The Kitchen QB
Mazur shows off his “performance and recovery” spin on the charcuterie board.
Jordan Mazur ’12 (CAHNR) dreamed of making the National Football League when he graduated from UConn, and he has accomplished that goal with the San Francisco 49ers.
No, you won’t see him on TV with a jersey and helmet as a player — Mazur works behind the scenes, helping the players on the field stay in top shape as the director of nutrition for the NFC West team.
“I oversee every player’s nutrition and have an individualized meal plan for each of them,” says Mazur, a native of Suffield, Connecticut. “I monitor body weight and composition and, along with our sports medicine team, look at a player’s blood work for micronutrient, vitamin, and mineral levels.”
Then he uses the data to customize what each player eats, working with the team chefs and cafeteria staff on what is served during training camp, on practice, recovery, and game days, at the team hotel, and even on the plane for road games.
The meals blend lean protein, whole grains, and plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Mazur’s players, for example, might have a choice between grass-fed flank steak with brown rice, broccoli, organic berries, avocado, and almonds or grilled free-range chicken breast with quinoa, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, avocado, and pistachios.
Mazur says a sports nutrition class he took at UConn piqued his interest in the field. “The class opened my eyes to how nutrition can help enhance performance in athletes,” he says. Nancy Rodriguez “really was the first professor to inspire me and let me know that this field was even something I could … make a career in.”
He added a master’s degree from Florida State and had stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and the University of California before landing his current gig six years ago.
Mazur, who was a member of the men’s rowing club team as a UConn student, says he tries to develop trust with each player, much like a coach would. “Professional athletes understand how important nutrition is and what they need to do to stay on track. At this level, money and contracts are a motivation. This is their career and livelihood.”
Even those of us who don’t rely on nutrition to fuel our livelihoods could benefit from some of Mazur’s professional advice. For starters, the 49ers try to use locally sourced food for the team as much as possible — easy to do in California “where so much fresh product is available within 100 miles,” says Mazur.
“The bottom line is that food is meant to be enjoyed, and there are many aspects to it — social, emotional, community, religious, and cultural. It’s about balance and moderation. I preach an 80:20 approach — 80 percent of the time you should be eating what you need to fuel your body and 20 percent of the time, eat the food you enjoy.”
He admits to the occasional hamburger and ice cream (UConn Dairy Bar banana chocolate chip is his favorite flavor: “Don’t knock it ’til you try it”).
He knows that people who see him with those foods tend to question whether a dietitian should be eating such things. “But if those are foods you enjoy, it’s OK to have them in moderation,” he says.
“Maybe have a couple slices of pizza instead of a whole pie. Don’t finish the whole pint of ice cream. It all depends on what your goals are. You have to listen to your body and know when you are full and when you are hungry, and have an intuitive eating approach.”
By Mike Enright
As winter approaches, dig into a few of Mazur’s favorite warm, hearty, plant-based dishes.
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 cups (1 pound) unpeeled sweet potato, chopped into bite-sized chunks
- 5 cups chopped cauliflower (1 medium head)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 2 Tablespoons curry paste
- 1 Tablespoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 ½ teaspoons coriander
- 1 28-ounce can diced San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can full fat coconut milk
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 4 cups raw spinach
- A handful of arugula
For Serving: Cooked brown rice, naan, and cilantro (for garnish)
Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add the sweet potato and sauté for an additional 3 minutes.
Add cauliflower and ½ teaspoon kosher salt and sauté for another 5 minutes.
Stir in curry paste, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, coriander. Add tomatoes and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10 minutes until the cauliflower and sweet potato are tender.
Drain and rinse chickpeas. When the vegetables are tender, add the chickpeas and spinach. Stir for 2 minutes until the spinach becomes wilted. Add arugula; stir until wilted.
Add another ½ teaspoon of kosher salt to taste. Add more salt if desired.
Serve with brown rice and naan and garnish with chopped cilantro.
Hearty Plant-Based Chili
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 3 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 large red onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 1 4-ounce can mild green chiles
- 1 large sweet potato cut into ½ inch cubes
- 2 ½ Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ¾ cups water
- 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
- 2 cups squash and zucchini, diced
- 1 ½ cups frozen sweet corn
Lime wedges, cheese, avocado, cilantro, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
Stove Top Directions
Place oil in a large pot and over medium high heat. Add in garlic, onion, diced carrot, red bell pepper, cubed sweet potatoes and green chiles. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.
Next add chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Stir for about 30 seconds.
Add crushed tomatoes, water, black beans, chickpeas, beans, and corn. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until chili thickens.
Taste and adjust seasonings and salt as necessary. Add garnish as desired.
Slow Cooker Directions
Place all ingredients in pot, stir, cover, and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 5-6 hours.