Easy Baked Ziti

1 10 2010

Try this fast and easy pasta dish.  It’s simple to prepare, making it perfect for a weeknight meal.  If you want more protein, add some precooked diced chicken.  Add a green salad loaded with tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and your favorite vinaigrette.

(Yield: 8 servings)


1 lb. Ziti

1 – 26 oz jar of Marinara Sauce

½ cup Reduced Fat Ricotta Cheese

¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper

3 TBSP Grated Parmesan Cheese

Cooking Spray


  1. Cook pasta according to directions on package.
  2. While pasta is cooking, combine 1 ½ cup marinara sauce with ricotta cheese and crushed red pepper in a blender, blending until smooth (about 1 minute).
  3. Preheat oven to broil and spray a 13-by-9 inch baking dish with PAM.
  4. Drain pasta and add to the baking dish.
  5. Add ricotta mixture to baking dish and mix well.
  6. Add the remaining marinara sauce on top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  7. Broil for 10 minutes, until heated through, with oven door slightly open.
  8. Periodically check to ensure top layer does not blacken.

Nutritional information per Serving:
Calories 308  | Carbohydrates 46 g  | Protein 13 g | Fat 8 g | Sat. Fat 2 g

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.


Recipe: Honey Spice-Rubbed Grilled Pork Tenderloin

16 07 2010

(Yield:  4 servings)

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 25 – 30 minutes


1 Pork tenderloin (1 lb.)

2 TBSP Olive Oil

1 tsp. Chili powder

1 tsp.  Garlic powder

1 tsp. Dry mustard

1/2 tsp.  Paprika

1/4 tsp. Dried thyme leaves

1 TBSP  Honey

1 TBSP Olive Oil


  1. PreHeat grill.
  2. Brush meat with 2 TBSP of Olive Oil.
  3. Combine dry ingredients for the rub.
  4. Rub onto meat.
  5. Combine 1 TBSP of Honey and 1 TBSP of Olive Oil and set aside.
  6. Grill 20 minutes, turning the meat over after 10 minutes.
  7. Grill another 5 – 10 minutes, or until meat reaches 160°F, turning frequently and brushing with the honey-oil mixture.
  8. Remove from grill, cover with foil, and let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Nutritional Information per serving

Calories   190 Carbohydrates   4g Fiber  0g Protein   23g Fat 9g Sat. Fat   2g

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Is Shrimp Bad For Me?

30 06 2010

For years people have been concerned that eating shrimp would raise their cholesterol levels.  Shrimp is naturally high in cholesterol.  But what we have learned from research is that dietary cholesterol does not raise your blood levels of cholesterol like saturated fat and trans fat do.  Shrimp is actually a very low fat, high protein food.  It could be a great addition to your normal diet.  Now, that doesn’t mean that you should go buy popcorn or coconut shrimp.  Breading and frying add the saturated fat that we are trying to keep in check.  Feel free to use steamed or cocktail shrimp.

In addition to being a good lean source of protein, shrimp have other health benefits.  They are very high in a carotenoid called astaxanthin.  This is responsible for seafood’s red color (shrimp, lobster, salmon, trout).   Studies have demonstrated that astaxanthin is much more active as an antioxidant than beta-carotene or vitamin E.  Other studies have also shown that dietary astaxanthin enhances our immune response, decreases inflammation, enhances fat metabolism, and improves eye health.

Bottom Line:  Shrimp can be part of a healthy diet, and I would argue that it should be included to balance your diet.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Recipe: Egg and Cheese Breakfast Burrito

4 06 2010

One excuse I hear all the time for skipping breakfast is, “I don’t have time to eat breakfast.”  This is nothing more than an excuse; and excuses won’t get you results.  The following recipe only takes 3 minutes from start to finish to prepare.  Lack of time can no longer be your reason for not eating breakfast!

Egg & Cheese Breakfast Burrito

(Yield:  1 serving)

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 1 minute


1 Large Whole Wheat Tortilla or Wrap

1 Egg

¼ Cup Liquid Egg Whites

2 TBSP Shredded 2% Cheddar Cheese

2 TBSP Mild Salsa


  1. Line 2-cup microwave-safe cereal bowl with microwave-safe paper towel.
  2. PRESS tortilla into bowl.
  3. In another bowl, beat the egg and egg whites gently with a fork until blended.
  4. Pour egg mixture into center of tortilla.
  5. Microwave on high for 30 seconds; stir.
  6. Microwave on high for another 30 seconds.
  7. Remove tortilla with paper towel liner from bowl to flat surface.
  8. Top egg with cheese and salsa.
  9. Fold bottom of tortilla over egg, then fold in sides.

