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To Prep or Not To Prep?

12/19/2018

Pop Quiz ladies! 

The pic you see is my lunch from 12/13:

Is this meal:

A) A freezer meal

B) Meal prepped at home

Before I answer, I’ll give these clues:

Each dish is loaded with whole ingredients (lentils, chickpeas, spinach, peppers, carrots, and broccoli). I could pronounce each ingredient and easily pick them out in the dish. Each dish is vegetarian (personal preference).

The answer?

Both were from the frozen foods section.

Today was Healthy Choice’s Simply Steamers Mediterranean Style Lentil Bowl and Green Giant’s Antioxidant Blend Vegetables, just put in Tupperware for the sake of this (slightly annoying) quiz. The reason for this is to show that healthy meals can be found in the freezer section if you just look for key words when you shop.

Aislynn here. I used to meal prep religiously every Sunday afternoon from 2-4pm, and yes, it is the absolute best way to eat whole, fresh foods that you know are healthy, but meal prep takes time, energy, and patience. I have a family that I would rather spend those two hours with, playing Xbox or a board game. I also would make the same thing for 5 meals, and trust me, that got boring real quick. I even tried to make a batch of chicken breasts in the crock pot, split the batch in half, and season each portion separately, but that got old after just a few weeks. I found I was tossing more food than I was eating (GASP!). We all know, when meals get boring, DoorDash or Uber Eats can become our best friend and our worst enemy all in one.

I got an email from a website called Eat This, Not That (fantastic site, btw), and I was introduced to the idea that freezer meals didn’t have to be gravy-laden, processed carb loaded, fried nightmares. I started doing my grocery shopping online on my lunch break, so I had time to look up the labels of things, and I started to notice which brands of frozen meals were better than others. Some of the words I look for are Minimally Processed, Non-GMO, Low Sodium, Nothing Artificial, No Preservatives, etc. Granted, they don’t all have to have each word, but the more, the better. Also, look for ingredients that are pronounceable, and make sure sugar is very low down on the list, if in there at all. To keep my grocery budget in check, I look to see what’s on sale and what might have a digital coupon that I can apply, so lunch is usually about $3.50-5.50 per day, meal and side together. You can’t get anything healthy for that cheap at a restaurant.

As a recent vegetarian, I found that brands like Kashi, Boca, Amy’s, and Healthy Choice had the best options, and (surprisingly) were more than a little tasty. Amy’s Chile Relleno casserole could be served in a Tex-Mex restaurant.

If vegetarian isn’t your thing, there was lots of meaty choices, too, or snag some veggie based meals and also a whole rotisserie chicken to shred (discard the skin if you’re watching your fat and sodium intake), throw in a healthy side and a piece of fruit, and BOOM! Lunch!

I’ll say again that meal prepping at home is absolutely the best way to eat smart, but if you don’t have time or energy, there are options out there.

Health on ladies!

But I HATE Vegetables!

1/8/2019

I'll let you in on a little secret about me: I hated vegetables when I became a vegetarian. Early in my dietary change, I would have rather starved than eaten another boring ass salad.


The irony behind this does not escape me: the vegetarian hated vegetables? Then why do it? I'll save that for another post, but I will answer that question soon.


We've all heard it a million times: eat your veggies, they're good for you!  You'll grow big and strong! Like most kids, trying to get me to eat anything that wasn't slathered in cheese sauce was damn near impossible.  


So why eat them? Well, lots of reasons, but 3 big ones that ChooseMyPlate gives are:

  • Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain types of cancers.
  • Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.

I could list all the benefits of veggies (and fruits) here, but in the interest of your time and mine, here are a few links to look over in your spare time: 


https://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables-nutrients-health


https://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/family-nutrition/vegetables/7-reasons-why-veggies-are-so-good-for-you


https://vegetarian.lovetoknow.com/Why_Are_Vegetables_Good_for_You


https://www.livestrong.com/article/505412-why-are-vegetables-important-to-the-human-body/


Part of the reason I became a vegetarian was because I wanted a better relationship with food, particularly veggies. When I started on this journey I scouted the 'net looking for recipes that could easily be adapted to suit my carnivorous guys and friends. I also did a little experimenting of my own, and I stumbled upon a the realization that vegetables don't have to be boring, bland, or raw.


For a quick(ish), absolutely delicious array of vegetables, I found that you can roasted them and they turn out phenomenal!


Easy Roasted Veggies!!


Crank the oven to 450F. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with non-stick spray if desired (not required since you are going to use some oil on them, but sometimes I do it so they absolutely don't stick). 


Grab a few different varieties of fresh (not frozen) veggies, my favorites are broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots or carrot chips, red onion, zucchini, squash, eggplant, mushrooms, and baby tomatoes. Try different blends of favs and seasonal offerings.


Dice, chop, or cut as desired (not too small). Place them in a large container that has a lid. Douse them in a tablespoon or two of a healthy oil, like olive oil. Add some fresh chopped garlic if you like.


Experiment with different seasoning blends to come up with some variety! Mrs. Dash offers some good ones, and even blends that are made for chicken, burgers, fish, or steak can yield surprising results. I'm a big fan of McCormick's Mesquite blend, and some of the Weber blends like Kick'n Chicken, Roasted Garlic and Herb, and Garlic Habanero (I LOVE garlic, can you tell?). Try to avoid adding salt if the blend you choose already has it in there. Some salt is good to enhance flavor, but too much is bad for you (say NO to fluid retention!).


Pop the lid on and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE to mix it all up. Have fun! Dance around the kitchen! Throw that container around!


Ok, not literally.


Spread the coated veggies on the baking sheet, spread them all out in as close to a single layer as possible, and pop that bad girl in the oven.


About 30mins usually does it, but it's up to you and how crunchy or done you like your stalks. If you use baby or grape tomatoes, wait until they burst (SO GOOD).


Let cool and store in the fridge for up to 5 days, but they may not last that long. 


I'll take a cup or two with my lunch, or even throw it with some cheese into some Ole Low Carb tortillas and make a roasted veggie taco or quesadilla.


What's your favorite use for these delicious little health nuggets? Sound off!


Health on ladies!

How to set SMART Goals

1/14/2019

A majority of people set a goal to lose weight or make better food choices in the new year, but a goal without a plan is just a dream. If you truly want to make your goals into a reality, you have to make a roadmap, called a SMART Goal. 


SMART stands for:


Specific - Change your way of thinking from "I want to lose weight" to "I want to lose __lbs", or "I'm going to eat better" to I"m going to meal prep my lunches for work" or "I'm going to stop drinking soda" to "I'm going to cut down from 4 sodas per day to 3". By shifting your mindset to something more specific, it takes a very broad goal and narrows it down, making it easier to manage.


Measurable - Make you goal measurable by adding a number to it, making it easier to track your progress and easier to know when you've reached your goal. Define and adjust your goal as you move through your journey.  "I want to lose _% body fat" is more measurable than "I want to lose weight".


Attainable - An attainable goal is one that you have enough time and resources to achieve. For example, if your work schedule doesn't allow spending an hour at the gym every day, then going to the gym Monday and Wednesday nights and every Saturday and Sunday might be more doable. If you can't run more than a few steps, don't sign up for a marathon that's 3 months out, but instead make a goal to start walking first, so frustration doesn't get the better of you. Make your goal motivating but reasonable; take small bites so nothing is overwhelming.


Relevant - What makes your goal relevant to your life? Don't set goals that others or even society may be putting on you, or the risk of quitting goes up. "I want to lose weight to keep my risk of the family diabetes low" or "I want to be able to climb the Mayan ruins on vacation later this year" is much more personal than "I want to lose weight so I look like ____"


Time-bound - You have your goal to ____ because ____, so put an end date on it to keep you motivated and accountable so you stay on course. A little accountability goes a long way!


"I'm going to lose 5lbs by Feb 1st to keep my blood pressure from going up, and I'm going to do this by walking 30mins every morning before work". Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound.


Remember to set a long term goal and break it down into short term goals so you focus on the big picture as well as the necessary steps to get there. If you want to lose weight, set an end goal of __lbs by ____date and break it down by _lbs per every _ weeks/months. If exercise is the map, set a goal to start with bodyweight moves, eventually getting up to moving to weighted exercises by ___ date. If eating better is the goal, planning out _ days per week of meal prepping and healthy recipes and _ days of going out per week might be the way to go.


As you reach your goals, celebrate them! When you hit your first goal, treat yourself to some new workout clothes or a new fitness tracker. When you hit your ultimate goal, buy something that helps celebrate your overall progress, like tickets for your favorite artist when they come through, or a trip to the beach with friends. Try not to use food or alcohol to treat yourself, as this might cause "eater's remorse", which can easily derail any success you might feel. Talk about counter-intuitive!


How will you use SMART goals to set you up for long-term success?


Health on ladies!

Falling off the wagon: why it's not as bad as you think.

3/21/2019

Aislynn here. I've been quiet in my blog posts for a few months because...


I FELL OFF THE WAGON.


Ok, not completely, but enough.


Picture this: it's after the new year, No more holiday parties where I get to shimmy into a (rented) designer gown or two and show off my hard work and dedication for the previous few months. I decide to take a week off and then recommit to my workout routine.


What followed was two months of piss poor nutrition, half-assed workouts, and a depressive slump in my mood, all of which caused an awful negative feedback loop: I ate to boost my mood, but I ate crap, so I went to the gym to counteract the food, but I didn't feel like going heavy, so I meh'd through, which made me feel like a failure in my fitness journey, so I'd eat to boost my mood. Wash, rinse, repeat. The scale number didn't change (which is not a bad thing, considering it's only a tool to measure your gravitational pull), but I felt terrible: bloated, irritable, sad, moody, etc. When I didn't have to go to work or the gym or out with my boys, I rarely changed out of my comfy pants and hoodies, my hair was greasy until I couldn't add any more dry shampoo, and I just stopped really giving a shit. And that wasn't even during my time of the month (god bless my husband for dealing with me during THOSE times. I shudder to think...).  


What finally pulled me out? A few things:


  • The realization that we're going back to Cancun in July. Our son has never seen the ocean, so we're taking him to Cancun over summer break, and I want to not sideshuffle out of the pictures because I'm self-conscious about being in them.
  • The other realization that the progress I'd started to see (slimmer thighs, slimmer arms, etc.) was starting to disappear. It takes my body a LONG time to show progress, so this was super annoying.
  • Seeing pimples on my face again from all the junk I was consuming. I'm 37, not 15, ffs.

So yeah, I fell off the workout wagon, but you know what? I choose to see it as a positive instead of a negative. How? Changing my perspective.


My setback made me realize that:


1)  I needed to reboot my workouts. I was going through the motions of my old plans because I had already done them. The excitement of a new plan wasn't there anymore. So I dumped my old routine in favour of a new one, and BOOM, back to being excited to see what happens.


2) I needed to find new motivation. This kinda goes hand in hand with finding a new routine, but add in the motivation of a beach vacation (or two!) and a few new pieces in my closet, and suddenly I was ready to see that divot in my tricep or the beginnings of abs pop out again. I will never have a six pack (thank you pregnancy), but I know what is possible, and I want to see it again. I started counting my macros again and I added an app to my phone to nudge me to drink more water. I am, I found, dismally dehydrated.


3) Failure can fuel success. I nosedived off the wagon, but I REALIZED I nosedived. Thanks to my fitness journey and where I had come from, my self-awareness is at a level I've never had before. I can now pinpoint WHY I feel like crap, and I have to make the choice to either stop complaining and accept it or stop complaining and do something about it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!


4) I was doing too much and it wasn't sustainable for me. It's one thing to commit to getting up and doing an hour of fasted cardio 5 days a week for 8 weeks until you set foot on the beach, it's quite another to do it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. WITHOUT. FAIL. Ugh. And once your body becomes accustomed to a routine, it's very hard to get out of said routine without feeling some effects. I love sleep, snuggled up on a cold Dec/Jan/Feb morning with my husband and our three cats placed like chess pieces on the bed (Zoey to Corner Two). After we got back from our anniversary trip last year, I had no reason to leave said bed, wipe the sleep from my eyes, and sneaker up, so I didn't. I hadn't really adjusted my eating (ok snacking) to incorporate the fact that I wasn't actively burning as many calories as I was when I was up before the sun, so I started to soften up again. In retooling my thoughts, I realized I could hit the gym at lunchtime for some cardio, and then again after work as usual to pound the iron. I still get the double burn, but I also get my snuggles. WIN WIN WIN!


In conclusion, don't let a setback or roadblock derail you completely. Everyone falls, even fitness professionals. It's getting back up that is the real challenge. Change your perspective, appreciate the stumble, and get your ass back in gear.


Have you experienced setbacks or full on stops in your fitness journey? How did you handle it? Or if you're in one now, what will you do to help yourself out?


Health on ladies!