by Emma Hammond 2 comments
It seems to be a weekly cycle of kicking Monday morning off with big proclamations to eat healthier, hit the gym & skip the fast food line. Yet after a late work evening, grumbling belly & an empty fridge, you are yet again grabbing take out. Which is usually mindlessly gulped down on the sofa only to fall asleep in a food coma. It's not easy to balance work, family, social activities & all the other moving components of our days. Add in trying to come home & make a perfectly healthy from scratch meal nightly that will please yourself, plus possibly other pickier eaters in the household. This is exactly why I started experimenting with how meal planning can make my healthy lifestyle goals easier.So first off, why do I meal prep & how does it make my life easier:1. It makes me communicate with my spouse about my nutrition goals, needs & how ours may differ. I find far too often that people really struggle balancing their nutrition needs with their significant other, family or roommates. The husband suggests grabbing a pizza instead of a home cooked meal. When you are tired post-work, haven't planned a meal ahead or communicated that you want to focus on healthier habits you are much more likely to simply say "sure". When I am struggling with my eating habits this is also a time I tell my husband that. I ASK for extra support & accountability during weak moments throughout the week. We are a team & it just makes like easier to act as one. Plus the best part, no more "what's for dinner?" walking through the door.2. We absolutely save time & money by doing even very basic meal planning on a Sunday afternoon. Taking 5 minutes to evaluate what's in the freezer, pantry & fridge helps to make sure we don't waste, which is a pet peeve of mine. The freezer starting to overflow with leftovers? How about a freezer based menu for the week. Problem solved. In terms of time, I spend much less time wandering aimless up & down the aisles, cut down on multiple trips to the store & eating out due to an empty kitchen. All major benefits for us!3. I stick to my goals with much less stress. While eating a mostly unprocessed whole foods diet has become a natural habit over time, initially it was not nearly as easy. I felt stressed trying to find recipes & learn different cooking techniques that fit within my new lifestyle. Planning ahead allowed me to have what I needed ready, when I needed it during the busy grind of the week. I didn't have to stress over could I have made a better good choice at lunch or not having time to grab a healthy breakfast running out the door. I had a plan & that was one less barrier to my success.There are plenty of other benefits but those are the most important to ME! Everyone is different but I am willing to bet that everyone would enjoy saving time, money & being less stressed over food throughout the week.Now the next step...where to begin! This can absolutely become an overly complicated situation so let's skip that & focus on the motions to go through to get started today. We can get into nitty gritty details in another post.Step 1 - Pantry, freezer & fridge check: evaluate what you have on hand & plan ways to use any items on the way out first.Step 2 - Sit down with family to make a plan: write out a Sun-Mon calendar for the week including breakfast, lunch & dinner if needed. Add in any events that will entail eating out so you don't over plan the menu.*Tip: Having a Taco Tuesday or Italian Wednesday can take a bit of the weekly decision making out of the equation. Also plan in LEFTOVERS! We only cook 2-3 meals a week, the rest is leftovers.Step 3 - Make a grocery list based on meals selected. Write in your calendar WHEN you are going to make chosen meals. Aka do you really have time to cook a roasted chicken when you work until 7pm on Tuesday? If not plan to make in advance. choose a leftover or a quick fix meal for that night. Make sure to post the weekly calendar where the whole household can see the plan!Step 4 - Hit the store & stick to your list! I give myself 1 off the list choice based on what looks fresh & delicious. AKA still a whole food such as delicious berries or that steak I really want. Not oreos...Step 5 - Wash & get to prepping is last on today's list. Set aside an hour on Sunday or whatever day works best for you to wash veggies, chop what's needed, boil eggs, make a breakfast frittata, a big batch of sauce, roast a chicken etc etc! Make anything you can ahead of time plus have easy to snack on foods available in the front of fridge for when hunger hits.Also just to note, this is just ONE way to meal plan. Once you become more seasoned or if you live by yourself, it can be as simple as cook off a couple of proteins & have lots of ready to cook vegetables on hand. Some weeks we have a very specific menu planned. Other weeks we have easy to mix & match combos so we are able to be a bit looser with our choices. Find what works for you & play with it as you go.My last tip is to make meal planning a fun part of your routine. Attitude is everything & it doesn't have to be a drag. We work to make it fun by trying new recipes, foods we've never had or challenging ourselves to be creative with items on hand. It's not always gourmet but overtime you will increase your recipe index with ease. Do you meal plan for the week ahead? If so any tips or tricks that work for you?
