Eating right for kickboxing

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

Portrait of Vesanto Melina

In the past few years, kickboxing has increased in popularity among both men and women. People participate to lose weight, gain muscle, increase fitness and have fun. Whatever your reasons, it is important to complement your training regime with proper and adequate nutrition.

Kickboxing is a high-intensity sport that requires a lot of energy and the main source of this energy is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are stored in your muscles and liver as glycogen, which your body converts to energy during your workout. It is necessary to include plenty of quality carbohydrates in your diet, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes to keep this energy store full. If you exclude carbohydrates from your diet, you won’t burn fat while exercising; you’ll just run out of energy.

It is a common misconception that when you work out, you need to increase your protein intake. While it is true that protein is needed to build and repair muscle, most people already exceed their daily protein needs through their regular diet. While animal products, beans and soy foods are well-recognized protein sources, grains, vegetables, seeds and nuts also contribute excellent protein.

Not only is what you eat important, but when you eat makes a difference. Eating too much just before your workout can make for an uncomfortable experience. Not eating enough can make it difficult to maintain energy throughout the session.

2-4 hours before your workout: Eat a meal that includes carbohydrate and protein. If your meal is closer to the two-hour mark, be sure it is fairly low in fat and fibre as these both slow the digestion of food and can cause a stomachache during your workout.

1 hour before your workout: If you are short on time, eat a light meal or snack one hour before your workout. Keep this meal low in fat and fibre and high in carbohydrates.

After your workout: The two hours after you exercise is when your muscles are most efficient at replacing lost glycogen. Eat a snack or meal that includes carbohydrate and some protein. Below is a post-workout snack with about a third of your daily protein requirement.

Vesanto Melina is a registered dietitian and author based in Langley. She is currently involved with the new project

Deanna Ibbitson is an assistant instructor at Westside Kickboxing with a master’s degree in nutrition. She helps Vesanto with nutrition research

Banana Blueberry Power Drink
Makes 2 1/2 cups, 1 or 2 servings

From Cooking Vegetarian by J. Forest and V Melina (Wiley Canada, 2011)

The seeds and fruit in this smoothie provide abundant carbohydrate, protein, minerals, vitamin E and omega 3 fatty acids. For one person, it is a power-packed breakfast that can take you through the morning; others might divide it into two servings. Presoaking the seeds and dates increases mineral availability as well as the smoothness of the final product, though the smoothie is fine without this step.

1/4 cup sunflower seeds
3 pitted dates
1 1/4 cups water
1 banana
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup shelled hemp seeds

In a small bowl, soak the sunflower seeds and dates in the water for six hours or overnight (optional). Place the seeds, dates, their soaking liquid, the banana, blueberries and hemp seeds into a blender; blend on high speed until smooth. If a thinner consistency is desired, add a little more water.

Full recipe: Calories: 584. Protein: 18 g. Dietary fibre: 21 g. Calcium: 85 mg. Iron: 5 mg.

Food allies

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis, RDs

Portrait of Vesanto Melina

In the quest for blooming health and vitality, we have enemies and allies in the realm of food. Our enemies lurk on every street corner and entice us. It takes a little planning to surround ourselves with allies that protect us and support our physical and mental health. Below are listed foes and friends (from The Raw Food Revolution Diet by C. Soria, B. Davis, and V. Melina). Raw plant foods are definitely allies! Yet how do we replace foods that undermine our health with others that support our well being? Is this practical? Would it taste good? What would our meals and snacks be like?

Cherie Soria is an inspiration; now in her mid 60’s, she is slim, gorgeous, and with three black belts in karate. See her at free events at Karmavore in New Westminster (Raw Foods for Health, Beauty, and Longevity, April 12, from 1 to 2 pm) and at Banyen Books (April 13 from 6:30 to 8 pm). Cherie offers a one day workshop on Saturday April 14 that is packed with delicious raw foods, practical tips, and good nutrition at Tao Organics in North Vancouver, 800.816.2319 or There is a lot piled into a single day!

Let’s see which foods would steer us down the road to poor health so we know what to avoid, and then which items truly nourish us.

Top 10 diet enemies

  1. Refined starch products, meaning processed foods made with white flour such as breads, pastries, cookies, pies, crackers, etc.) These and the refined sugars listed next are the carbohydrate-rich foods to eliminate. Note that there is no need to avoid the carbs in fruit, veggies (such as yams), lentils, and whole grains (such as quinoa!)
  2. Products made with white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose and other sugars.
  3. Processed foods containing partially hydrogenated fat or lard, such as crackers, cookies, margarine, microwave popcorn, pies, and pastries.
  4. Deep-fried foods such as fried chicken, fried fish, French fries, and onion rings.
  5. Salty, fried snack foods: potato chips, corn chips, and cheezies.
  6. High salt convenience foods: ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese in a box, canned and pre-packaged stews, soups (check labels).
  7. Processed meats: Spam, corned beef, luncheon meats, and bacon.
  8. Fatty meat: spare ribs, pork chops, hamburger, etc.
  9. Dairy products such as cheeses (and cheese laden pizza), cream, ice cream, sour cream, whipping cream, whole milk.
  10. Calorie-laden beverages: alcoholic drinks, fancy coffees, and milkshakes. Soda pop is a top source of calories for many, without nutritional value.

