Sports Nutrition Tips for Cross-Country Runners

September 25th, 2015


If you’re on the cross-country team you are participating in one of the more popular high school sports in the US. You may find it challenging to meet your nutrition needs as you try to balance a lean physique with adequate fueling and hydration. Here are some tips to help you get your best performance:

Every Day:

  • Eat a generally healthy diet with lean proteins, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy.
  • Be sure to eat plenty of healthy carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, whole grains) because carbs keep the glycogen level in your muscles high. Glycogen is fuel for your running.
  • Be sure to get enough calories. When you don’t eat enough you are at risk for getting fatigued or injured. Female runners who start missing menstrual periods are likely not eating enough.
  • Maintain good baseline hydration. Drink some water when you get up in the morning and have some milk, juice, or water with each meal and snack. A free and easy way to monitor your hydration is to be sure your urine is a pale yellow color. If it gets darker, drink more!

Before a Practice or a Race:

  • Before practice have a snack with some easy to digest carbohydrate such as pretzels or crackers. Before a race or meet have a meal 1-4 hours before competing. The longer the time between eating and competing, the more you can eat.
  • Pre-game meals should contain lean protein and easy to digest carbs. Avoid greasy, spicy or fried foods. Think turkey sandwich and fruit, not burger and fries.
  • Drink 12-16 ounces of water about 2 hours before a race. Top this off with another 4 to 8 ounces before the race.
  • Before an all day meet try to find out what time your particular group will run. Time your food and water accordingly.

During a Practice or Race:

  • During practice sessions or longer training runs plan on some water or sports drink.
  • During your actual race you should not need any extra fluid or carbs because cross-country runs are completed in less than an hour.

After a Practice or Race:

  • You want to replenish your muscles and replace fluid losses, so you need protein, carbohydrates and fluids. Chocolate milk is considered a good recovery drink – that’s because it has all the nutrients you need for your muscles to recover! (But on a typical practice day you can just go home and eat dinner for your recovery meal!)

One last tip…try everything out during practice so you don’t get surprised on race day. Running can affect your digestive tract, and you don’t want unexpected nausea or diarrhea to derail your results.


Have a great season!


© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

6 Tips to Stay Hydrated This Fall

September 18th, 2015


Warm days continue into fall, and even after cooler weather arrives athletes and active people need to be sure to keep up their fluid intake. Here are some easy tips to help you personalize your hydration.

  1. Weigh yourself before training or competition and again afterwards. For every pound lost, drink 16 – 24 ounces of fluid. So if you lose 1.5 pounds, you would need to drink 24 – 36 ounces of fluid.
  2. If you are exercising for more than an hour you need to pay attention to fluid during your activity. Try for 4-6 gulps of water or sports drink (4-6 ounces) every 15 minutes.
  3. To maintain baseline hydration try drinking water when you first get up and making sure to drink fluids with each meal.
  4. If you don’t like to use sports drinks during activity be sure to eat some salty snacks like pretzels.
  5. Be sure to drink something when you are thirsty.
  6. Monitor your urine color. It should be pale yellow, like lemonade. If it is more like the color of apple juice drink more liquids.

© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN


What should I eat on vacation? 4 tips from the pros.

September 5th, 2015

west virginia and shower 2015 010 What do Registered Dietitians eat on vacation? I recently made a trip with 5 friends from my dietetic internship and thought it was interesting to see some trends. This trip started out with a car trip to our central destination, Pipestem State Park in southern West Virginia. From there we did long day trips to Beckley and to the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. Based on my observations of how this group of RD’s combined vacation fun and healthy eating principles, here are 4 tips for eating well on vacation.

Plan Ahead. The group looked ahead to have healthy car snacks and breakfast foods for in-room meals. The snacks included plenty of water, whole grain crackers, Kind Bars and fresh grapes. One couple likes to breakfast in their room when they travel, so they brought oatmeal packets and high fiber cereal and used hot water from their room coffee maker. Another group brought some pumpkin bread to share for breakfast. I also noticed that the RD’s were looking at the day as a whole. For example some passed on a dinner dessert because they had a lunch dessert. When we were planning an early lunch day, everyone ate lightly at breakfast.

Try New Foods. The members of the group took advantage of being in an unfamiliar locale to sample regional favorites. We sampled fried green tomatoes, excellent local barbecue, southern style biscuits, grits and locally brewed craft beers. My own favorite was the chilled peach soup at the Greenbrier. It was served with a dollop of whipped cream, raspberry coulis and a crispy almond macaroon and could have been dessert instead of an appetizer!

