Baked Black Bean Pasta

Typically white rice is my main source of carbs, but that 25 pound bag from Costco can sometimes feel bottomless and my meals monotonous. In search for an alternative, I came across a bag of black bean rotini at Trader Joe’s earlier this month. I decided that a twist on baked ziti would be a great way to put this pasta to the test.

The end result was awesome, probably because of all the sauce and cheese, and it yielded enough servings to feed me for a week’s worth of dinners.
ziti

Prep Time: 15-20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • Black bean rotini pasta (12 oz.)
  • Bolognese sauce (25 oz)
  • Turkey meatballs (16 oz)
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz)
  • Finely shredded Parmesan cheese (5 oz)

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the pasta and meatballs according to the directions on the packages.
  2. Chop up the cooked turkey meatballs and then mix together with the drained pasta and bolognese sauce in a large pot or bowl.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  4. Spray a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Pour 1/2 of of the mix and spread out to form the bottom layer. Evenly sprinkle 2/3rds of the shredded mozzarella cheese over it to create a second layer. Then pour the remaining mix and evenly spread out. Finally sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese and all of the Parmesan cheese evenly over the dish to create a top layer.
  5. Bake in oven uncovered for 30 minutes.

The dish yields 6 servings and each serving has the following macros:

Protein Fat Carbs Calories
47.8 25 51.2 621

I got the black bean rotini pasta, bolognese sauce, and frozen turkey meatballs from Trader Joe’s and the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese from Target. The total cost for the entire dish was under $25.00 and so each serving cost approximately $4.00.

You can cut back on the amount of cheese (not sure why you would) to lower the fat content or substitute grilled chicken to get more protein. Either way, this is a cheap and easy meal prep option.

What Does 3,000 Calories Look Like

For almost the past three months I have been working with Emily Field, a registered dietitian, and we have been focused on body composition, while at the same time fueling for performance.

From the beginning, Emily has prescribed daily macros (protein, fat, carbs). I was under-eating relative to my level of physical activity and so we started off just at 125 grams of protein, 60 grams of fat and 175 grams of carbs (1,750 calories).

Those numbers have been strategically increased every two weeks or so as my adapts to the larger caloric intake and metabolism has kicked into high gear. Now, my prescribed daily macros on active days is 200 grams of protein, 140 grams of fat and 250 grams of carbs (3,060 calories).

So what does 3,000 calories look like? Most would assume that is a easy number to hit courtesy of a few Big Macs and some Oreos. But the method behind the madness is that I am getting to the 3,000 calories by adhering to the specific ratio of protein, fat and carbs that Emily has assigned.

I’ll walk you through what I ate yesterday to provide illustration of how I hit my macros. Admittedly it is a bit short on greens and that can be improved. (I’ll note that Emily does not “count” non-starch vegetables to the daily macros, which means I could eat baby spinach to my heart’s content, but that just adds to the pile of food I am already consuming.) I welcome any comments and advice on recipes, alternative ideas or other useful tips.

BREAKFAST

IMG_7136-001

 

Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
Eggs (2) 14 9 0 137
Cheddar Cheese (1/4 cup) 7 9 1 113
Rice (1/2 dry cup) 6 0 70 304
Olive oil (2 tbsp) 0 28 0 252
Chicken sausage (2) 12 6 0 102
Chocolate milk (1 cup) 8 8 29 220

Outside of the chocolate milk, all these other items get mixed into a big breakfast bowl of goodness. I have a Lekue Microwave Rice & Grain Cooker that cooks the rice in 12 minutes. I then mix in the olive oil, cheddar cheese, two fried eggs and cut up chicken sausages. This post-workout bowl is my go-to. I stated adding the olive oil last week to up my fat intake and the protein just rotates between chicken sausages and bacon.