Working as a personal trainer & consultant has meant major adjustments to my daily routine. Unconventional hours mean an ever changing schedule, which has definitely had an impact on my usual planned eating habits. As I tell clients, meal planning is an important component of maintaining a balanced diet. However for me personally, I tend to get a little wrapped up in my plans, which can lead to becoming a little rigid when life happens and I have to adjust. So I take this a good curveball to just go with the flow.
Weekday Eating Routine:
I generally have a couple of weekday breakfasts I alternate between. I go through major phases in food and usually stick with them until I wake up & say I can't even look at that anymore! My trend lately? My beloved banana breakfast scramble topped with peanut butter, which my husband has labeled extremely bizarre. Works for me though! This is a recipe I saw floating around various blogs & after a few variations I found the right combo for me. It's important for me to get a good whack of protein in the morning, as it's usually my post-workout meal. Recipe below!
Breakfast - 8:30am:
As always I enjoyed my breakfast with an amazing cup of joe w/ almond milk plus a glass of lemon water. As much as I love hot coffee, once summer hits the iced version is so refreshing.
Lately on days I don't train super early I have been eating a later breakfast, as it's usually after my morning gym session, a puppy walk & shower. Therefore I don't frequently snack between breakfast & lunch. For lunch I am all about the salads these days. The bigger the better!! I usually pick a theme for the week for sake of not overdoing the grocery budget. Something I am excellent at blowing!!
Lunch - 1:30pm:
This week I went with fajita style salads, mainly as an excuse to eat tons of avocado. Healthy fats for the win! I sauteed onion, pepper, jalepeno, squash & tomatoes w/ pre-cooked crockpot salsa chicken. I mashed 1/2 an avocado with salt & added a scoop of plain greek yogurt. This never fails to satisfy my taste buds.
After training a couple of clients & squeezing in a business meeting with lots of paperwork in between my belly started to growl. I've learned that if I don't have that afternoon snack I tend to get "Hangry" by the time my husband comes home & am not a very pleasant person to be around. So the 5pm snack usually makes an appearance in the form of a veggie & cheese plates or yogurt bowls with varying toppings. I love variety!
Snack - 4:30pm:
Today's snack included the leftover plain yogurt from my lunch, sliced strawberries & a scoop of almond butter. Plus an extra dose of coffee, which I try to not overdue but some days it calls my name! For snacks, I always try to find a combo of protein/fat/carbs to give me satiety. If I just grab a handful of veggies I am usually back to digging in the fridge 30 minutes later.
Dinner has been on the later side due to my training schedule. I work until 7-8pm every night of the week, which is why meal prep is crucial for us. To avoid the take out we have to have food ready to eat in ~20 minutes.
Dinner - 8:00pm:
Tonight's dinner included a cauliflower topped Shepherd's Pie my husband kindly made on Sunday night. Recipe to come on that as it's super simple & a delicious comfort dish. I paired the pie with simply sauteed kale & sat down to eat within 10 minutes.
Dessert - 9:15pm:
For better or worse we are both in the habit of a little post dinner dessert. I try to base it on how early we ate dinner & how hungry I am but lately I am in the routine of a post-dinner quest bar. Not the best choice but certainly not the worse. These are delicious & high in protein, only downside is they are on the pricy side so nightly is probably not ideal all the way around. However I am not perfect nor do I desire to be so enjoyed every bite.
Question of the Day: Are you a post-dinner eater? If so what are your go-to's?
1 Medium Banana
1 Whole Egg + 3 Servings Liquid Egg Whites
1tsp Ground Flax
A few drops of stevia, shake of cinnamon & pinch of salt.
1tsp Coconut Oil (for cooking)
1. Pre-heat saute pan to medium heat.
2. Mash banana w/ fork in a bowl.
3. Add egg, egg whites, flax, cinnamon, salt & stevia (if desired) to bowl & stir to combine well.
4. Add teaspoon of coconut oil to pan & add sweet scramble mixture.
5. Cook as you would scrambled eggs for 3-4 minute or until done to your liking. This is a personal preference but I like letting the edges get a little brown/crispy so I don't stir quit as frequently & cook longer.
6. Serve topped w/ you favorite nut butter & enjoy!
*Note: I frequently mix in strawberries once I turn off the heat as to simply warm, not cook through. Any berry, nut or even dates could be a great addition to test out.
…alarm clock goes off.
Hit snooze…maybe snooze again
Snag the phone beside the bed and sleepily throw on workout gear.
Drive to the gym in the dark and grumble hello to the far too chipper gym attendant.
Jump on the closets elliptical and spin in circle until you hit your 45 minute mark.
Check the calorie number on the machine and think “hey at least I burned 400 calories”
Then go on about your day knowing you got you “burn in”.
And hey, sometimes that’s ok. We may not always feel like working out and motivation fluctuates. But changing your mindset may make a big difference in the way you feel about exercise and your results.
Whether it’s the latest fit bit or garmin tracker, many people enjoy knowing that they created the all mighty calorie deficit with their morning or afternoon sweat fest. The problem is when we begin to view exercise as only a means to achieve a calorie burn instead of the other FAR more important physical and mental benefits.
Focusing on calories alone is not only inaccurate (please don’t base your meals on how many calories the elliptical machine says you burned!) but also takes the fun out of a workout. Exercise should be something that more often then not you look forward to. By focusing on what makes you feel strong, healthy & brightens your mood, you are more likely to put more effort into the workout and achieve the results you are aiming for.
I personally made the shift two years or so ago to focusing my workouts on heavier strength training. I will get MUCH more in depth on the importance of strength training & the personal benefits I have experienced but we will save that for another post. The shift to lifting was partially initiated by a running injury, which limited my ability to hit the road. However I also realized the need & perks that getting stronger would give me as an active person. After a week of showing up to gym with my heart rate monitor strapped to my chest, I quickly became both panicked and frustrated. OH NO...i’m not burning nearly as many calories lifting heavy weights as I was circling on the elliptical!! Regardless of the fact that after countless hours I'd spent doing cardio, I still majorly lacked the "toned" look I was going for.
Instead of spending my new strength routine focused on being proud of the improvements in strength, flexibility and muscle definition I was achieving, I let my watch take all the fun out of the workouts. I started leaving the gym feeling deflated instead of euphoric and it had nothing to do with not loving what I was doing. Just ask Robert (my husband) how pleasant I was throwing my heart rate monitor at the table post workout at 6am.
So guess what? I tossed the monitor, stopped tracking my calories burned and walked through the gym doors focused on kicking butt. My result? I looked forward to getting up in the morning to pump some iron. I was proud when I did my first pull up. Most importantly I gained confidence and felt badass at what I was doing for my body. I was giving it strength, muscle & power, not just taking away calories, fat and to be honest energy.
The other big accomplishment from this mental shift was how it affected my outlook on nutrition. I stopped trying to deplete my body to get rid of calories and worked to fuel it with nutrient dense foods to support my hard work. It became about quality over quantity with both my fitness and fuel.
This isn’t to say that I don’t have days where my attitude isn’t “get it done”. I still do some steady state cardio because I want to maintain a base level of endurance and yes; it can be beneficial for me aesthetically in appropriate doses. However it really helps to have better motivation then strictly calorie burning when you are trying to create consistency in staying active. So don’t stick with dreaded cardio because you think it burns more calories or hit hellish to you hot yoga because you’re sweating the fat away right? Half of these assumptions aren’t even true but I’ll leave that for yet another post.
Find ways to incorporate workouts that will help you achieve your goals with forms of activity that you enjoy. It’s about being a healthy balanced person so if your current exercise routine doesn’t give you that maybe it’s time to reconsider!
Question of the Day? What form of fitness leaves you with a smile on your face?