Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Where can I get some good calories?

I am writing for advice. No one will feel sorry for me since most people have the opposite problem, but rather than writing accusations that I'm anorexic, I'd appreciate some honest food advice.

I've never had the problem of not being able to get enough calories. But now that I'm lactating and going on more frequent long runs (often with baby jogger), working 30 hours a week and taking care of The Lorax, I can't eat enough. It happens about every other night that I wake up with a panic attack sensation, so hungry that I have to go to the kitchen to eat an entire replica of the meal I had for dinner a few hours ago. Last night I had to do this twice, at 1 and 2 am. I'm really falling behind on my sleep.

I'm not tired of eating, by any means, but I'm sick of finding new things to eat, sick of eating in the middle of the night, sick of spending so much money on food and so much time preparing it. All that being said, I don't want to give up on my training regimen.

My diet consists of as much as I can stomach every day of the following:

Oatmeal (of course) with TVP, lefse, homemade power bars, bananas, cottage cheese, acorn squash, cereal, homemade falafel, pancakes with chocolate chips.

Part of my problem is obviously what I don't eat. No meat, except fresh fish (which is obviously expensive and I don't have time to prepare it before I go to work... oh, yeah, I eat dinner at work), nothing with high fructose corn syrup, very limited dairy (since I'm pretty severely lactose intolerant), and preferably nothing pre-packaged.

When we were on our honeymoon, I started to feel full for the first time in a long time. But we ate a lot of meals out and a lot of large homemade meals from friends. Oh and we took time to cook really big meals for ourselves. Now I just don't have the time or creativity to feed myself adequately. I want something quick and simple that will fill me up and make me feel good on my runs. Or something that I can prepare in bulk.

There must be other women out there who are long distance runners and breastfeed. And I really think the number will be going up in the next few years. I may be a physician, but I'm not a dietitian or a chef. I'm looking for recommendations, if not for crazy old me, then for other women to come who face the same problem.

A recent epidemiological review in the New England Journal discussed how inadequate nutrient intake in pregnant and lactating women (especially if there baby is small) can predispose to metabolic syndrome and/or diabetes in babies as adults (if they live in a nutrient rich environment as an adult). The Lorax doesn't deserve that predisposition. It should be said, though, that the risk of these metabolic disorders in adulthood is much higher in premature babies and those who are formula-fed. It's a really interesting article:
Effect of In Utero and Early-Life Conditions on Adult Health and Disease
Gluckman PD, Hanson MA, Cooper C, Thornburg KL, N Engl J Med 359:61, July 3, 2008 Review Article

Here I am showing a few too many ribs through the skin.

Running Song of the Day: The Parade by John Vanderslice (I can't remember if I posted this one before but it has had a resurgence in my life). You gotta admit there's something cool when a guy sings about putting lotion on his skin.


holly said...

Hi Sea Legs,

I am not a breastfeeding mother, but I can certainly relate to how many hours you work and how you want food that you can prepare in bulk. Especially when much of your time is occupied with training.

I would recommend that you buy the cookbook The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein. It has a lot of recipes for wonderful soups, grains and beans. The recipes are very simple and easy to follow, and they are also very forgiving if you don't have something on hand. She also doesn't use any dairy products.

Other than that, have you considered seeing a nutritionist so that they can assess what might be happening with your body?

Best of luck :)


Meghan said...

Aw Sealegs, I'm sorry you're having a tough time with this! Thinking of you!

I'm with Holly on the bulk cooking thing, it's the only way I survive. I work 7 straight days. During that time, I work a minimum of 80 hours, usually at least 90 hours, and I do all my regular training. Those 7 days are busy!


-I'll roast two trays of vegetables at one time. This makes enough vegetables for several days of ideas. You can just eat vegetables as a snack. You can pair the veggies with a grain and a protein (which you can precook enough grain and protein for several meals on a day where you have a little more time) for a meal.

-I bake sweet potatoes in bulk, say 4-5 potatoes at a time. That's 4-5 bases for 4-5 meals.

-I make "stew" or "chili" type concoctions (all vegetarian, and often vegan), which, when finished are balanced meals you can put in a container and take to work.

-I cut up enough fresh veggies for a few days worth of snacks, put them in tupperware in the fridge, then grab them and go as needed.

-I use fruit that's grabbable, or I cut fruit up in advance. For example, I love mangos, but mangos are a little preparation heavy. So I cut 3 mangos up at once and tupperware them for snacks later.

-I keep lots of fixings around for my morning bowl of oatmeal, so I can add in whatever my heart desires, and vary it day-to-day.

