomatoes)
  • 2½ cups grape of halved cherry tomatoes (about 50 whole grape tomatoes)
  • ½ cup green onions, chopped
  • Fresh basil – about 20 leaves, torn
  • ½ cup parsley, stems removed
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste


  1. Whisk together dressing ingredients in small jar or cup. Set aside.
  2. Prepare vegetables and herbs.
  3. Cook the rice noodles according to package directions. Strain noodles in a colander, and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Drain them well to remove as much excess water as possible. Put the drained noodles in a large bowl and toss with the olive oil.
  4. Toss the lime dressing onto the noodles and stir to combine. Add vegetables, fresh herbs, and feta cheese to the noodles (if noodles are clumping and you’re having a hard time distributing the vegetables, take some scissors or a knife and cut some of the noodles). Adjust the seasonings to taste, and serve.

Advance Prep: You can prepare the noodles, vegetables, and dressing in advance. Toss these together before serving.

YIELD: Makes about TWELVE CUPS of salad

rice noodle salad center small

Beyond great taste, this salad contains many nutritious ingredients, including . . .

  • garlic no backgroundGarlic contains many protective compounds that are being studied for their disease-fighting effects.
  • Fresh parsley is a good source of vitamin C, and also provides beta-carotene and lutein (another carotenoid) and natural plant compounds (flavonoids and limonene) that may have disease-fighting properties.
  • Sweet peppers not only add colour, but plenty of nutrition. They are excellent sources of Vitamin C and carotenoids.
  • Onions contain sulfur compounds that are thought to help cells detoxify potential carcinogens, and are a good source of the dietary flavenoid quercetin, which is associated with reduced chronic inflammation.
  • Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, beta-carotene, and Vitamin C, compounds with potential disease-fighting properties.

Nutrition Per Cup of Salad

  • 135 calories
  • 2.3 g protein
  • 5 g fat (1.4 g sat)
  • 5.5 mg cholesterol
  • 21 g carbohydrate
  • 2 g fiber
  • 230 mg sodium
  • 200 mg potassium
  • Iron: 3 % Daily Value
  • Calcium: 4.2 % Daily Value

More Salad Recipes . . .

Share This:

This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about strength training to improve bone density, how to recover from an all-nighter, exercise to reduce breast cancer risk, yogurt, ice slushies for heat training, drinking between workouts, muscle knots, Isagenix, and more.

Strength Training for Bone Density

Although muscle immediately comes to mind when people think of strength training,  increased bone density is another benefit, but not as well studied.  This week, two news stories reported on completed or ongoing studies.

University of Missouri researchers completed a study that provides more evidence for the bone-building benefits of lifting weights in physically active men with low bone mass.  The men completed either a weight-lifting program or a jumping program for a year, that included 1 to 2 hours weekly of  targeted exercises. Whole body and lumbar spine bone mass increased significantly for both the weight-lifting or jumping programs, and hip-bone density only increased among those who completed the weight-lifting program. (The Bone Journal, June 2015)

There were a few news reports this week of an ongoing study in Australia that is comparing the muscle and bone effects of high load resistance training vs low load resistance training  (the Liftmor Study).  Check out the video in this news story – these women aren’t lifting little dumbbells!

How to Recover from an All-Nighter

If this is something you need to do, be sure you read Maria Konnikova’s great article (the Walking Dead) first.

Then, check out this video, where sleep scientist (reluctantly) share research-backed advice for getting through your day on little to no sleep.  (New York Magazine, The Science of Us)

More Exercise is Better to Lower Breast Cancer Risk

Body fat doesn’t just sit there. It is metabolically active: fat cells produce hormones that  affect our disease risk and overall health. Over the last decade research has shown that body fat plays an important role in the development of many types of cancer.   In fact, excess body fat is one of the strongest predictors of increased risk for postmenopausal breast cancer.  Fat cells produce a number of factors that  increase cancer risk: fat cells  produce estrogen (which promotes cell growth), and certain proteins that increase inflammation and insulin resistance, which are implicated in cancer risk.

Exercise helps reduce body fat and a large body of evidence shows that physical activity reduces breast cancer risk. A new study out this week, reported by Time Magazine,  looks at how much women need to exercise necessary to reduce risk. Researchers from the University of Calgary and University of Alberta found that women assigned to exercise for 300 minutes a week lost more body fat than women assigned to exercise for 150 minutes weekly in the year-long study. (JAMA Oncology, July 2015).

BerryYogurt_RT (640x373)For the love of yogurt. Yogurt lover or not, you are bound to learn something new if you listen or read through NPR’s terrific series on yogurt. (NPR, the Salt).

Anti-inflammatories increase heart attack and stroke risk. This week, the FDA strengthened its warning on non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) regarding the increased risk of heart-attack and stroke.  Over-the-counter NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve); prescription NSAIDs include celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren); Aspirin is also an NSAID, but it does not pose risks to heart health.  Many athletes take NSAIDs for muscle pains associated with training, or some injuries without considering other implications.  Some even take NSAIDs during race events. Amby Burfoot at Runners World puts this in perspective for athletes.  Just because something is commonly used and available over the counter, doesn’t mean it is safe and without side effects.  (Harvard Health Publications, Runner’s World).

Red fruit flavored frozen cocktail or smoothie beverage with straw and stirring stick.Ice slushies for heat training.  An increasing amount of research is looking into  lowering your body’s temperature for better performance in hot weather. This new study provides
more evidence that supports drinking ice slushies to cool for endurance performance in the heat. (Scand J Med Sci Sports Jun 2015).

Drinking between workouts. As hydration guidelines evolve, your fluid intake between runs matters more. (Alex Hutchinson, Runner’s World)

Tired, injured, & underperforming? You might not be eating enoughSports dietitian Jennifer Sygo wrote an excellent column explaining relative energy deficiency in sport (REDS). If you are not eating enough to support your physical activity, your performance (and health) will suffer. (

What are muscle “knots” actually made of & can they be prevented? Gretchen Reynolds looks at the evidence for and treatment of muscle knots. (Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times).

Does Isagenix Help You Lose Weight, or Lose Your Money? Isagenix is an expensive meal replacement program involving shakes, bars, and herbal supplements that relies on multilevel marketing often via social media or email to promote its product. The product boasts “nutritional cleansing,” “detox” and is essentially a low-calorie diet that might promote short-term weight loss. Research has repeatedly shown that weight loss that relies on meal replacements and low calories is difficult to sustain, since it doesn’t change habits. Also, why spend a whole lot of money on low-calorie shakes and supplements when you can choose real foods that are inexpensive, fit into regular daily habits, and have proven nutritional benefits? This week, Fooducate looks at this expensive system of shakes, powders, and weight loss products, and reminds us that “there are no shortcuts to permanent weight loss.”  (Fooducate)

Here are other evidence-based reviews of Isagenix:

New Recipe on the Blog: Baked Falafel

A healthy twist on this Middle Eastern favourite.

baked falafel header 2

Last Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

TWFHF_July 10_small



Share This: