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.

Busting 5 Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

Busting 5 Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

You knew there was a bit of an over-emphasis (borderlining obsession) about cholesterol, right?

Before we jump into some myths let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to what exactly cholesterol is.

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it’s floating through your blood is what’s more important than just how much of it there is overall.  In fact depending on what it’s combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart.  Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood.  These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”. 

They’re grouped into two main categories:

  • HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.
  • LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

And yes, it’s even more complicated than this.  Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So “cholesterol” isn’t simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it’s bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats.  Not to mention that it’s incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

Talk about an important molecule!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn’t nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver.  It’s actually not from the cholesterol you eat.  Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)?  ‘Cause that’s where it’s made!

What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces.  After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn’t need to make as much.

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there’s a balance that needs to be maintained.  There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.

People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Don’t start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don’t seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.

Guess what does?

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day.  Every day.  And if you’re like me you’ll opt for over 26 different fruits, vegetables and berries in a convenient capsule form!

But don’t worry because the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.

You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats.  That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil.  Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.  My favorite way of ensuring consumption of healthy omegas is with this vegan omega blend.

Summary:

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we’re learning more every day.  You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are.  And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

Recipe (Dressing to go with your salad): Orange Hemp Seed Dressing

Makes about ¾ cup

  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • dash salt and/or pepper
  • Blend all ingredients together until creamy.
  • Serve on top of your favorite salad and Enjoy!
  • Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge.  Will keep for about a week.

References:

Does Waist Circumference Matter?

Does Waist Circumference Matter?

You totally want to ditch your scale, don’t you?  You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”. I mean, it doesn’t define you (obviously).

What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.  Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is kinda round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, kinda beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes) and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).

Yup – that apple!

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is.  It’s this “un-pinchable” fat. 

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important that how much you weigh.

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40”. Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.  If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fiber.  Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day.  Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles.
  • Nix added sugars.  This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more.  Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  Dance.  It all adds up.
  • Stress less.  Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep.  Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look).

Recipe (High fiber side dish): Garlic Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Serves 4

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts (washed, ends removed, halved)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • dash salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. 

In a bowl toss sprouts with garlic, oil, and lemon juice.  Spread on a baking tray and season with salt and pepper.

Bake for about 15 minutes.  Toss.

Bake for another 10 minutes.

Serve and Enjoy!

Tip:  Brussel sprouts contain the fat-soluble bone-loving vitamin K.  You may want to eat them more often.

References:

Easy Spinach Salad

Easy Spinach Salad

Here’s a simple salad that is bursting with flavor and nutrients. Try the simple homemade salad dressing – it’s much healthier than store bought dressings, doesn’t contain refined sugar, and still lends lots of flavor. Servings: 4

Here’s what you need…

  • 6 cups organic baby spinach
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Juice from one lime
  • dash of pepper
  1. Combine the spinach, eggs, avocado and tomatoes in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, lime juice and pepper.
  3. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix and serve.

Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals:  170 calories, 10g fat, 337mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, and 13g protein

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Quinoa Salad with Vinaigrette

Quinoa Salad with Vinaigrette

Quinoa should be a food group all its own.  Here it is paired with grilled salmon, kale and baked sweet potato.  If you have never cooked quinoa before here’s how you do it:  1 cup quinoa, 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Add a pinch of salt if using for savory dishes.  Leave plain if using for breakfast or smoothies.

Top this delicious salad with ripe avocado and take it to a whole new level.

1 cup cooked quinoa

1 can chickpeas

1 can black beans

1 can sweet corn

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 diced ripe tomato

Vinaigrette

¼ cup red wine vinegar

½ cup extra virgin olive, pinch of cumin

sea salt and pepper to taste

Salmon with quinoa salad

Salmon on a bed of kale paired with quinoa salad and baked sweet potato.  Recipe: Mary Massey