As warmer weather is approaching, we’re shifting how often we use the oven. It doesn’t matter if you have air conditioning, the oven turned on in the late spring and summer makes for a really warm kitchen. We cook a lot of things stove top, use our George Foreman or go outside and grill.
For this recipe, all you need is pots and pans and some tongs.
As we’re getting back into our routine of having dinner together again since the semester is over, I’ve been trying to incorporate meals that take a little longer or utilize entrees that may have a little assembly. I don’t need to rush dinner or have it in a Tupperware anymore, so this is a perfect opportunity to use corn tortillas.
I’ve made BBQ chicken tostadas before and since I had shaved steak I looked to see if there was a recipe that would be similar that I could check out.
Here’s what my Pinterest search looked like.
So I skimmed through a few recipes and then decided to throw my own thing together.
What You’ll Need
- Vegetables to saute (whatever you like, onions and peppers are perfect with this)
- Red onion
- White onion
- Bell Pepper
- 8 ounces shaved steak (I used Trader Joe’s because it’s lean and reasonably priced)
- Jerk seasoning
- 4 corn tortillas (I used Goya)
- ~1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
- ~2T Mozzarella cheese
- Cooking spray
1. Wash and chop vegetables into small pieces. They don’t need to be minced, but should be close to bite size.
2. Spray a medium sized pot with cooking spray and add vegetables. Put on medium heat. Stir occasionally as vegetables sweat.
3. In a separate pan, add shaved steak and seasoning blend. I used Jerk seasoning, but you could use something smokey or spicy for this recipe. Put on medium heat so you don’t burn the meat.
4. In a small pan, spray cooking spray or use a little bit of olive oil (with a paper towel) to lightly coat the bottom. Put on high heat to get pan to temperature, then decrease heat to medium/medium-high. Place a corn tortilla until you see air pockets form and the bottom side of the tortilla is browned. This should take a few minutes if the pan isn’t warmed up yet, then flip and let second side to brown. Repeat this for all corn tortillas. You may need to spray or wipe olive oil in between tortillas.
5. For plating, place a corn tortilla on a plate and spread plain Greek yogurt, I used a spoonful. Since this recipe makes two, I used half the steak for both tortillas, then added vegetables followed by shredded mozzarella cheese. Many recipes called for mozzarella, but you could use cheddar or a blend – whatever you prefer.
Nutritional estimates: ~350 calories, 11F/36C/32P
As always, nutrition will change based on brands and cuts of meat. If you use a different cut of meat, it may has more fat and therefore more calories. If you use more or less vegetables, etc.
If you want to check out the recipe that had inspired my BBQ chicken tostadas a while back, here it is!
Like the other macronutrients, protein can be misunderstood.
Like dietary fat, I’ve heard from people including trainers that protein can make you fat if you consume too much. Let’s be clear – too many calories can lead to fat gain, not necessarily any one specific macronutrient. However, with that in mind, we need to be thoughtful about what is paired together with protein as well as how protein is utilized in the body. Is eating a whole egg really a problem, or is it that many people won’t just eat one or two yolks, but will pair the meal with buttered toast, multiple pieces of fatty bacon and top it all with salt? While these components may not always be the “healthiest” choice, individually they can be fine in moderation, but together – it’s like a league of villains, or can be if they are consumed too often.
Ok, so what is protein?
Chemically, protein is a polypeptide of 50 or more amino acids that have biological activity. Protein is found in our DNA, which means it is found in our muscle mass, blood, bones and skin. “They function in metabolism, immunity, fluid balance, and nutrient transport, and in certain circumstance they can provide energy (Timberlake, Karen, 2018).”
Nutritionally, we know that one gram of protein has four calories associated with it. We know that protein needs are lower in comparison to carbohydrates and fats because the body utilizes carbohydrates as a first line of energy followed by fat (Thompson & Manore, 2015). This doesn’t mean that protein isn’t important. Dietary protein helps us conduct daily business. It helps the body to function without depleting protein found in the body (i.e. muscle mass).
But, you can consume too much protein and we will get to that, but first some background.
In chemistry, protein is called a polypeptide, which a chain of amino acids.
Amino acids are called building blocks because they are single units that bond together to make protein.
There are 20 amino acids found in our bodies (Timberlake, Karen, 2018). We can make 11 of them, but there’s another nine that we need to get with our diet. Amino acids that must be consumed are called essential amino acids. They’re essential because without them our bodies can’t make other proteins for other body functions like neurotransmitters. The 11 amino acids we can make are called nonessential amino acids.
