Healthy, delicious homemade banana bread

I love bananas. Karel calls me a monkey.
I certainly didn't take after my mom who has a slight banana allergy but instead, my dad just loved his daily banana (or two).

It's no surprise that I would love banana bread simple because it contains bananas. Plus, I hate wasting food so when my yellow bananas turn spotty, throwing them in the freezer for a future smoothie is a great option but I can't go wrong with making them the star ingredient in banana bread.

I'm still having so much fun with my Run Fast Eat Slow cookbook and I was literally waiting all week for my bananas to turn very ripe so that I could make the Spelt banana bread recipe on pg. 183 of the book. 

To learn more about Spelt, you can read more here. 
Spelt is an ancient form of wheat (cultivated since 5000 BC) and contains much less gluten than wheat so it may be tolerable for those who are gluten intolerant (but it should be avoided by those who have Celiac disease). 

Like many other grains, spelt contains fiber and protein, along with iron, copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, selenium, B vitamins and folic acid.

I hope you enjoy this delicious recipe. It is super moist and satisfying with just enough sweetness to excite your taste buds.
I adapted the recipe from the cookbook and modified the ingredients just slightly. 

Spelt Banana Bread

1 1/2 cups spelt flour (or gluten free flour)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp pink Himalayan salt
1 stick salted butter (Plugra or Kerrygold are our favorite butter brands)
1/4 cup brown sugar (yep - that's it!)
2 eggs
2 large very ripe bananas (mashed)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Handful of unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Use cooking spray to grease a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan (or use butter).
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.
3. In a separate mixing bowl, use a handheld mixer or stand mixer to beat together the butter and sugar on low until combined. Add the eggs and continue to beat for 1 minute. Add the bananas and vanilla and beat just until combined.
4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the nuts.
5. Pour into the loaf pan and shake the pan to spread out the batter evenly. Sprinkle the top with coconut if using.  Bake in the center of the oven until the top is golden brown and a toothpick in the center comes out clean (about 50-60 minutes). 
6. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes. Use a knife around the edges to loosen and to carefully remove the loaf.



Ahhh, I need to lose weight!!

As an athlete, you probably feel that you work very hard to develop the necessary skills, resilience, stamina, power, speed and endurance to help you prepare for your upcoming athletic events. Developing the fitness to participate in a running or triathlon event requires a lot of training and it takes commitment and requires patience, so it's assumed that skipping workouts, being "all in" all the time, not caring, deviating from your training plan to do what other athletes are doing, or haphazardly guessing your way through training are not effective ways to reach your race day goals. You simply become inconsistent with training, you lose confidence in what you are doing and you may compromise your health.

Is nutrition an important component of your training?

If you don't work at healthy eating, you miss out on one of the best opportunities to improve your performance and to keep your body in good health. To perform at your best, your body needs to function at it's best and the best fuel comes from a healthy, balanced and well-planned and timed diet.

So what's an athlete to do if weight loss is a goal, alongside performance/fitness improvements? And for the purpose of this article, I'm speaking about weight loss that brings you to a healthy weight and not weight loss for aesthetics, to show off your abs or to tone up your butt or to lose a few vanity pounds.

I can't say it enough but eating a healthy diet as an athlete is not easy. When your time is limited, you are exhausted from training, energy expenditure is high, you get up early to workout and your appetite is ever-so unpredictable, energy comes and goes and you are tired and sore, developing the SKILLS to maintain a healthy diet as an athlete takes a lot of work.

Most athletes would rather put the time into training than to work on improving dietary habits but this strategy does not work. You see, if you don't work on developing healthy eating habits in your early season, how do you expect to carry healthy habits with you as your training volume and intensity increase as the season progresses?

Healthy eating and performance fueling requires education, trial and error, a lot of planning, commitment, organization and an open-mind. Most athletes need help to learn how to eat healthy as an athlete. Because of this, there are many credible professionals that specialize in helping athletes learn how to eat a healthy diet and how to eat for performance, so that you can develop healthy daily habits and smart fueling and hydration strategies in order to make the best food choices possible throughout the day and before, during and after workouts, in order to reach athletic excellence.