-I'll make 2 pans of my version of enchiladas or lasagna, and that makes several days of meals.

-I carry around baggies of nuts or nuts and dried fruit. My friends make fun of me because there are excess bags everywhere. Almonds, walnuts, and dried cherries, oh yum!

Sealegs, if you leave your email over on my blog and I'll be happy to send some recipes. ;)

And, I eat constantly, especially when I'm at work and I don't have time for a true meal. 300-400 calories at a time, every few hours. I'm prone to blood sugar lulls and spikes, so this also helps keep me on an even keel with no crashes.

Good luck!

Abbie said...

So... compared with what Holly and Meghan said, my comment will sound so trite. I'm sorry you're having a problem with weight (in the other direction). My first thought was apart from low calorie intake, it seems like you're not getting much protein which I know you're aware helps with feeling full. I like what Meghan said about carrying nuts around with her. I absolutely LOVE peanut butter on everything and Trader Joe's has an all natural brand which is absolutely fantastic. So that's my two cents. Sorry if it's kind of lame.

ckhalifa said...

Peanut butter!!! Thanks for your response to my comment in a previous entry about measurement in pregnancy, by the way. I measured behind the whole time, and gave birth at 37 weeks to a very healthy 6lb 11oz baby boy. I refuse to wonder whether the exercise was the reason he was early. He is gaining like mad on my milk.

I am also lactating and exercising like crazy. Not to mention getting no sleep and working part-time. The amount of food I need to eat astounds me and I get annoyed by how much time I have to spend preparing/eating food. Like you, I was below my pre-pregnancy weight a week after delivery and just keep losing.

So yes, peanut butter, peanut butter, peanut butter. There are some great non-prepackaged varieties!

Nancy said...

One of my favorites was mentioned already, but I'll repeat it: chili. I make double batches of vegan chili loaded with beans and TVP for protein, and freeze it into lunch portions for days I don't have time or energy to make anything else. You can freeze it in ziploc baggies (I use the ziploc quart size) and the day you eat it, just leave it out until meal time, pour into a bowl, and zap it.

You can do the same thing with most soups. I have a good vegan lentil soup that freezes well and makes great to-go lunches.

A not so obvious quick freeze ahead meal is tuna sandwiches. I don't eat fish anymore, but when I did, I would make 2 batches of tuna salad (easy on the mayo, heavy on celery and pickles, but be sure to get rid of as much moisture as possible, or they will make your spread to soggy) and make a stack of sandwiches using my favorite whole grain bread. Individually package them, freeze, and they're ready to go when you want. Also, like the chili or soup, just leave it out until meal time, and it should be thawed out.

My final favorite "freezer meal" is lasagna. There are several recipes I like, and I currently have 3 different kinds in the freezer waiting to be consumed. When the freezer is bare, I'll make a double batch on the weekend, so we have one to eat that week, and leftovers to eat all week, and then freeze the others prior to baking. Put it in the fridge the night before and it will be ready to bake the next night, for a quick meal (and more leftovers).

My go-to website is You can customize your searches (no dairy, no meat, make-ahead, etc) and get some great results. Once you're feeling good about it, try searching the recipes with meat for new ideas (because honestly, the veggie ones there are limited compared to the meaty variety), and start creating your own versions using substitutions. A good cookbook to check out is _Veganomicon_ (I think I spelled that right).

Mark + Ash said...

Love your blog. I have had the same issue when I used to train a lot more. Peanut butter immediately came to mind. I used to drink ensure, but it is expensive. My hubby and I make a lot of protein shakes now...if you don't have an immersion blender, it makes for easy clean-up with those. We also bought a juicer. It's easy to use, but a bit longer to clean up.

Have you tried steel cut oats instead of the packs of oatmeal? You can make a bunch at once and then just heat it up when you want to eat. I make mine with soy milk and add nuts and raisins.

I also cook quinoa and just add veggies (usually cooked carrots and edamame) and some soy sauce to it.

Also, here is a very quick recipe if you like couscous: prepare 1 cup of dry couscous as directed. Once cooked, add 1 can diced tomatoes (drained), 1 can chickpeas drained, juice from 1/2 lemon, oregano to taste. It's easy to make a lot at once. Can be served hot or cold.

Danni said...

I third or fourth the bulk cooking. I frequently make a big batch of quinoa to eat with beans and veggies or to toss in salad or to make quinoa tabouleh. Also, wheat berries are great and best made in bulk (they take about an hour to cook). They are chewy and awesome in soups, salads, with veggies and pretty much any way.

