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The Struggles of Being Fit and Healthy – Meal Prep
“I don’t have time to cook healthy meals.”
“Healthy food is boring and bland.”
“My kids refuse to eat foods that are good for them”
Today I am going to address the food issue. Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle or wanting to maintain, food is a huge part of the equation. Your diet is responsible for 80% of your results, the other 20% are your genetic and fitness output. So there is a lot of truth in the saying “Abs are made in the kitchen”.
“I don’t have time to cook healthy meals.”
This is THE BIGGEST complaint that I get from clients who want to eat healthier. I understand where you are coming from. We are all super busy! It’s the American way. Rush here, race there. We always find something to fill up our calendars, but not having “time” to cook a healthy meal is a big pile of BS. (Click here to read my thoughts on Finding Time For Fitness). If you have time to sit in a drive thru for 10 minutes, you have time to cook a healthy meal. If you can go to a restaurant to eat, you have time to make a healthy meal. If you have time to throw a pizza in the oven, you have time to make a healthy meal. YOU JUST CHOOSE TO NOT MAKE A HEALTHY MEAL.
Making foods that are nutritious DO NOT take any more time than any other food. Need fast food? How much faster can eating get than peeling a banana or opening a container of yogurt? And although, fresh is always better, but how hard is it to throw “steam in the bag” broccoli in the microwave and hit start? I understand how going through a drive thru or ordering pizza may seem like the only choice when you are low on time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can eat “fast”, easy, healthy food, you just need to be a little creative.
Here’s a scenario for you. It’s lunch time and you are starving. You drive 10 minutes to a fast food joint, wait 10 minutes in the drive thru line, order whatever is on the dollar menu and drive 10 minutes to drive back to work. 30 minutes just to get a burger and fries. Now let me revamp it a bit for you. If you were to take 10 minutes in the morning and make a wrap out of a whole wheat pita with chicken breast (you can buy it pre cooked and cut up for you so it’s easy), leafy greens and avocado and grabbed an apple, you would have saved yourself 20 MINUTES to do whatever you want at lunch break. Healthy and a time saver (PS – you could use those extra 20 minutes to go for a walk. ANOTHER WIN). Same thing goes with supper. A pizza takes 15-20 minutes to cook. In the same amount of time you can cook a chicken breast, steam some veggies and bake a sweet potato in the microwave. Actually , it takes 12 minutes because I do it a few times a week. Healthy meals don’t have to take hours to prepare, you just have to think outside of the box and not go to your “to go” fast and easy food.
Now there are days when you are so busy that cooking is not an option. Been there, done that. Or maybe the thought of cooking every day makes you want to stick you head in the oven and turn it on broil. I really have been there and done that. (Disclaimer here – I CAN’T COOK. I HATE TO COOK AND I TRY TO GET OUT OF IT EVERY CHANCE I CAN GET. So when I tell you that I DO this stuff, that means it REALLY IS simple and easy to do. Back to the point and CAPS LOCK OFF). When you know you are going to have a busy week, this is when you make meal prepping your best friend.
What is meal prepping?
I know you have heard the expression “fail to plan, plan to fail” right? Well, meal prepping is planning out your meals to ensure that you make the right choices because the food is already prepared for you. The premise behind meal prepping is to take a few hours, one or two days a week to prepare all of your food for the next three to five days. You can prep just one meal (dinner) or all three meals and snacks ahead of time. The key to successful meal prepping is having a PLAN.
Rule #1 in meal prepping is to make a plan. Make a menu, gather recipes (He and She Eat Clean and Lori Harder have great simple and healthy recipes) and plan what you want to eat for the week. Each meal should include a lean protein source, a veggie and a carb (starch or fruit). Add in healthy fats like coconut oil, natural nut butters and avocados.
Now that you have your menu, make a list of the groceries, spices, herbs, condiments you will need. Stock up on plenty of fruits, vegetables, protein, starches, dairy, nuts and seeds. It’s better to have too much than not enough food.