With so much nutritional advice available at your fingertips and a lot of overly confident nutrition experts, it's important that in your attempt to lose weight, you understand and accept that there are significant physical, psychological, emotional and social changes associated with dieting. Asking an athlete to restrict calories, starve the body of nutrients or avoid/restrict carbohydrates, when energy expenditure is high, can cause great emotional, cognitive and behavioral symptoms that are performance and health limiting....NOT ENHANCING. Intentional or not, when athletes do not "eat enough", the body systems become compromised and you feel horrible.

Dieting, or restrictive eating, may cause food obsessions, social isolation, fatigue, weakness, hormonal issues, bone loss, irritability, body temperature changes, anxiety, depression, low blood sugar, sleep disturbances and the desire or motivation that you once had to do what you love to do with your body is no longer a driving force to keep you present in your sport. Instead, your mind is obsessed with your body and not on performance or health.

Seeing that so many negative physical and psychological issues develop when exercise and nutrition are taken to the extreme, there must be a stop to all of this talk on "righteous, good vs bad, eliminate whole food groups, sugar is bad, don't use sport nutrition, fasted workout" eating. This is NOT a healthy approach to weight loss. Sadly, there are far too many misinformed athletes that do not have a good perspective on what is needed in the diet and before, during and after workouts, in order to keep the body in good health while working for fitness improvements. 

As for the athletes who ignore fad diets and work hard to organize and plan the diet in order to eat "enough" and fine-tune details like proper fueling and hydration for individual needs (often working with a sport dietitian), well, those are the athletes to look-up to on race day because not only are they having a lot of fun in training but they are fit, fast, healthy and prepared on race day. These athletes don't diet or obsess about body image, but they give themselves permission to eat, indulge and fuel for performance and well, a better overall quality of life.

If you are trying to lose weight for health and/or performance reasons, you should not have to devote every minute of your day eating or training as you try to lose weight. And never should you have to use extreme exercise and food restriction in order to achieve or to maintain your "goal" weight.

It makes me so sad to hear that there are so many athletes who feel so unhappy with their body shape, size or weight. Worrying all day about what to or not to eat, trying not to eat "too much" and grinding out workouts on empty just to look differently. When you restrict yourself from food, you don't become a better athlete. Instead, you become weak, tired and withdrawn. Extreme exercising to burn calories or to reward yourself with food is not performance enhancing and it's not health promoting. You can't perform well with this type of lifestyle. You may think that you look fitter but you may not be able to do much with your body. The mindset to be "thinner to be a winner" is not worth the price that your body has to pay when you are energy deprived and trying to train consistently.

Seeing that there is a safe way and an unhealthy way to lose weight, ask yourself the following YES or NO questions to see if you are taking a smart approach to weight loss?

-You have drastically cut out a significant amount of calories?
-You are avoiding specific food groups?
-You are frustrated that you are not losing weight fast enough?
-You are intentionally avoiding taking in calories before and during workouts?
-You have your weight on your mind when you are working out?
-You are finding yourself overeating on the weekends because you "deserve it"?
-You feel irritable and moody, often low in energy and hungry?
-You feel confident that you can maintain this type of diet for the rest of your life, and be happy?

A smart eating approach maintains energy levels as you change your body composition. A smart eating approach does not negatively affect your health.
A smart eating approach does not limit you from food groups.
A smart eating approach keeps you training consistently. 

A smart eating approach helps you get fit, fast and strong.
A smart eating approach is sustainable and sets you up for a lifestyle of healthy eating habits. 

If you have recently found yourself saying "Ahhh, I need to lose weight!!" remind yourself that it won't come from a diet, weight will not rapidly fall off, there's no quick fix and you can't maintain good health and optimize your performance with a rigid and restrictive style of eating.  

Not sure if you can safely and confidently lose weight on your own, without affecting your health and/or performance?

Don't use forums and the internet for advice.

Reach out to a Board Certified Sport Dietitian for help. 


Athlete spotlight: Sara Bard - The inspiring triathlete courageously living with stage IV cancer

Name: Sara Bard

Age: 54

City/State: Saint Joseph, Michigan 

Primary sport: Triathlon

How many years in the sport: 15 years, on and off

What Trimarni services have you used: Training plan (transition plan and strength training plan) and will be attending upcoming Greenville Skills camp in May.


