Simple Meal Prep Ideas

Simple Meal Prep Ideas

When it comes to staying on track with your nutrition meal prepping ahead of time is the way to go.  And if you’re a busy mom like me I don’t have to tell you how important it is to plan ahead in between kids activities, your job, appointments, etc. I have to pay extra attention to my nutrition.  As a fitness instructor and trainer I’m always putting my body to the test.  Packing my meals ensures I’m eating well no matter what.

And because life is life there will always be something going on.  As the saying goes, “if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”.

So let’s dive into some great ideas on how you can meal prep, what you’ll need and some bonus recipes to set you up like a boss for the week!

What you’ll need for storage:

  • Plastic or glass containers
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Dry-erase markers
  • Lunch box
  • Lunch bag

What you’ll need for planning:

  • A calendar
  • Recipes
  • Your grocery list
  • A little creativity!

Here are your action steps

  • Look over the recipes and write out your grocery shopping list
  • Wash all produce and let dry on a kitchen table
  • Chop what needs to be chopped
  • Roast your veggies
  • Grill your meats
  • Hard-boil your eggs
  • Cook your quinoa
  • Blend your salads without dressing and place in containers topped with a paper towel to absorb moisture.  Use a combination of romaine, green leaf, spinach, baby kale.
  • Let your cooked food cool before storing

You can either portion off your meals now or store in large containers and prep your lunch box the night before which is what I do because I have a little more time.

What should you pack for optimal nourishment?

I like to focus on always packing a mix of fiber, complex carbs, protein and some fat.  As you can see in the image below it’s not so difficult.  For example you can focus on packing a salad with mixed greens, grilled chicken, pork or steak, half of an avocado or some roasted root vegetables, quinoa salad and a couple hard-boiled eggs.  If you use this formula you’ll always have something healthy to eat.  You can load your salads with garbanzo beans, shredded carrots, perhaps dried cranberries, nuts and a little goat cheese.  Always pack your dressing on the side.  See below for some super simple and delicious ideas.  Toss those bottles of old dressing away!

My go-to lunch box is from BentGoFresh.  When you have a bento style lunch box it takes the guessing work out of portion sizing.  Make sure your lunch box is designed to keep your food fresh for a several hours, is leak proof and dishwasher safe.  You can learn more about BentGoFresh and their awesome line of lunch boxes including some really cool ones for the kids by going here.

Recipes that are perfect to-go!

Roasted sweet potatoes and beets

  • 1 large sweet potato cut peeled and cut into large cubes
  • 2 small beets peeled and cut into cubes
  • Zest of an orange
  • Vegetable oil and a little salt

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss ingredients together.  Spread evenly on baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes tossing half-way through.  Tip: I like to use my toaster oven rather than the big oven when I’m not roasting large quantities!

Quinoa salad

  • 1 cup cooked quinoa: bring 1 and 3/4 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa with a pinch of salt.  Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Let cool.  Tip:  If I’m in a hurry I’ll spend the quinoa over a cookie sheet to cool faster.
  • 1 can drained garbanzo beans
  • 1 can drained kidney beans
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 small can of drained corn
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and boom.  Yes, that’s it!  This is a favorite.  You can top this quinoa salad with avocado, serve it as a main meal or side.  You can also add halved cherry tomatoes and shredded carrots. Get creative.

Perfect marinade for chicken

I love using chicken tenders for meal prepping because they cook super fast and if you make sure not to overcook them they will be nice and tender.  Tip:  I slightly undercook my chicken tenders and then place in a plate and cover with tin foil.  The residual heat will continue to cook the chicken without drying it out.

  • 1 package of chicken tenders: about 6 pieces
  • 3 crushed or thinly chopped garlic cloves
  • Juice of one small lime or half of a lemon
  • Zest of said lime or lemon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together.  Let the chicken sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or you can cook right away.  Use medium to high heat on a non-stick pan.  Cook for 4 minutes on each side, careful not to over cook or burn.  Transfer to plate and cover with foil until cool.

Simple salad dressings.

You can whip these up in no time.  If you want to plan ahead do it on Sunday.  Adjust the flavor as your wish.

Sweet balsamic

  • 1 part balsamic
  • 2 parts olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of Mrs. Dash garlic and herb

Orange dijon

  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Honey apple

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 2 parts olive oil
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Pinch of salt

Lemon and herb

  • Juice of one lemon
  • Zest of said lemon
  • Double the amount of olive oil
  • Mrs. Dash garlic and herb
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For more delicious and healthy recipes download the 2 Week Detox plan.