Choose BPA free containers that fit nicely together when stacked. Having your fridge look like a game of jenga will drive even the most unorganized person crazy. I personally like to use clear, glass containers. They are more expensive, but they will last longer and you won’t have to guess what is in each container. Also make sure you have snack size baggies for your snacks. They are already portion controlled – easy peasy.
This is where the work comes in, but it is worth it! Each week this process takes me a few hours, but it saves me cooking time during the week.
Proteins: I make all of my meats at once. In the summer I toss everything on the grill and let it cook. Personally, I like to cook my meats with little seasoning. That way I can add healthy sauces or spices as my taste changes throughout the week. In the colder months, I bake my proteins in the oven or on the George Forman Grill
Grains: These can be cooked up once for the whole week. A pot of quinoa or brown rice will last for five days and can be made with low sodium chicken stock for added flavor. I bake sweet potatoes, zucchini and/or spaghetti squash at the same time I cook the veggies in the oven.
Veggies: Vegetables can be raw (salad), steamed, stir-fried or roasted. I cut up all of my veggies in same size pieces so they will cook evenly. Adding healthy oil and herbs will enhance the flavors while they cook.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE CROCKPOT!!!! One of my favorite dishes is to cook 4 pounds of chicken breast with canned tomatoes and a few spices – spicy chicken. Set it and forget it! The crock pot is also great for making oatmeal.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
This is when you can take your meal prep up a notch and portion everything out into meals. Depending on your preference, you can mix and match your meals as you go throughout the week or create all of your meals in your containers so all you have to do is grab and go. Either way, when creating your meals make sure you get the appropriate serving sizes of your items. Make sure each meal contains a protein, a veggie and a carb (fruit or starch). Don’t forget to add in healthy fats to at least 2 meals!
Protein: 4-5 oz
Carbs and Starches: 1/2-1 cup
Veggies: 1 cup or 2 cups for leafy greens
Fruits: small piece of fruit or 1/2 cup
So we have covered lunch, dinner and snacks, but what about breakfast? Meal prep works for breakfast too. Recipes like overnight oats, protein muffins, protein pancakes and baked oatmeal save me from chewing my own arm off when I wake up.
And if all else fails, you can have a meal prep service make your food for you! What!!?!? Yes, there are places that will do that for you. Incredible, right?!?! If you are in the metro area, a great local company that I recommend is Re.Nu.Trition. All meals are gluten free, made with anti-biotic and hormone free meat, healthy and their produce is purchased locally. Meals prepared and available for pickup on Sunday or delivered to you on Monday for $10 charge. You can find out more about Re.Nu.Trition on facebook.
If you are not in the Metro area, another great healthy meal prep company is ICON Meals. ICON Meals is out of Texas and they will ship your custom meals to your door step. Each meal comes to you fresh, never frozen, and you have the option of over 100 meal combinations.
“Healthy food is boring and bland.”
Well sure – any food without seasonings will taste bland and boring. That’s why you add flavoring silly! I will throw this out there again – remember that I hate to cook and I am horrible at it? Well, I’m also terrified of trying seasonings, flavorings and condiments that are not the typical salt, pepper and ketchup. So I am going to address this topic in the only way I know – Flavor God Seasonings. I discovered these when I was in my last prep and I couldn’t keep eating bland chicken anymore. The first thing that got me was that they were gluten free and then I saw all of the flavors and fell out of my chair. Seriously – bacon flavoring, donut flavoring, pizza flavoring…..drool!!!! And they are healthy, low cal or cal free and easy!!!!!! Shake and bake. BAM!