Nutritional Information per serving

Calories   345 Carbohydrates   35g Fiber  7g Protein   22g Fat 13g Sat. Fat   4g

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Recipe: Grilled Sirloin & Peach Kebabs

28 05 2010

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and a great time for grilling!  These easy steak kebabs pack a lot of protein and flavor.  Makes 8 servings (2 kebabs per person).



  • 1 1/2  tablespoons  ground cumin
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 3/4  teaspoons  salt
  • 2  pounds  boneless sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 4  peaches, sliced into 8 wedges
  • 2  small red onions, sliced into 8 wedges
  • 2  large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Cooking spray


  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4  cup  red wine vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon  olive oil
  • 1/4  teaspoon salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon black pepper
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • Parsley sprigs (optional)


Spray grill rack with cooking spray and turn on grill.

To prepare kebabs, combine first 7 ingredients; toss well. Thread 3 steak pieces, 2 peach wedges, 1 onion wedge, and 1 bell pepper piece alternately onto each of 16 (12-inch) skewers. Place kebabs on grill rack and grill 6 minutes or until tender, turning occasionally. Place kebabs on a platter; cover loosely with foil. Let stand 5 minutes.

To prepare sauce, combine chopped parsley and next 5 ingredients (chopped parsley through garlic), stirring with a whisk. Spoon over kebabs. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

Nutritional Information:

Calories:  220 (30% from fat)
Fat:  7.2g (sat 3g,mono 3g,poly 0.4g)
Protein:  25.5g
Carbohydrate:  12.4g
Fiber:  3.2g
Cholesterol:  69mg
Iron:  3.8mg
Sodium:  768mg
Calcium:  38mg

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Recipe: 15 Minute Mexican Chicken & Rice Dinner

19 05 2010

Stumped about what to have for dinner tonight?  Try this fast and easy chicken dish.  It’s got plenty of protein, and because it takes only 15 minutes to prepare, its perfect for a weeknight meal.  Add a green salad loaded with tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and your favorite vinaigrette.

(Yield: 2 servings)

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
1 TBSP Canola Oil
1 cup Water
1 cup Salsa
1 cup Frozen Corn
1 cups Minute Rice, uncooked
½ cup Reduced Fat Shredded Mexican Cheese

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat
2. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes on each side or until white in center
3. Remove chicken from skillet
4. Add water, salsa, and corn to skillet, bring to a boil
5. Stir in minute rice & top with chicken
6. Sprinkle with cheese
7. Cover & cook on low heat for 5 minutes
8. Stir & serve

Nutritional information per Serving:
Calories 575  | Carbohydrates 60 g  | Protein 49 g | Fat 15.5 g | Sat. Fat 4 g

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

How you cook or store your food can affect the nutrient content…

11 05 2010

The longer food is exposed to light, air, temperature, or water the more nutrients are lost.  Consuming raw foods will allow maximum nutrient content.

1. Store fresh vegetables at coldest temperature without freezing
2. Allow fresh fruit to ripen at room temperature then refrigerate
3. Buy in smaller quantities to use quickly

Some cooking methods are better than others.

1. Frozen foods are a better choice than canned
2. Steaming and microwaving are better methods than boiling or deep fat frying because vitamins and minerals can be lost in the cooking liquid
3. Leaving skin on during cooking of fruits and vegetables when possible will decrease nutrient losses
4. When cooking, avoid cutting food into very small pieces.  Larger pieces lose less nutrients

Grilling at high temperatures can produce compounds that show increased risk for DNA mutation and some cancers.

Decrease formation of compounds by:
1. Choosing leaner meats
2. Marinating meats
3. Lowering grilling temperature
4. Preventing flare ups (open flames)

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Recipe: Easy Grilled Tuna Melt

3 05 2010

Tuna is a conventient and delicious way to include more fish in your diet.  This simple sandwich is a great option for lunch, or even a simple dinner with a green salad.  Enjoy!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Servings: 1 sandwich


  • 1 (2.6 oz) pouch chunk light tuna, packed in water
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (I use Orowheat)
  • 2 teaspoons Light Butter (I use Land ‘O Lakes with Canola Oil)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat cheddar cheese


1.   In a bowl, add the drained tuna and mayonnaise. Mix together.

2.   Spread one side of each slice of bread with Light Butter and the other side with mustard.

3.   Spread the tuna mixture on top of the mustard side of one of the slices of bread. Place the tomato slices on top of the tuna. Top each with cheese. Place the remaining slice, mustard side inside, on top to create a sandwich.