*essential amino acids
I’m sure many of you have heard of BCAA’s or branched chain amino acids. You’ve probably seen them in the store in a pill or powdered form. Simply, these are specific amino acids that have a branch. They can assist in decreasing protein synthesis, which means they can help prevent muscle breakdown and losses, however, there isn’t much research the proves this to be true or consistent (Wolfe, 2017). There are three BCAA’s out of the nine essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine.
I’ve heard people say that amino acids are inferior to protein. You can’t confused BCAA’s with all amino acids. I would say that drinking or consuming a BCAA if you recognize deficits or holes in your nutrition can be helpful, however, I would recommend that you eat a complete protein rather than drink amino acids or a protein shake. But – remember, it’s also about preference too – drinking BCAA’s won’t hurt you and some people just like protein shakes. I’ve tried BCAA’s, but I never noticed a difference and that could be because of dietary diversity even when in a caloric deficit.
So an amino acid is equal to a single unit, protein is equal to many units of amino acids. As you can imagine, there are many combinations of amino acids and the combination determines the function of the protein in our bodies.
Here are some things in our bodies made up of amino acids:
Above, I mentioned complete protein. A complete protein has all of the essential amino acids in it.
Examples of complete proteins:
- egg whites
An incomplete protein lacks one or more essential amino acids.
Examples of incomplete proteins:
- corn – missing lysine and tryptophan
- beans – missing methionine and tryptophan
- almonds and walnuts – missing lysine and tryptophan
- peas and peanuts – missing methionine
- wheat, rice and oats – missing lysine
Dietary protein helps us build our bodies (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Our bodies are resilient and function smartly. When protein is broken down in the body, the amino acids are recycled into new proteins. Like mentioned above, protein helps with hormone balance, fluid and electrolyte balance, repairs our bodies and helps us grow, but as an energy source our needs are pretty low. This is due in part because we recycle amino acids because our bodies don’t have a “specialized storage form” of protein.
So how much should you eat?
At one point, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) suggested .8g per kilogram body weight per day for both inactive and active individuals. However, more research has shown that individuals who are active may need more. The ranges should vary based on a number of factors such as gender, age, size, but also the kind of activity you do, which is where I slightly disagree with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A 2009 review of these guidelines determined the following concepts:
- protein is a critical part of the adult diet
- protein needs are proportional to body weight; NOT energy intake
- adult protein utilization is a function of intake at individual meals
- most adults benefit from protein intakes above the minimum RDA
They examined current perceptions about protein as well as benefits to treat and prevent obesity since 35.7% of U.S. adults were considered obese and 16.9% of U.S. children and adolescents were obese at the time of the review. The most recent NHANES data from 2013-2014 shows that 38% of adults are obese with 19% of children and adolescents being obese. A major flaw pointed out by this review highlighted the proportion of protein to carbohydrates and fats may be adequate with high energy consumption, but that as “total daily energy intake is often below 1400 kcal/day” when individuals seek to lose weight it could be potentially harmful to limit protein needs to the RDA as a loss in lean muscle mass could result (Layman, 2009).
In 2011, a study looking at required and optimal amounts of dietary protein for athletes found that while the RDA was .8g per kilogram, it was would be appropriate for athletes, both endurance (distance runners) and strength (bodybuilding and weightlifting) to consume between 1.6 to 2.25 times the RDA or 1.2g to 1.8g per kilogram (Phillips & Van Loon, 2011). The study also suggested that protein consumption between 1.8 to 2.0 per kilogram could be helpful depending on caloric deficit for the preservation of lean muscle mass.
Now, remember this study looked at protein consumption for very active people.
If you’re sedentary, there’s no reason to consume as much as an athlete. If you are active, you may also need to consider how much potential lean muscle mass you have. If you’re overweight or obese, your protein needs may be less.
I formerly had a client who was consuming 1g per pound she weighed and it was over 200g of protein because a former coach had recommended it. She had an equal amount of protein to carbohydrates, which is a common calculation, but necessary.
A 1:1 ratio of protein to weight in pounds is a common suggestion and it’s one that I utilized when I first started tracking macros, but as I started looking at my specific goals and needs, I realized what I was consuming wasn’t helping me and I redistributed my nutrient goals.
While this client was very active and participated in weightlifting multiple times a week this 1:1 ratio of protein was inappropriate for her because it wasn’t taking into consideration lean mass, but instead overall mass. It also left her feeling bloated, hungry and often with disproportionate nutrients to be satisfied.
So what can happen if you consume too much protein?
There are a few health conditions that have raised concerns, but they may not impact everyone – there’s also some contradictory research and you need to figure out what side of the fence you’re on.