“My kids refuse to eat foods that are good for them”
OK – another COLD, HARD, TRUTH coming at cha! Your children do not buy the food, your children are not your boss and despite what they say, they will not starve to death. Since when did parents allow their children to treat them like they are their personal chefs? Growing up I ate what was put on the table or I didn’t eat. Plain and simple. And there were a lot of times I didn’t eat, but I’m still alive today to tell the story. If I would have had it my way, I would have ate peanut butter sandwiches, Doritos and Swiss Cake Rolls at every meal, but I WAS A CHILD. It was my parents job to make sure I ate things that were good for me. Yes, we did get treats, but, like they say on Sesame Street, they were “some times foods” and were only allowed on special occasions. I grew up in a different time and things have certainly changed since then. Seriously, I bet in some states children can sue their parents for not serving them the foods they want. I do not have kids, but I asked a few of my friends who are AMAZING parents and this is how they get their kids to eat healthy:
YOU give the options. If they choose to not eat what is served, they are given 2 options of what they can eat and they have to make it themselves. If then they still don’t want to eat, too bad. Go to bed hungry. PS – their kids have not died of starvation.
Hide veggies in the food. Add cauliflower to mashed potatoes, black beans to brownies, zucchini to pancakes and spinach to smoothies. If my husband doesn’t know I do this, neither will your kids. Here is a great post on how to be sneaky.
Make food fun! Make creatures and animals out of healthy foods. Come on! Who doesn’t want to eat kitty cat oatmeal? See some fun ideas here.
When eating out, don’t order off the kiddie menu. Order a healthy option off of the regular menu. It may be a little more expensive to buy your toddler a full meals, but it A) is healthier than chicken nuggets and fries and B) you can take home the leftovers and call it meal prep for the youngster.
And if all else fails, if you don’t want to eat it, DON’T BUY IT!!!!! If it’s not in the home – no one will be tempted.
The Struggles of Being Fit and Healthy – Getting Motivated
I often hear people say:
“I need to workout, but I just can’t get motivated enough to do it.”
Been there – done that. Everyone experiences this. Even seasoned athletes/exercisers experience the “ho hum’s” occasionally. It can be so easy to talk yourself out of a workout, but I want to help you find a way to inspire you to do it.
There are so many ways to motivate yourself to exercise, and I want to share some ideas that have helped me. Sure I’ve had days when I’ve struggled with exercise. Just like everyone else, there are days when I’m too tired, or have too many things scheduled to find time to exercise. With 2 full time jobs, 3 dogs, my own business and a hubby with 2 companies of his own, I have a plate full of responsibilities and everything seems to require top priority like right now. But my workout is my time for myself. This is when I destress and focus solely on myself. In order for me to be on top of game, I have to be on top of my physical game. With a clear mind and a healthy body, I can put my all into my life outside of the gym. And on days when I struggle to workout, I have a secret stash of motivational tips that keep me on the fitness trail. Here are a few of the reasons I give myself to get motivated to workout:
That post-workout high. I always feel on top of the world after a good workout. Knowing I just completed a challenging workout leaves me feeling strong, confident and like I can accomplish anything!!! There is NOTHING better than that feeling!
Get excited to have “Me Time”. This is your special time for yourself. While many of us make the time to take care of others (kids, spouse, other family members, co-workers, boss), we often neglect taking time out for ourselves. Make your “you” time a priority, and don’t break that exercise appointment.
REWARDS!!! After every fitness milestone, I reward myself with something. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive: a book, cute shoes, a pretty new nail polish, a bouquet of flowers or my favorite – a new purse. If I am having trouble getting motivated, I remind myself that after I reach my goal I will be sporting a new purse. (don’t judge me – I’m in a 12 step program for my addiction)
Fitting into “new” old clothes. Remember that outfit that you are just dying to wear again? Remember how amazing you felt the last time you wore it? Enough said – get moving so you can wear it again!
Stress relief. Stressed from a long day at the office or frazzled from your busy schedule? Get out and work it off. It really helps to have this physical outlet to let go of all that tension. Exercise releases feel good endorphins and you’ll walk away from a workout in a better mood.
Time for contemplation. Sometimes, I enjoy losing myself in my thoughts when I exercise. I’ve found it often helps me uncover solutions to daily problems. Some of my best ideas come to me while I am out for a run. Use this time to let your mind wander a bit and see where your thoughts take you.
Get a workout partner. Not only is it much more fun to exercise with a friend, you have a sense of responsibility to them to keep your workout appointment.
Hire a coach or trainer. Worth the money, if even just for the motivation and the accountability of having to keep an appointment. Need the name of an AWESOME trainer? Let me know…I think I might know someone. LOL!