LUNCH

IMG_7140-001

Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
Grilled Chicken Burger 41 14 37 438
Coleslaw 1 19 19 251

A trip through the sky-way in downtown Minneapolis takes me to MyBurger, a recent staple once I discovered this grilled chicken burger. It is not award-winning but it offers a large, well cooked piece of chicken. The coleslaw as a side is a nice alternative to ordering fries. I should note that I don’t put any mayo, ketchup or mustard on my burger. While this sounds boring, it is tasty enough thanks to the cheese, lettuce and tomato. Ideally I would pack my lunch but when I fall short on my meal prep this definitely hits the spot.

MID-AFTERNOON

IMG_7138-001

Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
ProGainer 60 8 85 652

While I have a shaker in the picture to provide a sense of scale for this whopping scoop, I actually bring my ProGainer in a mason jar – better known as my “hipster shaker” (joke courtesy of a fellow Jeremy) – to work. It is the larget “cup” with a lid that I have that will fit both the whey and the water and leave room to shake. My coworker thinks it is hysterical. It is definitely not subtle but it has greatly helped me hit my prescribed protein and carbs. Previously, I was only having 3 big meals per day so this has also helped spread the love and feel more satiated.

DINNER

IMG_7181

Item Protein Fat Carbs Calories
Salame (2 oz) 16 16 0 208
Chicken breast (5.6 oz) 32.1 2.1 0 148
Mozarella (1/4 cup) 7 6 2 90
Brocolli slaw (1 cup) 2 0 5 28
Olive oil (1 tbsp) 0 14 0 126

Dinner is a typically a smorgasboard of various items in my refrigerator and involves grazing for an hour or two as I try to hit my macros. Again, the 3,000 calories is based on a specific ratio of protein to fat to carbs. I am tracking macros first and foremost. I am able to calculate my calories but I never have them in mind when I select what to eat. Rather, I am focused on whether each thing I eat gets me to my daily goal of protein, fats and carbs.

I prefer my plate be filled with clean simple ingredients instead of overly processed foods, but some days there are exceptions. I can’t live like a monk and simply exist on white rice and chicken. Some days I have a glass of red wine or a beer or a few cookies. However, I look at what I am eating the majority of the time and whether those are good choices.

The final tally is pretty dead on to my goal. Not all days are perfect, but consistency is key and the results are revealing themselves each week when I look in the mirror.

  Protein Fat Carbs Calories
GOAL 200 140 250 3,060
ACTUAL 206 139 248 3,069

Watching the Scale go Up

For the past six weeks I have been working with Emily Field, a registered dietitian, on my nutrition and diet. We have set a goal for me to gain 10 pounds over three months without drastically changing my body composition, which means maintaining a body fat percentage below 10%.

Each week, Emily prescribes my daily macros and caloric intake. She has provided a recommended list of foods but there is flexibility in what I can eat and drink. I can have a burger or a glass of red wine if it fits my macros. Obviously one can’t go hog wild or it will be difficult to consume the needed amount of protein and carbohydrates if I choose foods that are high in fat. Emily’s methodology is for me to gain weight in a slow and measured way so that my body composition doesn’t go out of whack (a.k.a not suddenly putting on a beer belly). Here is a look at the prescribed macros over the past six weeks:

Protein Fat Carb Calories
Week 1 125g 60g 175g 1,740
Week 2 125g 60g 175g 1,740
Week 3 150g 80g 175g 2,020
Week 4 150g 100g 200g 2,300
Week 5 150g 100g 200g 2,300
Week 6 175g 100g 200g 2,400

While 1,740 calories per day in the beginning seems low, Emily correctly diagnosed that I was under eating and not even consuming that many calories despite going to CrossFit classes four times per week.

The increase in carbs and calories in the first few weeks kicked my metabolism into high gear. As you can see on the chart below, despite eating more I actually lost weight. In response, Emily said, “You’re earning ‘unicorn status’. This refers to the phenomenon that a few handful of people experience – increase in carbohydrates and overall calories WHILE dropping in weight and inches. This warrants another increase in macros. Eat up, hopefully this will slow things down a little and we can get your weight to stabilize.”