3 Must Have Breakfast Foods

3 Must Have Breakfast Foods

Do you love your breakfast?  Do you have a short list of “go-to” recipes?  Do you need a bit of inspiration to start eating breakfast again?

Getting some protein at each meal can help with blood sugar management, metabolism and weight loss.  This is because protein helps you feel fuller longer and uses up a bunch of calories to absorb and metabolize it.  So I’m going to show you how to get the protein, as well as some veggies and healthy fats for your soon-to-be favorite new “go-to” breakfasts.

Breakfast Food #1: Eggs

Yes, eggs are the “quintessential” breakfast food.  And for good reason!

No, I’m not talking about processed egg whites in a carton.  I mean actual whole “eggs”. 

Egg whites are mostly protein while the yolks are the real nutritional powerhouses.  Those yolks contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.

Eggs have been shown to help you feel full, keep you feeling fuller longer, and help to stabilize blood sugar and insulin.

Not to mention how easy it is to boil a bunch of eggs and keep them in the fridge for a “grab and go” breakfast when you’re running short on time.

And…nope the cholesterol in eggs is not associated with an increased risk of arterial or heart diseases. 

One thing to consider is to try to prevent cooking the yolks at too high of a temperature because that can cause some of the cholesterol to become oxidized.  It’s the oxidized cholesterol that’s heart unhealthy.

Breakfast Food #2: Nuts and/or Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Nuts and/or seeds would make a great contribution to breakfast.

Now don’t be fooled by “candied” nuts, sweetened nut/seed butters, or chia “cereals” with added sugars – you know I’m talking about the real, whole, unsweetened food here.

Nuts and seeds are also the ultimate fast food if you’re running late in the mornings.  Grab a small handful of almonds, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds as you’re running out the door; you can nosh on them while you’re commuting.

Not to mention how easy it is to add a spoonful of nut/seed butter into your morning breakfast smoothie.

Hint: If you like a creamy latte in the mornings try making one with nut or seed butter.  Just add your regular hot tea and a tablespoon or two of a creamy nut or seed butter into your blender & blend until frothy. 

Breakfast Food #3: Veggies

Yes, you already know you really should get protein at every meal including breakfast; but this also applies to veggies.  You know I would be remiss to not recommend veggies at every meal, right? 

Veggies are powerhouses of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber, and water.  You can’t go wrong adding them into every single meal of the day so if you don’t already you should definitely try them for breakfast! 

And no, you don’t need to have a salad or roasted veggies for breakfast if you don’t want to but you totally can!  You wouldn’t be breaking any “official” breakfast rules or anything like that.

Adding some protein to leftover veggies is a great combination for any meal.  Including breakfast.

I’ve included a delicious recipe below for you to try (and customize) for your next breakfast.

Recipe (Eggs & Veggies): Veggie Omelet

Serves 1

  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 or 2 eggs (how hungry are you?)
  • ¼ cup veggies (grated zucchini and/or sliced mushrooms and/or diced peppers)
  • dash salt, pepper and/or turmeric

Add coconut oil to a frying pan and melt on low-medium heat (cast-iron pans are preferred).

In the meantime grab a bowl and beat the egg(s) with your vegetables of choice and the spices.

Tilt pan to ensure the bottom is covered with the melted oil.  Pour egg mixture into pan and lightly fry the eggs without stirring.

When the bottom is lightly done flip over in one side and cook until white is no longer runny.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  Substitute grated, sliced, or diced portion of your favorite vegetable.  Try grated carrots, chopped broccoli or diced tomato.

References:

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

Why is My Metabolism Slow?

You may feel tired, cold or that you’ve gained weight.  Maybe your digestion seems a bit more “sluggish”.

You may be convinced that your metabolism is slow.  Why does this happen?  Why do metabolic rates slow down?  What can slow my metabolism?

Metabolism includes all of the biochemical reactions in your body that use nutrients and oxygen to create energy.  And there are lots of factors that affect how quickly (or slowly) it works, i.e. your “metabolic rate” (which is measured in calories).

But don’t worry – we know that metabolic rate is much more complicated than the old adage “calories in calories out”!  In fact it’s so complicated I’m only going to list a few of the common things that can slow it down.

Examples of common reasons why metabolic rates can slow down:

  • low thyroid hormone
  • your history of dieting
  • your size and body composition
  • your activity level
  • lack of sleep

We’ll briefly touch on each one below and I promise to give you better advice than just to “eat less and exercise more”.