Top 10 food friends

  1. Water: the winner as a beverage
  2. Green leafy vegetables, including kale, collards, Chinese greens, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, mixed wild greens; also broccoli.
  3. The full spectrum of non-starchy vegetables from asparagus to zucchini: carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, and turnips.
  4. Fresh fruits: berries, apples, citrus fruits, peaches, plums, pineapple, melons, mango, papaya, grapes, pears, kiwi fruit.
  5. Legumes of all kinds: green peas, mung bean sprouts, sprouted lentils and cooked beans
  6. Intact whole grains, sprouted or cooked such as buckwheat, kamut, oat groats, quinoa, and rye.
  7. Seeds: flax, hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame.
  8. Nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews hazelnuts, walnuts, unsalted and without added oil.
  9. Herbs and spices: basil, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme, and turmeric.
  10. Higher starch vegetables: squash, sweet potatoes, yams, potatoes, corn.

Vesanto Melina and Brenda Davis are registered dietitians in Langley ( and Kelowna (

Have fun in the kitchen

Portrait of Vesanto Melina

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

The kitchen has traditionally been the heart of the home, a powerful space to generate physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
– Chef Joseph Forest

Portrait of Vesanto Melina• Some of us follow recipes to the letter. If directions say to whisk the sauce and we have a fork but no whisk, we turn to another recipe. Others refer to someone else’s set of ingredients or directions solely for inspiration, as a jumping off point only, relying on their creativity or sense of adventure. Both approaches can lead to fabulous dining experiences. There’s room for all of us in the kitchen, though perhaps not at the same time.

How we approach food preparation can mean we either enjoy creating meals or dread it. For a more satisfying experience in the kitchen, be sure to gather the ingredients and utensils first. If you have ever reached the halfway point in a meal preparation and found you lack one key ingredient, you’ll know what we mean. Picture the dilemma: you are halfway through assembling your recipe and find you must drop everything and go to the store. For helpful and inspiring tips to transform your culinary experience, read Cooking Vegetarian (J. Forest and V. Melina, Wiley Canada, 2011).

Some people take the time to prepare several big items once or twice a week. This could include a huge salad to store in one or more containers with tight lids, plus several entrees. One could cook several kinds of beans, to have bean salad on hand, or a big pot of lentil soup. When heating a casserole or rice pudding in the oven, add baked potatoes that can be reheated later in the week. You can add to your enjoyment by listening to your favourite music or audio book while you create large batches of the foods you love to freeze.

If you want your partner, children or other family members to share in food preparation, make it a pleasant time. While their help may initially be negligible or even make more work for you, over time, the other eaters at your household will be able to make food for themselves and even spell you off in preparing family meals. Here are a few tips for involving children:

Involve your little ones in food selection. This process may prove more successful at a farmer’s market, in the garden, or after you’ve purchased the groceries and got them home, rather than in the middle of the sugar-laden cereal aisle. Children come to enjoy healthy food when they share in the creative process. They love to help, stir, knead, roll, decorate, chop and do just about anything else in the kitchen that they’re ready for. Consider their preferences when planning menus and include something they enjoy at each meal.

’s right to dislike a few foods. None of us can be expected to love every food, nor is it necessary for good nutrition.

Make mealtime pleasant. Set a pretty table, light a candle (even for breakfast) and encourage positive family interaction. Children are thrilled to drink everyday beverages from wine glasses, even if they came from the thrift store.

March 3: Meet Vesanto Melina at Nature’s Fare in Langley
#120-19880 Langley Bypass 200th St., 10AM-1PM.

Vesanto Melina is a Langley dietitian and author ( Saturday January 28: Meet Vesanto at an author event at Wendel’s Bookstore and Café in Fort Langley, 3-7PM, While you’re there, treat yourself to a warming bowl of soup.

Chocolate for healthy hearts

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

• What can be better than a sweet treat with health benefits? As it happens, our favourite February food, chocolate, has a few glowing characteristics. It comes from the Theobroma cacao tree, from a bean that grows on that tropical tree. (Theobroma means “food for the Gods.”) Chocolate originated in Mexico and Central and South America, but West Africa now produces most of the world’s cocoa. Look for fair trade chocolate that meets environmental and labour standards at natural foods markets in Kitsilano and the West End, at Karmavore in New Westminster and at Nature’s Fare Markets throughout the province.

Dark or semisweet chocolate is typically a vegan product. Because chocolate contains antioxidants that inhibit the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, it has gained a reputation of being beneficial for our heart health. Eaten in moderation, chocolate may lower blood pressure.