4.   Spray a skillet with cooking spray and add the sandwich, cheese side up. Cook on medium-high heat about 2-3 minutes until bottom is golden. Using a spatula, turn the sandwich over. Flatten a little with the spatula. Cook about 1-2 minutes until golden. Turn sandwiches over again and cook about 30 seconds more until cheese is melted.

5.   Serve immediately

Nutritional Information per serving

Calories   415 Carbohydrates   41g Fiber  6g Protein   29g Fat 14g Sat. Fat   4g

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Popeye was right!

14 04 2010

Many classify spinach as a superfood.  Research suggests that it may improve strength, brain function, bone health, and eye health.

Spinach contains a phytochemical called phytoecdysteroid.  A recent study completed at Rutgers University demonstrated a 20% increase in muscle growth with this phytochemical.

The vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin found in spinach are all carotenoids that help maintain eye health.

Spinach is also an excellent source of vitamin K and magnesium.  The combination of nutrients in spinach has been shown to promote strong and healthy bones.  Vitamin K has been linked to a reduced risk of bone fractures.  Magnesium is a component of bones and vitamin C helps promote collagen formation, which is necessary to build strong bones.

So add spinach to your diet by juicing, sautéing, tossing in a salad, or adding to your omelet.

Spinach and Chicken Stir-Fry Salad with Raspberries

Preparation Time:  20 minutes

Cooking Time:  5 minutes

Serves:   3 people

Ingredients: Directions:
1 tsp Olive or Canola Oil 1) Heat oil in nonstick skillet or wok.
2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into bite-size strips (12 oz) 2)  Add chicken strips and onion, stir-fry over high heat 3-5 minutes until chicken is no long pink in the center.
1 cup of Onion, diced 3)  Turn off heat and add spinach and vinaigrette
Salt & Pepper to taste 4)  Toss well.
1 bag (6oz) Spinach 5)  Divide mixture among plates
¼ cup Fat-Free Raspberry Vinaigrette 6)  Sprinkle with raspberries and feta cheese
1 cup Raspberries (If frozen, thawed)
¼ cup Reduced-Fat Feta Cheese

Nutritional information per Serving:

Calories:  250 Carbohydrates:  14 g Fiber:  5 g Protein:  28 g Fat:  9 g Sat. Fat: 2 g

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010

Recipe: Pork Chop Packets

11 04 2010

Here is an excellent main dish recipe packed with protein, nutrients and flavor!  Many people don’t realize that pork chops can be just as lean as chicken breasts.  Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene and a very good source of vitamin C.  Peaches and nectarines provide potassium, lycopene and lutein. These nutrients are beneficial in the prevention of heart disease, macular degeneration, and prostate cancer. Cinnamon appears to have the ability to regulate blood sugar levels, lowering the risk for diabetes.  As little as 1 teaspoon has been shown to have the antioxidant power of 1/2 cup of blueberries!

Pork Chop Packets


2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced (about 1/4″ thick)
Dash salt
2 teaspoons butter or margarine
4 boneless pork chops*
4 medium peaches or nectarines, peeled, and sliced
2 cups frozen peaches or nectarines
Dash ground cinnamon

*I used Hormel Natural Center Cut Pork Chops when testing this recipe.


  1. Heat gas or charcoal grill. Cut 4 (18 X 12-inch) sheets of heavy-duty foil; spray with cooking spray
  2. Place one fourth of the sweet potato slices on center of each sheet; sprinkle with salt. Put ½ tsp butter over sweet potato. Top with pork chop and sliced peach or nectarine. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  3. Bring up 2 sides of foil so edges meet. Seal edges, making tight 1/2-inch fold; fold again, allowing space for heat circulation and expansion. Fold other sides to seal.
  4. Place packets on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 20 to 22 minutes, rotating packets 1/2 turn after 10 minutes, or until sweet potatoes and peaches are tender.
  5. To serve, cut large X across top of each packet; carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape.

Nutritional Information per serving:
Calories   355 | Carbohydrates   32g | Fiber  5g | Protein   29g | Fat 11g | Sat. Fat   4g

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.