Things have stabilized and I have gained weight over the past two weeks and so the scale is finally going in the right direction. weight

And so as you see the daily macros, you might be wondering what does that specifically look like? How much food am I eating? Here is a day ripped from my food diary earlier this week as I am not consuming 2,400 calories:

 ProteinFatCarbCalories
White rice (1/2 dry cup)6.00.070.0304
Chicken sausage15.08.02.0140
Eggs (2)14.09.00.0137
Mozzarella (1/4 cup)7.06.02.090
Protein shake24.01.02.0113
Banana1.30.427.0117
String cheese5.05.00.065
Carrots (1.5 oz)0.50.04.018
Pork muffin (2)33.638.08.4510
Baked oatmeal3.44.922.5148
Turkey burger (2)44.020.00.0356
Sweet potatoe2.00.126.0113
Peppers & onions (1 cup)1.00.07.032
Vanilla Ice Cream (6 oz)2.010.024.0194
Protein shake24.01.02.0113
TOTAL182.8103.4196.92450

It’s a good amount of food. I workout at 5:15am in the morning and so by the time I am back home by 6:30am, I am ready for a big breakfast. I try to bring lunch for work and I find it easiest to bring a lot of grab and go items – banana, carrots, cheese, etc.  I tend to eat just three times per day rather than small meals throughout. I get home from work by 6:30pm / 7:00pm and so dinner is followed pretty quickly by dessert.

Over the past six weeks, I have realized that when I get my carbs and fat from foods high in gluten and sugar (i.e. bread, cookies, etc.) that I don’t feel as satiated later and I can’t eat as much. For example, a #10 Hunter’s Club from Jimmy John’s with no mayo is 67 grams of carbs. It is a protein heavy sandwich but that takes up a 1/3 of my daily allowance of carbs. Or even more extreme, the chicken salad sandwich from Panera Bread is 9o grams of carbs. I’m trying to be more diligent about cutting back on these types of food and making sure I just meal prep for success.

I weigh myself  ever Monday morning as part of my tracking with Emily and hopefully the number on the scale keeps going up!

Reverse Dieting (aka I’m Not Bulking)

After the 60-day challenge at my gym came to an end in early April, I weighed in at 165.8 pounds and my estimated body fat percentage dropped to 9%. While at the beginning of the challenge I had made a bigger goal for myself that by Memorial Day I would lower my body fat percentage below 10%, the reality is that when I look in the mirror I feel I look too skinny and lanky. I’m 6′ tall and I look more like a marathoner than a CrossFitter. Personally, that is not the aesthetic I want to achieve nor one that will support me in the gym and under the barbell.

I met with Emily Field, a registered dietitian, post-challenge to discuss my results and where I wanted to go next.  We discussed getting more dialed in with my nutrition in a productive way that could be sustained beyond 21-day sugar detoxes or 60-day challenges. Understanding that I wanted to put on weight but remain lean, Emily recommended we track my macros (protein, fat, carbs) and use a Reverse Dieting strategy over a 12-week period.

According to Emily, “Reverse Dieting is a form of positive metabolic adaptation in which the body responds in a favorable manner to increased food intake. Reverse Dieting is achieved by steadily increasing macronutrient intake and is designed to prime you metabolically without gaining excess body fat. Essentially, we are coaxing the metabolic rate to retune to normal  to what it was before you dieted in the first place.”

In short, we will increase calories slowly and methodically over time so that we minimize potential body fat gain and maximize strength and lean body mass gain.

PFC

Emily reviewed my typical daily food intake and identified that I was undereating.  To correct this and ease me into an increased calories/macros, she has prescribed a daily intake of 125 grams of protein, 60 grams of fat and 175 grams of carbs, which equates to 1,750 calories.