Include Fruits and Vegetables. I observed lots of side salads with meals. Group members usually chose plant based options such as coleslaw or fresh fruit as their side dishes.

Practice Portion Control. The group kept an informal eye on portions. Some chose to share entrees. Some did not eat the full portion served. (This was tough! We did not have refrigeration in our rooms, so what we did not eat had to be discarded.) Sometimes we were able to choose the smaller of two portion options. At one restaurant everyone was able to order breakfast from the children’s menu to get appropriate portions! How have you applied similar approaches when traveling? Share your thoughts and insights at Lunchbox Nutritionist.

© 2015 Kathleen Searles


Fighting the Freshman Fifteen: 8 Tips

August 7th, 2015

001Students are heading off to college over the next few weeks. For this week’s post, Erica Carneglia, a dietetics student from Miami University offers her perspective on avoiding the dreaded “Freshman Fifteen” pounds of weight gain. If you are a returning student, use her suggestions to make this year healthier than last! 


  • You still need to eat breakfast, lunch, AND dinner. Just because your mom isn’t there to call you to breakfast, that doesn’t mean you don’t need it! Try to spread your calories out into 3 or more intervals. In order to keep your metabolism going, your body needs an even flow of nutrients. When your metabolism isn’t moving, your body can start to store fat, which is where you can run into problems. 
  • Establish a schedule. Creating a routine in college can be a lot harder than it sounds, especially when your class schedule changes almost every day and you never know when a nap is going to sound like the best idea in the world. That being said, it’s important to make sure you fit all of your meals into your busy day in order to maintain that balanced flow. Having a routine can keep you on track on some of your craziest days!
  • Breakfast always has and always will be the most important meal of the day. You’ve been hearing this for years, and frankly that’s a good thing; you need it in order to stay full throughout the day and prevent major snacking later on. More specifically, skip that bagel or croissant and try to get plenty of protein at breakfast. This will keep you full longer, keep your muscle maintenance at an optimal level, and allow you to start your day alert and ready for whatever the day throws at you. Some Greek yogurt with fruit and granola is a great option, and if you have some extra time grab an egg white omelet from the dining hall with plenty of leafy greens and bright vegetables!
  • Think about what mom would say. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Stay away from fried starches, processed meats and pastries! They tend to be higher in saturated fats and sodium, and lower in vitamins and minerals. Lean meats, fruits and vegetables all provide more nutrients for fewer calories, which can sometimes be exactly what you need.
  • No, vending machines are not healthy when no one is looking. Save those quarters for laundry! Try and get healthy options from the dinning hall in the morning to bring to class with you, such as almonds, or anything else that can be stored without refrigeration.
  • Go get that fro-yo with your friends. It’s all about moderation. If you have a sweet tooth and know you’ll down a couple bags of m&m’s if you don’t have any chocolate for a week, have a little bit! If it’s unrealistic for you to completely cut something out, don’t do it. Find similar, healthier options that you can have in moderation and substitute for your favorite sweets.
  • Try out that new spin class. Taking time to workout in college is hard, especially if the gym is on the opposite side of campus. If you’re new to working out on your own, sign up for a few group classes and try out as many as you can before you find one you like. That way, you can make a schedule and attend the classes weekly, keeping you active throughout the week.
  • Skip that midnight pizza delivery to the dorm. Almost everyone gets hungry late at night. What’s important is not that you’re eating, but what you are eating and how much. Try and keep the portions small and nutrients high! Unbuttered popcorn is great, and sometimes some sliced apples with peanut butter will do the trick as well!  

Follow these tips and your skinny jeans will still fit in May!

© 2015 Erica Carneglia








Summer Salsas

June 28th, 2015

20150627_180036 (1)Are you finding it challenging to meet the My Plate recommendations to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables? Consider trying a fruit salsa to highlight summer’s grilled meats. Mangoes, peaches and pineapple are all good fruits to use for your base. If your meat is grilled plain, add some heat to the salsa with diced hot peppers such as jalapenos. If you are using a spicy rub, keep your salsa cool. Last weekend I used these ingredients for a salsa to accompany grilled chicken with a chipotle rub:

  • diced mango (check out this cool video about choosing and cutting mangoes!)
  • diced red pepper
  • diced red onion
  • chopped cilantro
  • juice of one lime
  • touch of maple syrup

This weekend I used peaches and added some finely diced jalapenos to serve with grilled pork chops. Be creative and share your ideas with Lunchbox Nutritionist!

© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN


Smoothie Bowls

June 16th, 2015

This week’s post is written by Erica Carneglia, a senior dietetics major at Miami University. Erica is working with Lunchbox Nutritionist this summer. At Miami she is a member of the student Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a fitness instructor at the campus recreation center.

smoothie bowlSummer is the perfect time to switch up your routine and try something new, and smoothie bowls are a great way to do just that! If you’re on Pinterest or any other form of social media, I’m sure you’ve seen them before; they seem to be popping up almost everywhere with their vibrant, rich colors and nutrient-packed ingredient lists. So what are they really all about?


Not just a ‘smoothie in a bowl’: Because they are meant to be consumed with a spoon instead of out of a straw, you have free range to add ingredients that are coarser or thicker in texture, such as nuts, seeds, or even an avocado. Not only this, but they have toppings galore! You can spruce them up with anything and everything you can think of, don’t limit yourself to the ingredients you put inside the bowl, toppings can be completely original.


Why are they so ‘trendy’? As you can probably assume, popularity spurred from the bowls’ photogenic qualities, but they’re remaining popular because of their versatility and nutritious make-up. There are so many options, you can add fruits or vegetables, have it for breakfast or lunch, and they can even be dessert oriented by using some peanut butter or unsweetened cocoa powder.


Who are these for? While the overwhelming majority of smoothie bowl enthusiasts are adults, they can most certainly be made kid friendly. Minor adjustments to any recipe can be made, such as smaller portions, or the addition of your child’s favorite ingredients. The dessert bowls also seem to catch kids’ eyes!


Finally, here’s a sample recipe for you to try out. It’s fruity and delicious, packed with quite a nutritious punch. This recipe serves two. All you have to do is combine the smoothie ingredients in a blender, and pulse until smooth. The toppings are just suggestions, pick and choose your favorites and let your creative side take over as you decorate. Don’t forget to post your smoothie bowl on twitter and tag me in it, I would love to see what you all come up with!


Smoothie Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ frozen bananas
  • 1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup strawberries
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp acai powder (optional)
  • ¼ cup almond milk

Possible Toppers:

  • Kiwi slices
  • Banana slices
  • Pineapple slices
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Goji berries
  • Coconut shavings
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds

© 2015 Erica Carneglia 

Strawberries: The Taste of Summer

May 30th, 2015

Spring 2015 011One of the food highlights of summer is fresh strawberries. With their glossy red color and juicy sweetness, ripe strawberries are a treat for the eyes and the palate! They are also full of nutrition benefits. One cup of sliced fresh strawberries has just 55 calories, but provides over 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C and more than 3 grams of fiber.  In addition, strawberries contain anti-oxidant phytochemicals, including ellagic acid, anthocyanins, quercetin and catechin. These compounds may help protect the body from inflammation and the negative effects of cholesterol.  Food and medical scientists are continuing to research the potential beneficial effects of strawberries and other berries in preventing heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

We don’t really need science and nutrition to convince us to eat strawberries, however! The best berries will be bright red through to the tip, with a fresh appearing green cap. Berries will not ripen any further after they are picked.  Fresh strawberries taste best when used soon after harvesting or purchasing. Don’t wash them until you are ready to use them. Strawberries should only be left at room temperature for a few hours, and after that can be stored in the refrigerator. Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and store for 2-3 days.

If you have more strawberries than you can use in a few days, you can freeze the extras. I usually just wash them and remove the green caps. Then I spread them on a cookie sheet and blot with a paper towel to remove excess water before placing the tray in the freezer for a couple of hours. When the berries have hardened I transfer them to a freezer bag¸ removing as much air as possible from the bag.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use strawberries:

  • Just cut up plain with a little sugar or sweetener if needed
  • With sour cream or yogurt and a sprinkle of brown sugar
  • Cut up alone or with other berries and served with a drizzle of maple syrup and chopped mint leaves
  • With cottage cheese (The mint/maple combo is especially tasty this way!)
  • With plain, vanilla, or lemon yogurt as a snack or dessert
  • In smoothies (frozen berries are great for this)
  • Sliced over a salad of fresh leaf lettuces, sugar snap peas, green onions, thinly sliced cucumber, and grilled chicken breast and topped with a strawberry vinaigrette


Head to a nearby farmer’s market  or pick-your-own farm to start enjoying the freshest local berries.  Share YOUR best strawberry ideas on our Facebook page!


© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN


For Zero Risk Use Zero Supplements

May 8th, 2015

20150501_101653Do you know that there are over 200 “aliases” for testosterone that is used in supplements? This is one of the fascinating and alarming things we learned from Dr. Bob Murray at the recent SCAN (Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition) Symposium in Colorado Springs. Supplements are not as well regulated as pharmaceuticals. Dr. Murray said that all types of supplements are at risk for contamination, and that over 50% of FDA recalls between 2004 and 2012 were for supplements. The riskiest categories of supplements are muscle building supplements, weight loss aids and sexual enhancement products. Some athletes seek supplements or performance enhancing drugs as a way to gain an unfair competitive advantage. Other athletes are at risk because they are not aware of the potential for supplements being contaminated with banned substances or formulated with dangerous compounds.

Dr. Murray was a co-founder of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and is now the managing principal of Sports Science Insights, LLC, a consulting group that provides sports nutrition and exercise science expertise to companies. Dr. Murray outlined 5 things to keep in mind about supplements.

  1. Some ingredients are illegal and banned by a sports governing body such as the International Olympic Committee or the NCAA.
  2. Some ingredients are legal but banned by the sports governing body.
  3. Many ingredients have aliases. There are over 40,000 chemical “aliases” for the 5,000 ingredients that are used in supplements, making it more difficult to evaluate and regulate supplements.
  4. Some ingredients are dangerous. He gave an example of Oxy-Elite Pro, which contained the banned stimulant DMAA and was linked to acute hepatitis.
  5. Supplement use may make the jump to performance enhancing drugs more attractive to athletes.

Dr. Murray offers the following advice to athletes:

  • Want zero risk? Take zero supplements.
  • Okay with minimal risk? Use certified supplements. Work with qualified professional who can do the homework. Get approval from team official.
  • Like to live dangerously? Take whatever supplement you want.

For more information about supplements check out the SCAN fact sheets on dietary supplements  and their regulation.

© 2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN














Easy Energy Bites – What They’re Eating at the Olympic Training Center

May 1st, 2015

Colorado Springs 2015 048Olympic athletes struggle with finding quick, easy and nutritious foods to fuel their activities just like the rest of us. Yesterday the Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs opened their kitchen to other RDNs attending the SCAN (Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition) conference. We had 15 minutes working together to prepare some athlete friendly snacks.

What do the Olympic RDN’s look for when helping athletes create recipes? Ease of preparation is key. “Hungry athletes want to eat food, not prepare food,” says Susie Parker Simmons, sports dietitian at the USOC. She looks for recipes that contain nutrients such as calcium or fiber. Some of the recipes are so simple that they could be prepared in a hotel room, important for athletes traveling for competitions.

In the test kitchen yesterday we made homemade energy bars, several nutrient packed dips and skewers of cut up fruits.  Here is the recipe for “No Bake Energy Bites”:

1 cup dry oatmeal (dry old-fashioned oats)

2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes

½ cup peanut butter

½ cup ground flax seed

½ cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs

1/3 cup honey or agave nectar

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed Roll into balls of whatever size you would like. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Colorado Springs 2015 051

©2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN

Calcium for the Lactose Intolerant: 3 Tips

April 25th, 2015

Farmer Bob's produce 035Are you one of the many people who suffer from gas, bloating or diarrhea when you eat dairy products? Many people do not have the enzyme lactase which is needed to break down lactose, the naturally occurring sugar that’s in milk. This undigested lactose is responsible for the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

The simplest solution is to avoid dairy products. But in the US dairy products are the primary source of calcium, a nutrient that is essential for healthy bones and teeth. 70% of the calcium in our diets comes from dairy products.

How can you get enough calcium in your diet without feeling uncomfortable?

  1. Use foods such as orange juice, soy or almond milk, or cereals that have been fortified with calcium.
  2. Increase your intake of plant based calcium sources. Kale, broccoli and bok choy are high in easily absorbed calcium. (Some high calcium vegetables such as spinach and sweet potatoes are high in oxalic acid. This binds to the calcium so it isn’t absorbed by your body.) Legumes such as black beans and nuts such as almonds are also sources of calcium.
  3. Experiment with using only small amounts of dairy products at a time to see if they are tolerated. Many people can tolerate yogurt or aged cheeses because the lactose content is lower than that of milk.

©2015 Kathleen Searles, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN