Monday, June 24, 2013

Beef.. It's What's For Dinner. LiveWell Conference 2013

Last week two things happened.  First, I had a recovery week from training and secondly, I ate (and learned about) beef.  Of course that's the summarized version, but in essence that was my week!  As a chosen attendee of the LiveWell Conference in Chicago, Tuesday marked a mid-week break from my normal routine and a chance for some exceptional learning and networking with other expert nutrition and fitness professionals.  

The event was designed by The Beef Checkoff Program which was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill.  The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle.  You can learn more about the checkoff program via their website.  

It was very timely in that I had just finished tweeting out an article entitled "How Your Iron Levels Affect Your Athletic Performance" the day prior.  As an athlete, we certainly need to be aware of this important mineral.  Without proper amounts of circulating and stored Iron, we fail to carry oxygen properly (i.e. our life blood!).  Athletes who suspect they may not be consuming proper iron within the diet should be tested using multiple assessment markers to ensure they are getting an accurate picture of their status.  The article mentioned explains things in more detail. 

Back to the conference, the goal was to engage top-tier professionals by providing research and tools to incorporate credible and accurate beef nutrition information into their educational efforts. 

Our evening started on Thursday with a lesson from Kari Underly, Founder of Range Inc., in how to properly choose a cut of beef and the differences between cuts.  Finally, it inncluded some cooking methods from Chef Paul Kahan of Blackbird Restaurant. 

If you have ever wondered where different cuts come from then this was the place to be!  I've never seen a women use a clever with that much zest and accuracy!  It was impressive to say the least.

We also heard from Dr. JP (cowboy hat). who does much of the outreach with the actual farmers and learned how information is translated for their use in the field.  He's a real live cattle rancher and lives on about 400 acres in Montana.

Wednesday morning started early with some much needed yoga.  It was my day completely off for the week and I was once again reminded why I need to be doing more downward dog and tree pose.  My hips were VERY tight and as I watched the yogi's fold into positions I could only dream of emulating! I thought of a time when I was a bit more flexible (that has now passed).  Note to self - start going to hot yoga again at least once a month.

While learning about some of the latest research from Heather Leidy, PhD, University of Missouri and other nutrition experts we dined on some deliciously satisfying lunch! 

Just a few of the relevant tidbits I learned are:

  • Today’s beef is leaner than ever before, thanks to feeding & breeding practices by farmers and ranchers, and due to increased trimming practices. In fact, many of American’s favorite cuts such as Top Sirloin, Tenderloin, Strip Steak and 93 percent lean or leaner Ground Beef are lean.
  • High-quality protein can help improve the benefits associated with yoga and similar resistance exercise activity.
  • High-quality protein is important at every stage of the lifecycle. It’s important to optimize nutrient intake in each of life stage, and beef can play a key role in helping people meet nutritional needs at every age.
  • High-quality protein intake throughout the day can help improve feelings of satiety.
  • Pair umami-rich ingredients such as tomatoes or mushrooms with lean beef to create eight times more flavor.
  • Specifically aim for 15-30 grams of high quality protein at meals (depending on your size and needs, not sure, talk to a registered dietitian) to improve satiety and it may even help you self adjust your calories throughout the day.  

The final piece of our trip included a cook off challenge where teams of four were asked to create a healthy dish in 45 minutes.  At first, this competition aspect really scared me.  What if I was placed with some amazing cooks and bogged our team down with my mediocre level of culinary expertise!

Instead of worrying about it, I decided to take the bull by the horns and jump in!  Our team had 95% lean ground beef and the challenge of making a family friendly meal that was fun for kids and encouraged health! 

The state of the art Calphalon Culinary Kitchen (just a tad bit more high end than my kitchen at home)

My team members and I sprung into action with an idea to put diced mushrooms in meatballs with garlic and onion.  Goal: to sneek in a bit of extra vegetables for kids and parents alike! We prepared whole grain pasta with diced tomatoes as the sauce.  Roasted vegetables were placed along the outside of the dish so that to get to the center, you had to go THROUGH the vegetables first (tricky right!).

In the end, it came together in 35 minutes with 10 minutes to spare!  This beautiful colorful dish would be perfect for any family dinner night with an array of nutrients covered and with a lean source of protein.

Each teams creation was more than impressive and I felt so honored and privileged to be among such creative minds!  Their flavorful choices combined ingredients in a fun and healthy way that made nutrition exciting and interesting.

"TEAM SALMON" - Due to Mike's Shirt Color, Photo By Mike Roussell, PhD

In the end, my team won "best taste" (which I have to say was what the award I REALLY wanted). Best of all, it reminded me that cooking can use simple ingredients and doesn't have to be fancy to be delicious and healthy.  Thanks to Team Salmon for the memories!! 

In the end, I learned a bit about myself and made some excellent connections while learning about beef as a nutrient-dense option to include in the diet of my clients and my own personal diet.  Need more info, the Beef Nutrition Council is a great place to start.  Each person has to decide their own opinion on what works for them, but it's good to know that lean red meat can be a part of a heart healthy diet in moderation just like many of the other foods we like to enjoy. I always prefer Grass-Fed when possible due to the higher Omega-3 content and humane handling practices.  We actually get most of our beef at a local butcher about 4 miles away from our home.  It's great knowing where your meat comes from and being able to talk to the people that actually raised the animal.   

Thanks to the Beef Checkoff for providing such a great experience to professionals like myself! 

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