Concerns around heart disease and high protein consumption also involve high amounts of saturated fat found in animal products (Thompson & Manore, 2015).”. High saturated fat levels have been know to increase blood cholesterol levels and increase risk for heart disease. However, a moderate protein diet that is low in saturated fat can be good for the heart. Again, this is correlation, not necessarily causation.
Another concern is that excess protein found in the urine due to kidney impairment. “As a consequence, eating too much protein results in the removal and excretion of the nitrogen in the urine and the use of the remaining components for energy (Thompson & Manore, 2015).”
When protein is found in the urine it’s called proteinuria. As part of the body’s fitration system, kidneys remove waste from your blood, but allow nutrients like protein to return to the bloodstream to be recycled through the body. Protein in your urine can be a sign of impaired kidney function. It’s important to note there is no evidence that more protein causes kidney disease in healthy people that aren’t susceptible to the disease, however, more water should be consumed to flush out the kidneys because of protein metabolism (Thompson & Manore, 2015).
Bloating is also possible if “too much” protein is consumed in one meal and your body doesn’t produce enough enzymes to assist in digestion. Chemical protein digestion occurs in the small intestine as a result from the enzyme pepsin. “Too much” is relative. I get bloated if I have more than 40g of protein in a meal. Depending on planning I can prevent too much consumption, but that’s not always the case.
Like mentioned above, athlete and highly active individuals may need more than the RDA, but the average person may not need as much. Much recent research I found that examines the impacts of high protein consumption utilizes athletic bodies in high resistance training settings, which isn’t necessarily a sample that will provide data that can be used for recommendations for an inactive or lightly active person.
The data is still interesting, but may not be helpful to the average person.
When I did find research articles discussing higher protein needs in obese individuals, I found many studies designed diet plans for participants with sub-1000 kcal/day. This is an extreme diet that may not typically be suggested for one to conduct without being monitored. An example of this extreme design is a study published in 2015 that examined normal protein intake versus high protein intake as well as carbohydrate reduction to determine success in weight loss and maintenance. Researchers assigned adult participants to 800 kcal/day for eight weeks and once participants had an 11 kg loss they randomly assigned them to a new plan with varying protein intake for six months. They found that individuals with higher protein intake were able to adhere to the plan, which not only resulted body fat losses, less inflammation and better blood lipid panels, but also were capable of maintaining losses. Researchers also suggested that less restrictive approaches also lead to higher adherence (Astrup, Raben, & Geiker, 2015).
Again, interesting, but this is an extreme that hopefully many won’t use or need.
What about if you eat too little?
While we don’t need as much protein for energy as many believe, we do need dietary protein to assist in building our bodies like mentioned above. Without dietary protein, our bodies breakdown stored protein i.e. muscle to be utilized to assist in daily functions such as creating amino acids. A true deficit of protein can result in a greater number of infections if the body is unable to produce enough antibodies. A true deficit occurs over time and in extreme circumstances; however, can be more likely if an individual is in a large caloric deficit.
So, easy question- what food sources have protein in them?
Obviously meat is an excellent protein source, but there’s more than meat. Legumes like lentils, black beans and green peas as well as nuts have protein in them too. While oatmeal is a well-known grain, it also has about 5g of protein per half cup serving. Dairy, while also another carbohydrate source, is also an excellent source of protein and the mineral calcium – if you’re not lactose intolerant!
Vegetables that have protein in them that I recommend to clients who are trying to balance out density and volume in their eating include broccoli, Brussels sprouts and asparagus.
Like the other macronutrients, protein can be flexible within reason. Considering multiple factors to determine a specific plan for you will be key. It might take trial and error, it may also take some adjustments, but give yourself time.
Your nutrition should be specific to you and your goals. It should take all of you into consideration like have you approached menopause or had a hysterectomy? Hormones play a huge role in overall nutritional needs. What’s your sleep like? Are you on medications? What’s your stress like? Are you sitting more or less than before?
I know many of these questions can seem silly when posed, but they are important.
The body is a weird organism, just when we think we have it figured it out, it changes on us.
Layman, D. K. (2009). Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutrition and Metabolism, 6-12.
Phillips, S., & Van Loon, L. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Science, 29-38.
Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2015). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. San Francisco: Pearson Education.
Timberlake, Karen. (2018). Amino Acids, Proteins and Enzymes. In K. Timberlake, Chemistry: An introduction to general, organic, and biological chemistry (pp. 548-583). New York: Pearson.
Wolfe, R. R. (2017). Branched-chain amino acids and muscle protein synthesis in humans: myth or reality? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14-30.
Currently, there are 10 jars of nut butter sitting in my cabinet.
