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Optimizing Performance Through a Balanced Diet

By: Carrie Fredin

Article originally featured in Run Utah Magazine Summer/Fall Edition 2018.  Click HERE to download Full PDF version of the Magazine.

Many people unfortunately have a love/hate relationship with food as they try to control their weight through deprivation and/or elimination.  I believe you should enjoy your food as the fuel that allows you to chase your goals. Eating should be pleasurable. Fresh, healthy food is delicious.  I enjoy my meals more when I know that they are fueling me for the miles. When I eat well, I perform well. Below are a few simple guidelines I try to follow as I feed my family.


Eat food as close to the source as possible.  Whole, healthy foods will nourish your body and allow it to perform.  Processed foods are like foreign substances in your body, as we did not evolve to be able to metabolize them.  For example, our bodies do not know what to do with high fructose corn syrup, so it gets stored as fat. A general guideline is to look for items with few ingredients, which you understand and can pronounce.  Buy most of your food from the periphery of the grocery store and avoid the aisles.


Fat is not the enemy.  If God put fat in it, eat the fat.  We drink whole milk, eat full fat yogurt and cheeses, use real butter, and cook with olive oil.  Fats are the carriers of nutrients and flavor. Many key nutrients found in vegetables are fat soluble and become more readily absorbed in the body when eaten with a fat.  Reduced fat or fat free foods have added sugars to improve the taste that was removed with the fat. Your body needs the healthy fats. Bring on the avocados!


Avoid sugar as much as possible.  Watch labels and look for added sugars in things like pasta sauce, cereals, and yogurt.  Sugars and artificial sweeteners come in many forms, so watch for ingredients that end in “-ose”.  Yogurt sweetened with a little honey and frozen fruit is plenty sweet and much healthier than flavored yogurts, for example.  You’ll find that you crave sugar a lot less the less you eat it. Once you’ve cut back on sugar you will find that the naturally sweet foods like fruit taste sweeter and satisfy that sweet tooth.


Try and balance your meals with a high quality protein source, a healthy carbohydrate source, and a healthy fat.  A common guideline as you look at your plate is that half should be covered with vegetables, a quarter with protein, and a quarter with a complex carbohydrate.


While I am menu planning I look at the overall week to try and get as much nutrition as possible.  I include one meal with red meat—for the iron and branched chain amino acids. We eat salmon once a week for the omega fats, and then one other meat, usually chicken.  I try and eat as many vegetables as possible throughout the week. I also try and make sure that I am using the ingredients in multiple meals so I don’t waste food.


Your mindset will be what helps you stay successful as you strive to eat a healthful diet.  If you are coming from a place of deprivation and longing for the hot pocket it will be harder to stick with it.  If you look at the fridge full of colorful, healthy foods, grateful to have access to such nutritious foods, you will be happier to invest the time and money that it takes to eat healthy meals.  White knuckling your “diet” won’t last for the long term. Really learning to love the healthier foods will allow you to make a healthful lifestyle. Researching the best way to prepare foods will pay off.  For example, kale is known to be a superfood but can get a bad rep as bitter, chewy, tasteless, etc.; however, it is delicious when prepared well. I also find that I am a lot more successful when I focus on including the healthful foods rather than excluding the bad stuff.  When I focus on getting in all my veggies, the sugar in my diet naturally tapers off. Below is a sample weekly dinner menu with several of my go-to breakfast ideas (we often eat leftovers for lunches).


Sunday: Recovery quinoa salad with pepitas

Flat iron steak


Monday: Black bean and sweet potato tacos

Roasted beets



Tuesday: Soba noodle salad


Wednesday: Grilled chicken

Kale cabbage salad with lemon miso dressing


Thursday: Salmon

Cubed and roasted sweet potatoes

Sauteed kale


Friday: Roasted potatoes

Eggs, scrambled or fried according to your preference

Fresh fruit


Saturday: Leftovers


Breakfast ideas: Muesli

Eggs with sautéed vegetables and avocado

Cottage cheese waffles





Recovery quinoa salad with turmeric pepitas (from Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky)

Turmeric pepitas:

INGREDIENTS:  1 T butter; 1 t turmeric; 1 t curry powder; 2 T honey; ½ t salt; 2 C raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

PROCEDURE:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter over medium heat in a pan. Add the turmeric and curry powder and cook until fragrant. Turn the heat off and stir in the honey and salt.  Add the pepitas and stir to coat. Spread the pepitas on a cookie sheet on parchment paper and roast in oven for ten minutes. Stir after five.


INGREDIENTS:  1 C quinoa; ¾ t salt; 3 C loosely packed, finely chopped kale (stems removed); 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped; 1 jalapeño, finely chopped; ½ C cilantro leaves; 1 ½ C black beans; ½ cup feta cheese; 1/3-1/2 C fresh squeezed lemon juice; 1/3 C olive oil; 1 avocado; pepitas (see above).