Keep an exercise journal. People who keep a journal of their workout routine have a far better chance of success than those who do not. The journal is your own personal checkpoint to remind you where you came from, where you are now and what your intended goal is to be.
That dreaded of feeling disappointment from not exercising. I hate the guilt, frustration and feeling like I have missed something very important when I skip my workout especially when 30 minutes later when I know if I would have started when I wanted to I would be done by now.
Need more motivation? Check out this article that I wrote for Cut and Jacked to really light a fire under your buns.
The Struggles of Being Fit and Healthy – Exercise is Boring
“Working out is boring.”
Huh? Working out is boring? This to me is one of the lamest excuses out there. Where do people get the idea that exercise has to be doing a dull activity, in a place that you hate, on a boring piece of equipment, until you just can’t take the torture one second longer? Let me let you in on a little secret – it doesn’t have to be this way. If a particular workout is boring to you, then STOP DOING IT. No one said that you have to do an activity that you can’t stand for 60 minutes a day in order to get fit. There are a million different activities out there that you can do – you don’t have to limit yourself to the ones that you despise.
This may come as a shock to you, but exercise can be fun. Finding something that you enjoy & look forward to doing will make you excited about working out. You don’t need to waste valuable time plugging & chugging away on a Stairmaster if you really dread doing it. Find something that motivates you to get moving.
Here are some tips to help you find a workout that you enjoy:
Try new classes/exercises. This can be a great way to find what types of exercise you like or dislike. A few months ago I tried a rock climbing for beginners. I was positive that it was something that would be fun, but would hardly be a challenge to me (yes, insert a large head here). To my surprise, the class kicked my butt and my arms, and my abs. I was laughing, having a great time & I got an awesome workout. (PS – have you ever been to a “rock climbing gym”? Wowsa – those people are ripped!!!!) If you typically go to the gym and always hit the treadmill, try something a little different. Most gym offer classes to their members. Try kickboxing, take a Kettlebell class or join in on a Bootcamp session. Who knows? You might just find your new workout passion just by trying a new class.
Think outside of the box. If breaking out your boom box and dancing in your unitard and leg warmers to 80’s music gets your blood pumping – then dance away. Exercise doesn’t have to be limited to the inside of a gym! If you find something that you enjoy & gets you moving, then by all means DO IT. Running in the park like Phoebe, playing tag with your kids (or your dog – don’t judge me), creating your own bootcamp on the jungle gym are all different, unconventional workouts that are going to elevate your heart rate.
Hire a Trainer. Personal Trainers brains are overflowing with ideas for different types of exercises. Let your trainer know your likes and dislikes with exercise and they will come up with some new & fun ideas for your next workout. We know lots of ways to get you moving and can come up with stuff that will be challenging yet enjoyable. 1 to 2 sessions should get you going in the right direction.
GET EXCITED TO MOVE! If you get excited about a particular workout, chances are you will stick to that routine. The key is finding something that motivates you to want to do your workout. For me, shoes are the key. Every time I buy a new pair of running shoes, I can’t wait to use them. All I want to do is run in my new, cute shoes. (Hey – I’m one of those girls with a SEVERE love for cute shoes. I can’t help it…I’m a shoe junkie.) I also get uber excited to workout every time I download new songs on my ipod. Nothing beats fresh, new music to help energize your workout. What works for you?
Challenge yourself. For those of you out there who have always worked out but you’ve lost your passion for exercise, here’s a tip for you. Challenge yourself. Just because you have always been a runner (or whatever you are into), doesn’t mean you have to be “just a runner. ” for the rest of your life. Try training for a sport that incorporates what you are already doing with something new – like a triathlon or a duathon. Heck, you can even try something completely new – like martial arts.
All in all – your perception of exercise is up to YOU. YOU and ONLY YOU decide what to make of it. If you choose to make it fun, it will be. If you want to keep using the excuse that working out is boring, then that is YOUR CHOICE and you have to live (or not) with it. It’s up to you.