1. Cinnamon Raisin Swirl from Peanut Butter and Company
2. Mighty Maple from Peanut Butter and Company
3. Nutella – yes, that counts, hazelnuts!
4. Unsalted cashew butter, store brand
5. Pumpkin Spice from Peanut Butter and Company
6. Extra Crunchy Skippy
7. Smooth Jif
8. Brownie Batter from D’s Naturals
and now, chocolate protein walnut butter and plain walnut butter
It started with an email from The Peanut Principle telling me about their year of sale or coupon, regardless, I sighed because 1. I have a lot of jars in the cabinet and 2. I didn’t really need to spend the money on more right now. JP and I were getting dinner ready and I asked him if he thought we would have time to try to make our own this weekend.
He immediately turned to the cabinet and grabbed a full bag of whole shell walnuts and said “could we use this?” Yep. Yep, we could.
So I looked online so see if there was any magic to making nut butter and you know what, there’s not. So we played around and gave it a go.
Here’s What You’ll Need
- Food processor
- 1 to 2 cup of nuts, unsalted
- optional – salt
- optional – protein powder, we used Chocolate Cupcake from PEScience
- optional – Hershey’s chocolate syrup
- optional – vanilla extract
- Pick your nut! I know, I know, but you need to decide what butter you want. I chose walnuts.
- If your nuts are already shelled, you can add between 1 to 2 cups to your food processor. If they’re not shelled, shell them and make sure that all the piece of shell and inner skin are removed.
- Pulse your food processor on chop for a few minutes before switching to grind. If your food processor doesn’t have multiple settings or has numbered settings you will want to processor the nuts until they are smooth. Scraping the sides every now and then to ensure that all pieces of what may be meal now continue to be ground down.
- When ground to desired smoothness, pour into a jar and store in the fridge.
To make protein infused nut butter
- Make the recipe above and divide in half then add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
- Once vanilla is blended in, add a scoop of protein of your choice slowly. We used chocolate frosted cupcake by PEScience, which will cause the nut butter to dry out slightly. I believe all powders would cause the nut butter to dry out though, not just the whey casein blend.
- To combat the dryness of added protein, add a little bit of water. I added 1/2 a tablespoon of water at a time up to about 2 tablespoons of water.
- To enhance the chocolatey-ness of the nut butter or because I wanted to add chocolate sauce… I added 1 tablespoon of Hershey’s syrup and blended.
Nutrition for a 28g serving of protein walnut butter using 100g of blended nut butter: 12.5F/3.6C/7.1P
I would wait until the next day to put add-ins into the nut butter because this gives the mix time for the oils to separate, which may help with mixing in the protein. Since it is naturally and minimally made, we have had to mix both butters before every use so that oils are mixed thoroughly.
I haven’t written in a while. I definitely let me schedule get the best of me, but I also have been working on this post for longer than I had intended.
It has taken me a long time to get in a good relationship. When I was younger I looked to all the wrong things. I can actually taste things when I’m in certain moods. I know I want something tangy like Ranch dressing when I’m stressed. I also know I want caffeine when I get anxiety. Even though I have a much better handle on my eating habits, I know my relationship with food can be difficult at times , but where does it come from?
When I was a kid we didn’t have a lot of money so I learned to be able to eat breakfast for dinner and lunch for breakfast. Even to this day I can have a salad at 8 in the morning and not have a problem. This can be really helpful, but I also get crazy cravings.
When I was a teenager and we were better off, we had a pretty healthy pantry. While I was never hungry, I remember going to my friends houses and being excited because the food at their houses was typically the sweet, salty variety. This was my first experience with binging. I couldn’t have it at home and I felt like I would never get the opportunity again.
I remember when my younger sister would cry or throw a tantrum, our mother would hand her something to eat. It might be a piece of candy or it might be a piece of fruit, regardless I saw food being used as a way to calm down.
I grew up dancing and because of the amount of hours I logged I could ultimately eat whatever I wanted and not have an issue gaining weight. I realized in college when my activity levels were way lower that this wasn’t going to be the case. However, at this point, I had been in and out of relationships from friendships to the dating variety. Drinks were easy to confide in because on the average Wednesday to Saturday night all college age adults can be found with a beer in their hand. Even going up for a second or third plate in the buffet style cafeteria wasn’t an issue because maybe I just wanted to “try” something I saw before.
Ordering take-out and getting late-night dollar menu weren’t questioned because everyone else was doing it to. The problem came when it was clear that I wasn’t just maintaining my weight anymore. I wasn’t a size 5 like I had been when I first started college and I hated that. However, I didn’t do anything to prevent it. I just kept eating.