I have a great veggie chili recipe if you're interested. From Monty's Blue Plate in Madison, WI in fact.

Also nuts are awesome, almonds and walnuts are my favorites. I like my oatmeal with almonds, maple syrup and berries.

I don't know if you have Costco but they frequently have fresh ahi tuna and I cut it into smaller portions and freeze it. They also have Tilapia at my Costco which I read was the most environmental friendly fish -- it's also high protein (and mild tasting).

I am also a big fan of impromptu soup. We have a CSA share and I will just throw veggies in with coconut milk, curry paste (Thai Kitchen makes some good stuff), ginger, lemon grass (you can buy it in a tube) and whatever else strikes my fancy. Diced tofu or shrimp (again, Costco has frozen tail off cooked shrimp which is super easy).

My late afternoon snack is a spoonfull of Peanut Butter.

I also highly recommend Veganomicon.

You can steam almost any veggie and puree it with milk or coconut milk (or soy milk) and make cream of X soup -- and season it however you like. I just made gingered sweet pea and carrot soup and it was awesome.

I clearly have no trouble finding calories. :p Actually, I would probably be very thin if I skipped the beer ;)

sea legs girl said...

I am overwhelmed by these wonderful suggestions. I have to promise myself not to put them to waste. I'm going to print out all of your responses and bring them to the store.
Thanks Holly, Nancy and Danni for the Vegan cookbook recs. My sister has a website dedicated to veganism and I'm sure both she and I will love these.
Meghan, thanks for all of the details about your preparation. I really think what you are describing will work well for me. The sweet potatoes sound awesome, in particular. And the chili that you, Nancy and Danni recommend is a great idea (Danni, I'd love the recipe!... I love Monty's Blue Plate and I've had their chili, in fact).
Peanut butter is something I WAY overdid when I was pregnant and I have mental and physical barriers to opening that jar again.
Oh, yeah, I made a huge pan of lasagna a few weeks ago and that worked great for both me and SR.
Too many other things to comment on! I'll let you know what ends up working for us.
SR is making us pancakes right now. What a guy.

Danni said...

Monty's Blue Plate Diner -- Veggie Chili Recipe

2 T olive oil
2 stalks celery
1 med onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 med carrots, peeled and diced
1 med zucchini, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup sliced black olives
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 t salt
1 T black pepper
6 dashes tobasco
juice from one lemon
14 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
14 oz can great northern beans, r & d
14 oz can garbanzo beans, r & d
2 cups water
28 oz can tomato sauce
28 oz can diced tomatos

Sautee veggies in olive oil until tender. Add all spices/seasonings and sautee 5 more minutes. Add tomato stuff and bean stuff. Simmer an hour on low heat -- add water if needed to keep from getting too thick.

I like to eat this with whole wheat macaroni or wheat berries and sliced green onions as garnish. You could add TVP if you wanted extra protein.

sea legs girl said...

Wow, thanks Danni! And you've really got me intrigued by these "wheat berry" things.

Molly said...

Dear SLG,

I was never a very good LD runner, but I have done that and also have nursed a baby. (not at the same time!)

It *is* hard to do all of that, and watch the little one, and cook. But I, like the others, thought maybe a little more protein, and also some fat. I am generally not a big meat eater, but when I was nursing, I could out-eat my husband.

So, my ideas were
guacamole (good fats)
frozen shrimp (easy for stir fry)
eggs (if you eat them)
more olive oil
lots of complete veggie protein combos, like beans and rice (which you might doing)

Good luck!!! I am due today and am going shortly to the doc for my exam. Hope to be nursing soon, myself! But not running any more. :-)

sea legs girl said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Molly. I'm so excited for you. I hope the delivery happens soon and goes well!

Marathon Mom said...

A friend pointed me to your blog and I have read for a while. I too have an issue with calories, no meat, and being lactose intolerant. The difference is I am not a mother :) and have been running less due to injury. I second the TJs PB, it is a staple in my diet. My advice is to make crockpot meals, super easy and quick to prepare.
One recipe is to put brown rice, black beans, salsa, onions and peppers in on low for a couple hours. Top with gauc or fresh avacado when you eat (you can also do soy cheese).

amazon said...

I'll echo the others with nuts! Lots and lots of nuts. And beans! One of my favorite (and super fast) meals is to mix a can of black beans with some frozen or canned corn and chopped tomatoes. You can also add garlic, crushed red pepper, and lemon juice if any of that is appealing.

I've also had a lot of luck with Thai resturants/take out, which usually use coconut milk instead of milk or cream. You can get rice with amazing curries that contain tofu and lots of veggies.