Low thyroid hormones

Your thyroid is the master controller of your metabolism.  When it produces fewer hormones your metabolism slows down.  The thyroid hormones (T3 & T4) tell the cells in your body when to use more energy and become more metabolically active.   Ideally it should work to keep your metabolism just right.  But there are several things that can affect it and throw it off course.  Things like autoimmune diseases and mineral deficiencies (e.g. iodine or selenium) for example.

Tip: Talk with your doctor about having your thyroid hormones tested.

Your history of dieting

When people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down.  This is because the body senses that food may be scarce and adapts by trying to continue with all the necessary life functions and do it all with less food. 

While dieting can lead to a reduction in amount of fat it unfortunately can also lead to a reduction in the amount of muscle you have.  As you know more muscle means faster resting metabolic rate.

Tip: Make sure you’re eating enough food to fuel your body without overdoing it.  Adding concentrated fruits and vegetables helps as well as a high quality protein source.

Your size and body composition

In general, larger people have faster metabolic rates.  This is because it takes more energy to fuel a larger body than a smaller one. 

However, you already know that gaining weight is rarely the best strategy for increasing your metabolism.

Muscles that actively move and do work need energy.  Even muscles at rest burn more calories than fat.  This means that the amount of energy your body uses depends partly on the amount of lean muscle mass you have. 

Tip: Do some weight training to help increase your muscle mass.

Which leads us to…

Your activity level

Aerobic exercise temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move and do “work” and you can tell because you’re also getting hotter.

Even little things can add up.  Walking a bit farther than you usually do, using a standing desk instead of sitting all day, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can all contribute to more activity in your day.

Tip:  Incorporate movement into your day.  Also, exercise regularly.

Lack of sleep

There is plenty of research that shows the influence that sleep has on your metabolic rate.  The general consensus is to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

Recipe (Selenium-rich): Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Serves 4

  • ½ cup Brazil nuts
  • 2 cups water
  • nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth (optional)
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cacao powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Blend Brazil nuts in water in a high-speed blender until you get smooth, creamy milk.  If desired, strain it with a nut bag or several layers of cheesecloth.  If you wish to bypass this step use a high quality almond milk or rice milk.

Add Brazil nut milk and other ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.  Let sit several minutes (or overnight) until desired thickness is reached.

Serve & Enjoy!

Tip:  Makes a simple delicious breakfast or dessert topped with berries.

References:

Pressure Cooker Oatmeal

Pressure Cooker Oatmeal

When my sister in law acquired a pressure cooker for me at a super low price I was overjoyed.  I use it often for stews and soups but I had not tried to use it for breakfast foods.  I love oatmeal.  It doesn’t have to be winter for me to enjoy a nice big bowl of the stuff with a bunch of great toppings.  But since I only like steel cut oats that meant either cooking them overnight in a slow cooker or soaking overnight and then spending 40 minutes at the stove.  NOT ANYMORE!

Enter the pressure cooker…  Once all ingredients are in and the pressure is reached it only takes ten minutes.  That’s right.  TEN MINUTES.  And since I love to share here is one of my basic recipes.  You can use plain water, your favorite almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, etc.  I like mine with a little water and 1%milk.  You can play with the proportions until you find the right consistency.  3 cups of liquid will yield a less creamy oatmeal. Adding that extra 1/2 cup makes it creamier.

Recipe

3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 peeled and roughly diced apples
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups milk of your choice

Warm up the pressure cooker and sauté the oats in the oil.  If you want to skip this step it’s fine but doing this enhances the flavor and adds to the overall pleasure party with your taste buds!  Add the rest of the ingredients, cover and set your timer for 10 minutes.  If you have an old fashioned cooker bring it to a boil, cover and cook for ten minutes.  Release the pressure, stir and YUM!

Here’s my version for today

I added fresh blueberries, dried golden berries and a nice spoon-full of chia seeds along with a dollop of Manuka honey.

Variations

Try cutting up a couple peaches and adding those instead of the apples.  You can also add raisins and other dried fruit to cook along with the oats.  Use your imagination!

Delicious, nutritious and fast steel cut oats.

Delicious, nutritious and fast steel cut oats.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Here’s a delicious pancake recipe from Jeannie Bloch’s kitchen.

  • 1 cup cooked sweet potatoes
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (substitute: mix half all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • splash of OJ
  • 1/4 cup seltzer
  • lots of cinnamon, or as much as you’d like.

Mash the sweet potatoes in a bowl, add the eggs, OJ and seltzer. Mix well. Add the flour and baking soda and mix gently until the flower is incorporated. Don’t over-mix. I would cook these in coconut oil and top with yogurt and pure maple syrup. Yum!

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Healthy, filling and delicious sweet potato pancakes. Recipe: Jeannie Bloch