I ate because that’s what you do on Thursday night. I ate because we were celebrating. I ate because I was stressed. I ate because I hate the relationships I had with friends and family. Throughout my college career my weight skyrocketed from a meager 127 pounds and a size 5 to 240+ pounds and a size 24. I hate no idea who I was and when I let my eating get out of control. There is no one event that I can pin point, but I know how I felt during many.
Going to Taco Bell because it was a stressful day and it was cheap on the pocket was a regular occurrence. I figured ordering 2 beef baja style chapula’s and a soft taco without tomatoes really wasn’t that much food. I knew how the salty shell with the tangy sauce tasted and that it was comforting. If only I knew that in that one meal I was consuming:
I was easily consuming more than 2,500 calories a day.
Eating was necessary, but it made me nervous. I was scared I would eat too much, and I always did. As I gained weight, I got more anxiety about how I looked. I used humor to brush it off, but then I would always turn to food to make me feel better.
When I started losing weight, I would write down how I was feeling and what my cravings were. This helped me recognize the correlations and triggers. I immediately stopped drinking soda and I cut coffee out too. I loved to load up my ice coffee with cream and sugar. I figured this was a step in the right direction. Baby steps.
I cut pasta out too. I was living on food stamps and pasta was cheap, but I figured I could find a better alternative. I wasn’t going low carb, but I wanted to play with my food and see how I reacted to different things. After college, while still struggling to find a job in my field, I worked part-time at a Wendy’s on top of my full-time hour, temporary job. It was very tempting to eat everything on the menu, but I figured this was a way to test myself. My meals were 50% off as an employee and I would get a side salad with no dressing or croutons, and maybe a sandwich, but no bun or dressing.
This was a step. I needed to learn to make better decisions when in hard situations like eating out. I packed my lunch when I could and that not only saved me from high calorie foods, but saved my wallet as well.
As I cut out processed sugars and extra salts, I found myself less dependent on them and I saw weight coming off.
When in social situations like going to the movies, I started packing my own snacks, this included an apple or a snack bag of chips. Movie prices have risen so much since I was a kid I was doing myself a service all around. This is also something I continue to practice, but I’ve graduated from apples to protein bars.
The past few weeks have been trying. I’ve decided that I can’t compete this May, not because of food issues or unwillingness to work hard, but competing is expensive and I don’t believe having a kickstarter as this time is a good idea. I do want to work over the summer and compete in the fall, but because of this change, I feel like I have let myself down. This is something completely out of my control, but it’s still taking a toll on me emotionally.
Making good decisions has been hard, and when I think about why do I want Easter candy or why do I want a burger, it comes down to remembering the times that I remembered how food made me feel better.
If I’m alone on a Friday night and I eat the whole bag of popcorn will anyone know?
The answer is yes. I will know. I will be disappointed. This isn’t about depriving myself, because that’s why I eat flexibly, but this is about portion control and trusting myself to stop.
Here’s what I have found to be helpful when seeking a better relationship with food.
1. write down your cravings and what events are triggering them
2. make a list of activities you can do instead of eating
3. write down foods that are triggers for binging and ask yourself why this is a trigger
4. set small goals to help yourself ween off your trigger foods or moderate them
Here’s what we can do to prevent poor relationships with food for the younger generation.
1. Don’t give in to their wants like my mother did. My sister has a lot of eating issues and I believe it’s because my mother helped enable her bad behavior. If she yelled, she got a candy bar. It should’ve been if she yelled she got a time out.
2. Introduce healthy foods early and often. My friend Julie makes her daughters baby food all the time. I know this isn’t easy or always possible, but small, positive changes where you can. Maybe your toddler likes kale and you have no idea. If you wouldn’t want to eat it, why feed it to your kid?
3. Eat out as a treat, not as necessity. Once in a while is a treat, every weekend isn’t. If time prevents you from making a home cooked meal, think about the time you sat in the restaurant waiting for your food.
4. Meal prep the bulk of meals and make it a family affair. If you can get the family on board with prepping a few meals at the beginning of the week maybe they’ll have an appreciation for the hard work that goes into cooking, but maybe they’ll have some fun sampling what you’re putting together. In an hour I can make 3 different meals and have a week’s worth of food ready. Sometimes I will have Netflix on the my laptop while I wait for things to finish in the oven. Being in the kitchen doesn’t have to be boring.
What tips do you have to make healthier decisions? Let me know! Comment below.
Day 41: At my heaviest I wore an XL or a 2XL for comfort. This a medium too I wore 7 years ago when I was a freshmen in college. I never thought it would fit again. #littlethings #oldclothes #100happydays #happinessdoesntcomeinajar