Chocolate is also a source of iron – a “precious metal” when it comes to human health. As part of red blood cells, iron plays a central role in transporting oxygen to the body and carrying away the metabolic waste product carbon dioxide. Each day, we lose tiny amounts of iron in cells that are sloughed from skin and the inner lining of the intestine. If our intake is insufficient to replenish our losses, a tired feeling and sensitivity to cold may develop. With further depletion, people feel exhausted, irritable, lethargic and develop headaches; the skin may appear pale. Since iron deficiency is such a prevalent condition and easily diagnosed, if you have any doubts about your iron status, have a lab test done.

We are efficient at recycling iron, however, losses must be replaced. Iron-rich foods include beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dried fruit and chocolate. Two of the Almond Butter Balls in the recipe below will provide one quarter of the recommended intake of eight mg iron for the day. Women of childbearing age need more iron so they can double the recommendation.

Almond Butter Balls
Makes 30 balls

These nut butter balls are an ideal snack for outdoor adventures such as skiing, hiking, riding or climbing. They are light, take up little space and provide energy. Four of these balls can fuel a person weighing 150 pounds on an uphill hike for five miles (eight kilometres). This recipe is from our new book Cooking Vegetarian, which I co-authored with J. Forest. (Wiley Canada, 2011.)

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup almond butter or peanut butter
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup non-dairy chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. lemon rind
1 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp. cardamom
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1-2 tbs. water

Put the rolled oats in the bowl of a food processor and process for 20 seconds or until they are finely ground. Transfer the oats to a medium bowl along with the nut butter, pumpkin seeds, currants, cranberries, chocolate chips, lemon rind, lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla extract. Mix with a fork until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add enough water to hold the mixture together. Roll into small balls, about two tablespoons in size and store in a covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.

I enjoy meeting you Common Ground readers. On January 28, come and chat about food and nutrition at Wendel’s bookstore and cafe in Fort Langley and in downtown Langley at Nature’s Fare on March 3. These are free events. Another favourite location for sweet treats is Karmavore. j

For more on raw, vegan, vegetarian and near-vegetarian diets, visit

Vesanto Melina is a Langley dietitian and author ( Saturday January 28: Meet Vesanto at an author event at Wendel’s Bookstore and Café in Fort Langley, 3-7PM, While you’re there, treat yourself to a warming bowl of soup.

Warm winter fare

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina


Portrait of Vesanto Melina

In creating recipes, it is my great pleasure to collaborate with expert chef Joseph Forest; the process allows me to improve my sensory awareness of food, something dietitian training didn’t include. During our exchanges, Joseph has become fascinated with the field of nutrition, which I bring to the table, and our collaboration has resulted in the new book Cooking Vegetarian. (J. Forest and V. Melina, Wiley Canada, 2011)

While working as a banquet chef for the Four Seasons hotel, Joseph gained an understanding of the textures and layers of flavour that combine to make a fine soup. ( Winter is a great time to savour the aroma and flavours of soup and the recipes below offer a warm welcome to anyone coming in from the cold. Alternatively, you’ll have enough left over for several days or to freeze for later use. Both of these soups are low in oil and they provide abundant nutrition; they can also help you slim down after the rich fare of the holiday season. Serve them with crackers or fresh bread.

Ginger, carrot and yam soup Makes 9 cups

Certain vitamins and protective phytochemicals in vegetables provide the splendid array of colours you see when you walk down the produce aisle. Three vitamins are bright yellow: riboflavin, folate and vitamin A, also known as beta-carotene. This warming, golden soup is packed with all three.

1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup peeled, chopped ginger
4 cups water
4 cups chopped carrots
2 cups peeled and chopped yam
1 med. orange, peeled, seeded & chopped
2 teaspoons whole coriander seed or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup apple juice

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add the water, carrots, yams, orange, coriander, salt, allspice and nutmeg and bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots and yams are soft. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, add the apple juice and reheat.

Red lentil miso soup Makes 6 1/2 cups

Miso is a Japanese fermented paste made from soybeans, salt and grain – most commonly rice or barley – and a living culture that is used to initiate the fermentation process. The nutrient-rich soybeans are made more digestible by fermentation. Miso can be used to flavour many different dishes such as gravies, dressings, dips and soups.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced carrot
5 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin seed
2 tablespoons miso
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in a pot over medium heat and cook the onions for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add the garlic, carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Add water, lentils, cumin, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until lentils have disintegrated. Mix miso and salt in a small bowl along with a small amount of the liquid from the soup. Stir mixture until smooth, add it to the soup and serve.

Vesanto Melina is a Langley dietitian and author ( Saturday January 28: Meet Vesanto at an author event at Wendel’s Bookstore and Café in Fort Langley, 3-7PM, While you’re there, treat yourself to a warming bowl of soup.