Describe your athletic background and how you discovered your current sport?

I ran and swam during college and probably raced one of the very first triathlons back in 1983. I won the whole thing, which now looking back is pretty funny. I think it was because I was the only one who could swim 500 yards Having 5 children limited my workout time, so I just continued with the sport of running, which is so much more time efficient than biking or swimming. When the kids got older, I did triathlons sporadically. We moved to Saint Joseph, Michigan in 2003 and discovered an awesome triathlon community and triathletes who raced all distances. We are home to the Ironman Steelhead 70.3 which brings us all together to volunteer and to participate in a great event. Recently, our triathlon club, The Tri-Avengers got started and I joined. It is great to have this community of people cheering for one another in the sport. It has made a huge difference in my desire to compete in triathlons again.

What keeps you training and racing in your current sport?

The Tri-Avengers tri-club and the fantastic athletes here in Saint Joseph.

What do you do for work?

I'm a retired RN and I home school my youngest daughter. I am currently a Challenge B Classical Conversations tutor for her age group.

How does your work life affect training and how do you balance work and training?

Being a tutor has taken a lot of time. I think it is good for me, as I know my training hours are limited. I like to have all workouts done before 8:00 am so we can get school work going. Waiting until evening to workout is usually a big fail for me. I like to be in bed by 8:00 pm.

Any tips/tricks as to how to balance work and training?

For me it's getting up early. If I don't....It's usually not going to happen.

Do you have kids?

I have 5 kids from 26-13 yrs old. Only 2 living at home.

How do you balance kids and training?

The kids don't really affect my training now since they are grown. The youngest is a diver, so my husband and I will try to fit our strength workout in while she is diving. My advice is to workout while they are doing whatever they are interested in. But with kids, this is where getting up early works for me. Thankfully, my husband likes to workout in the evening, so when the kids were little, I would go out in the morning to workout and he would go out in the evening to workout. We also invested in a running stroller when the kids were little.

How do you balance your training with your partner? 

We do some triathlons as a team, so it works well. He is a great biker, which is where I am weak, and I do the run and swim.

Do you have a race day lesson learned that you'd like to share?

Some days it just doesn't go your way and you have to be okay with it.

What are your top 3-5 tips for athletes, as it relates to staying happy, healthy and performing well? 

1. Be thankful for what you have. 
2. Get up early. 
 3. Go to bed early.

How would you define athletic success as it relates to your personal journey?

I was diagnosed with stage IV Neuroendocrine Tumor cancer in 2013. I was training for a half marathon and kept having trouble with diarrhea while running. Short story...went to our local GI doctor and 2 weeks later I heard those dreaded words, "You have cancer." To say it was a shock would be an understatement. This type of cancer (similar to what Steve Jobs had) is a slow growing cancer. That's good and bad. Good because you have times when it is stable, bad because chemotherapy and radiation don't work. It started in my small intestine and has metastasized to my liver. I had a large surgery on my liver Jan 2015 and I'm so thankful that I have been stable since then. I have some intestinal issues and fatigue, but overall, I'm doing well. I thank God he has given me what He has, to my family and husband who motivate me to keep moving forward and I'm thankful for triathlon and my triathlon community that keeps me going.  The sport of triathlon has helped me overcome the shock of being diagnosed with stage IV cancer. I have had 2 big surgeries and after the first one, I knew I did not want to stay in convalescent mode any longer than I had to. Training for the next triathlon helped motivate me to get up and do what I could do with my body.

What's your favorite post-race meal, drink or food? 

It's a coke...full on....not diet.

What key races do you have planned in 2017

First one on the agenda is Blackwater Milton FL April 1. When I had my last MRI and labs, and all was stable in October, I celebrated by registering for that race. I grew up near there and I will be able to visit my mom. I also love the Battle of Waterloo Triathlon at Grass Lake Michigan. I especially like running through the park while swimming through the park lakes. It's funny to see people who don't like things touching them while they are in the water and then do the swim with lily pads and seaweed. I grew up in Florida, so I have a higher tolerance for strange things in the water with you.

What are your athletic goals for the next 5 years?

I only plan one season at a time right now. I actually live in 6 month cycles and plan my training and racing based on MRI and lab results.