PROCEDURE:  Cook and cool quinoa according to package directions. Toss the other ingredients together.  Top with chopped avocado and pepitas.


Flat iron steak seasoned with salt and pepper

INGREDIENTS:  Flat iron steak; olive oil; salt; pepper.

PROCEDURE:  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Heat olive oil on a cast iron skillet.  Season both sides of the flat iron with plenty of salt and pepper. Brown the steak well on both sides.  Transfer to oven and cook according to taste.


Black bean and sweet potato tacos

INGREDIENTS:  2 C black beans; cubed and roasted sweet potatoes (recipe below); olive oil; salt and pepper; avocado, chopped; corn tortillas.

PROCEDURE:  Brown tortillas on an oiled pan.  Load each taco with plenty of beans, sweet potatoes and a generous portion of avocado.


Roasted beets

INGREDIENTS:  Beets; lemon juice.

PROCEDURE:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and remove the greens. Wrap the beets in tin foil. Roast them until they are slightly soft.  Let cool slightly and then slip the skins, slice and enjoy! I like to squeeze a little lemon on them.



Toss your favorite greens and veggies together and top with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.


Soba noodle salad with peanut sauce (from Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky)

Peanut sauce:

INGREDIENTS:  1 T virgin coconut oil, 1 yellow onion, diced, ½ t fine sea salt, 3 cloves garlic, minced, 1 can (13.5 oz.) unsweetened coconut milk (preferably full-fat), ½ C unsalted creamy peanut butter, 1 T soy sauce, 1 T coconut sugar or other granulated sugar, ½ to 1 t red pepper flakes, depending on spice preference, 1 T lime juice (about ½ lime), ¼ C chopped peanuts.

PROCEDURE:  In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the oil.  Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a simmer and whisk until the peanut butter melts. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the flavors meld, about 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime juice. Using an immersion blender, if you have one, blend the sauce until smooth. Alternatively, transfer the sauce to the container of a blender and process until the sauce is smooth.


INGREDIENTS:  1 t salt, 1 head broccoli, 1 head red cabbage, 1 package soba noodles (rice works as well), 1 T sesame oil, 1 T soy sauce, 1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped, ½ C chopped cilantro, 1 jalapeno, finely chopped and seeded, ½ C roasted peanuts, 1 ½ C peanut sauce (see above).

PROCEDURE:  Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil over high heat and add the salt.  Place the broccoli and cabbage in the water for 2 minutes. Remove from the water (keep the water) and immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking (and keep the veggies crisp).  Once the vegetables are chilled, remove them from the water and set aside. Bring the same pot of water back up to a rolling boil and cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain, run under cold water, drain again thoroughly, and transfer to a large salad bowl.  Toss the noodles with the sesame oil and soy sauce. Thinly slice the cabbage and bell pepper (use a mandoline if you have one). Arrange the broccoli, cabbage, bell pepper, cilantro, scallions, and chile pepper or kimchi (if using) on a large platter alongside the noodles. Place the peanuts in a small bowl.  Warm the peanut sauce in a small saucepan over low heat. Transfer to a medium bowl. Place the platter in the center of the table and allow everyone to create their own soba noodle salads. Top with a generous serving of the peanut sauce.


Grilled chicken

INGREDIENTS:  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (qty based on your family size); olive oil; salt; pepper

PROCEDURE:  Brush chicken with olive oil.  Salt and pepper generously. Brown both sides on a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Then transfer the skillet to the oven at 400 °F until the chicken is done cooking (internal heat must reach 165 °F).

Kale cabbage salad with lemon miso dressing (adapted from Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky; they call for radicchio, but we use cabbage instead because it is easier to find and one head is enough to cover both this recipe and the soba noodle salad)


INGREDIENTS:  ½ C extra-virgin olive oil; 1/3 C lemon juice (2 medium lemons); 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced; 2 t miso paste (preferably mellow white); ½ t fine sea salt; ¼ t freshly ground black pepper.

PROCEDURE:  Combine the oil, lemon juice, garlic, miso, salt, and pepper in a glass jar with a lid.  Use a fork to stir in the miso, then shake vigorously to emulsify.


INGREDIENTS:  1 C farro, rinsed and drained; 1 large bunch kale, finely chopped, stems/spines removed; 1 small head red cabbage, quartered, cored, and cut crosswise into thin strips; 1 C grated Parmesan cheese; 1 C chopped toasted walnuts; lemon miso dressing (see above)

PROCEDURE:  In a large pot, place the farro with enough water to cover by a couple of inches and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the farro is tender but still chewy, about 30 minutes depending on the particular brand and form of the farro.  Drain the farro and set aside to cool. To assemble the salad, toss the kale with three-quarters of the dressing in a large salad bowl. With clean hands, gently massage the kale with the dressing to soften the leaves.  Add the cabbage, Parmesan, walnuts, and farro to the kale and toss again. Taste and add the remaining dressing, if needed. This salad can be made in advance. It tastes even better the second day. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days.