This is my second full week tracking macros. Here’s a sample day from my eating diary:

P F C CAL
Eggs (2) 14 9 0 137
White rice (1/2 dry cup) 6 0 70 304
Peppers & onions (1 cup) 1 0 7 32
Salami (1 oz) 8 8 0 104
Protein shake 24 1 2 113
Banana 1.3 0.4 27 117
Mason Jar Salad:
Balsamic (2 tbsp) 0 0 6 24
Diced tomatoes 0.9 0 2.6 14
Banza chickpea pasta (2 oz) 14 3.5 32 216
Chicken (4 oz) 23 1.5 0 106
Mozzarella (1/4 cup) 7 6 2 90
Baby spinach 2 0.3 2.5 20
Bear Naked Granola (1/4 cup) 3 5 28 169
Brocolli slaw (1 cup) 2 0 5 28
Beef sirloin roast (3 oz) 18 11 3 183
Protein shake 24 1 2 113
GOAL 125 60 175 1740
ACTUAL 148 47 189 1769

 

I’m a habitual eater so tracking isn’t that hard. I use a Google Docs spreadsheet and there is a lot of copying and pasting.  Meal prep helps.

Over the last 10 days, I’ve quickly learned that you can eat your fill of vegetables – the greener the better, white rice is your friend, bacon and salami are delicious, but a chicken breast has less fat, and chocolate chip cookies are loaded with carbs.

I am definitely eating more now than compared to just two weeks ago, but this is definitely not bulking.  My macros don’t feel limiting and they do allow some flexibility if I want to indulge here and there. However, you really have to consider your intake carefully. It’s not a buffet approach to eating. You can eat well but it’s not a free ticket to go hog wild.

In addition to tracking macros, Emily has noted that in Reverse Dieting it is extremely important to take progress pictures so that you can see the affects of the increased calories/macros on body composition. In addition, taking waist measurement (about 2 finger widths above your belly button, around the smallest part of your midsection) at least twice per month so you can track progress in body composition changes. We are keeping this data and pictures on file using a file sharing service.

Again, the goal is to gain weight while maintaining a low body fat percentage. While it sounds like the two ideas conflict, Emily has assured met that with Reverse Dieting and gradual changes to my macros it is very doable. I’m excited to see the results!

Egg Casserole

Meal prepping is my savior when it comes to keeping on track with my eating, reducing my stress and saving me time. It is absolutely a must when it comes to lunch as it saves me from temptations of Jimmy John’s and Panera. But I have also found that during the weekdays, it is a huge help to prep breakfast for the week. I go to the 6am class at my CrossFit gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; so being able to come home after and be able to just grab something out of the fridge rather than having to grab the frying pan is ideal.

I have made quiches and egg bakes before but when cooking this past weekend I wanted to eliminate the crust / potatoes from the recipe as I am doing a sugar detox. After consulting a few cookbooks and recipes to get a sense of needed portions, the end result was this egg casserole dish that yields 6 servings. It is super easy to prep and holds up well all week:

IMG_4667Ingredients:

  • 12 Eggs
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 14 oz Canned Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar
  • 8 oz Pancetta

Prep Time

  • 10 minutes

Cook Time

  • 40 minutes

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the tomatoes (drained), cheese and pancetta in a bowl and then spread the ham mixture evenly out into a lightly sprayed (I use coconut oil) 9 x 13 baking dish.
  3. Whisk the eggs and milk and then pour over the ham mixture.
  4. Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes.

When it comes out of the oven it should have a gorgeous golden brown color with specs of red and pink. For me the best part of the bite is the tart of the canned diced tomatoes. I have actually been having this casserole each morning with white rice – a twist on egg fried rice. I chop up the casserole like it is an egg scramble and mix in the rice. It is a great start to the day. I actually think I work harder to beat the clock in the WOD just so that I can get home sooner for this dish.

I found that one casserole yields 6 servings (approximately 2 eggs per serving). I did the math and 1 serving has 24 grams Fat, 4 grams Carb and 22 grams Protein. The pancetta is a fatty ham to be throwing into the mix and the main cause for the high fat content in the dish. You can easily substitute in regular baked ham or chopped sausage or ground beef to lower the fat content. (A warning though if you do go with sausage or ground beef, make sure to brown it first in a frying pan and drain. You don’t want excess liquid in your dish.)

So in 50 minutes I had six breakfasts ready to go for the week. You can call me an egghead, but that’s just plain smart.