INGREDIENTS:  Wild caught salmon filets; thinly sliced lemon; salt; pepper; butter or coconut oil.

PROCEDURE:  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Place salmon skin side down on the foil. Place a pat of butter or a dollop of coconut oil on each filet.  Season with salt and pepper. Arrange lemon slices over the top of the filets. Add a little more salt over the top of the lemon slices.  Bake at 400 °F until opaque. Serve with extra lemon wedges.


Cubed and roasted sweet potatoes

INGREDIENTS:  Sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed; olive oil; salt; pepper.

PROCEDURE:  Spread cubed sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season them well with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 °F for approximately 45 minutes, stirring every five.  They are done when they are slightly browned.


Sautéed kale

INGREDIENTS:  1 large bunch kale, finely chopped, stems/spines removed; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1 shallot, sliced; coconut oil; 2 C vegetable broth.

PROCEDURE:  Sauté shallot for 4-5 minutes in coconut oil.  Add garlic and continue sautéing for 1 minute. Mix in the kale and sauté for another minute until bright green.  Add vegetable broth. Cover and simmer until kale is tender (approximately 5 minutes). Drain liquid and serve with salt and pepper to taste.


Roasted potatoes

INGREDIENTS:  Potatoes, cubed (red potatoes or bakers both work well; peel or leave skins on per your preference); olive oil; salt; pepper.

PROCEDURE:  Spread cubed potatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season them well with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 °F for approximately 45 minutes, stirring every five.  They are done when they are slightly browned.



INGREDIENTS:  ½ C old fashioned rolled oats; ½ C plain full-fat Greek yogurt; 2/3 C whole milk; 2-4 T honey or pure maple syrup; 1 t vanilla extract; 2-3 t chia seeds; your choice of toppings (sliced apples with cinnamon, chopped walnuts, almonds, dark chocolate chips/chunks, raisins, dried cherries).

PROCEDURE:  The night before, whisk together the milk and yogurt until relatively smooth.  Add the oats, honey or syrup, vanilla extract, and chia seeds. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate overnight.  The next morning, re-mix everything together and top with your preferred combination of toppings (e.g., apple slices, cinnamon, raisins, and chopped walnuts; or dried cherries, dark chocolate, and almonds).  Makes 2 servings.


Veggies-for-breakfast eggs

INGREDIENTS:  3 eggs, beaten; ¼ onion, sliced; 1/3 bell pepper, sliced; ½ avocado, sliced; sliced mushrooms; baby spinach, washed; cilantro; olive oil; salt and pepper.

PROCEDURE:  Saute onion in olive oil over high heat for 2 minutes.  Add sliced pepper and cook for 2 more minutes. Add mushrooms and continue cooking for a minute.  Reduce heat to medium high. Add spinach and cook until spinach wilts (a minute or less). Add eggs and cook until done.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with avocado and cilantro. Yields one generous serving.


Cottage cheese waffles

INGREDIENTS:  1 C whole wheat flour; 2 C full fat (4%) cottage cheese; 1 dozen eggs; ½ t salt; ½ C butter, melted; 1 t vanilla extract.

PROCEDURE:  Add all ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.  Cook in waffle iron according to instructions. Be aware that these will rise more than traditional waffles, so do not overfill with batter.  Yields sixteen 5”x5” square waffles or eight 8” round waffles.



INGREDIENTS:  Oats, rolled or steel cut; whole milk; pure maple syrup; nuts; dried or fresh fruit.

PROCEDURE:  Cook oats according to package directions.  Mix in milk and syrup to taste. Top with nuts and fruit.



INGREDIENTS:  Plain full fat yogurt; frozen fruit, thawed; honey.

PROCEDURE:  Allow frozen fruit to thaw (you can leave it in a bowl on the counter for about 15 minutes  or use low power in microwave for a couple of minutes—just don’t overheat). I love cherries or raspberries, but you can use anything you like.  Mix in frozen fruit and any juices released during thawing. Drizzle with a little honey.

I’m Carrie Fredin. My husband and I have five amazing boys. I’m a USATF certificate coach and have been coaching Layton High Track and Cross Country for seven years. I have a passion for nutrition and good food. I love being a part of the UtahRunning.com racing team as well.


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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 13th, 2018 at 10:53 am and is filed under Coaches Corner, Expert Answers, Nutrition, Run Utah Magazine, Summer/Fall 2018. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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