At North End Fitness, we meet a lot of people who are striving to become healthier. While everyone is a little different, we do see a theme with those coming in: People are busy! It can be difficult (and even overwhelming) to fit healthy habits in with everything else. Are there enough hours in the day to fit in sleep, hard work, spending time with family and friends, exercise and eating well?
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you had healthy food ready to eat, all the time?
You can! If you spend a short amount of time each week to plan and prep your food, you can save precious time all week and still stay on track.
• Start Small – until you get into the swing of preparing multiple meals for the week ahead, start by simply washing and chopping fruits and veggies to use for meals. Pre-portion snack bags with nuts and dried fruit and hard boil eggs to grab as quick snacks.
• Plan Meals with Common Ingredients – pick out a few recipes that feature the same grain and/or lean meat. Cook up multiple servings of brown rice or quinoa, and you can use some in a salad for lunch and some in a pilaf for dinner.
• Double up – If you’re making a casserole, stew or soup, consider doubling the recipe. If you won’t use it all in one week, freeze the rest!
• Organize – Write out which meals and snacks you’re planning for the week. Make a list of all the foods you will need before you head out to the store. When you get home, use your time efficiently. Have something baking in the oven, use a crockpot to make a soup, and chop up veggies while everything is cooking.
• Focus on Problem Areas – what time of day do you struggle with eating healthy? No time in the morning to make breakfast? Consider making steel cut oatmeal, with berries and nuts in individual containers to heat up each morning. Trouble finding healthy snacks? Spend time portioning snack bags. As you get better preparing foods, you can expand what you make.
Just like any other goal in life, healthy habits start with planning! Remember, it’s best to start small. Use one hour this weekend to prep something healthy. You will most likely find that even a little food prep can have a powerful effect on your food choices!
Do you have to count calories to lose weight? Not necessarily, but awareness is the key to successfully reaching your goals.
Think of it this way:
Your calorie needs are like a budget when it come to weight control. If you are on a budget you wouldn’t shop without looking at a price tag, right?
When you are trying to lose weight, your calorie “budget” drops by about 25% (usually around 500 calories/day). To be successful, you do need to be sure you’re cutting expenses, but you might not have to watch every single penny (or calorie).
So how can we cut calories each day without tracking each one?
- First, focus on mindless calories. Pay attention to what foods you’re eating and how much. Can you swap a high calorie food with a similar low calorie option? Can you eat slower? Can you be satisfied with a smaller portion size?
- Start to learn how many calories are in the foods you commonly eat. Not because you always need to calorie count, but so that you can begin to develop and idea of which foods are low calorie options and which are not. Also be sure to check the nutrition facts panel and figure out how many servings you eat.
- Balance your meals. Filling up half of your plate with vegetables and fruit is a good way to reduce the overall calorie density of the meal. The other half of the plate should include lean protein and a whole grain or starchy vegetable.
- Pay attention to what your body needs. Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are satisfied (not full).
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, diced
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
3 bell peppers, diced
2 poblano peppers, diced
2 italian peppers, diced
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 cup broccoli florets, cut into bite sized pieces
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp coriander
1 can navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 package tofu, pressed to remove liquid
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots, cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and all peppers, cook another 5 -7 minutes. Add the corn, broccoli, tomatoes, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, coriander and beans, along with 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Crumble the tofu into the pan, and stir constantly for about 5 minutes. When lightly browned, add the tofu to the chili and simmer for about 5 more minutes.
Serve with sliced avocado and brown rice.
Freeze leftovers in pre-portioned containers for a quick lunch or dinner!
If you don’t have one yet, start thinking about it now! Waiting until January 1st reduces your chance of success. Here are a few other tips to make your resolution stick.
Making a half-hearted, unrealistic resolution will get you half-hearted, disappointing results. Take your resolutions seriously or don’t make them at all.
Feeling confident that you can change a behavior is absolutely crucial to your success. Make sure what you resolve to do is achievable and realistic for you. Fight back against negative self-talk and use positive affirmations.
Plan the Details
Are you ready? It takes more than just declaring you will lose weight/get fit/eat healthier in 2016. That’s just the first step! What will you do specifically, day to day to make your goal your reality? Plan it out, and write it down. Too many people decide to just ‘wing it’, and that typically doesn’t work too well.
Prevent a Relapse
Behavior change is tricky and people are not perfect. Expect that at some point you will probably mess up. How you handle this lapse can make all the difference between complete failure and long-term success. First, think in advance about obstacles or situations that can cause you to get off track and develop strategies to prevent or manage them.
If you find that you did slip up, don’t view it as a failure. Instead, learn from it. What can you do to prevent it from happening again? Remember, behavior change is a process. The only time you really fail is when you give up, so don’t!
- 1 cup Dry Lentils (or to save time, use 1 package of Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils or 1-16 oz can, rinse and drained)
- 8 Plum Tomatoes, chopped
- Juice of 1 lime
- 3 Garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 Avocados, sliced
1. To prepare lentils: Rinse lentils well in cold water, then bring to a boil in 2 cups of water. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes, until lentils are tender. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add cooked lentils, tomatoes, and lime juice. Allow to heat through, then top with cilantro and avocado slices. Serve over brown rice, quinoa, or any other whole grain. Enjoy!
We get it, we all have busy lives. Sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done. But if you are committed to weight-loss and health, you prioritize your to-do list and make eating a healthy diet important! Here are a few tips to make eating right easy, fast and stress free:
1. Don’t skip meals. Always start your day with a good breakfast that includes 100% whole grain bread or cereal and lean protein such as skim milk, eggs or egg whites, or low-fat yogurt. Throughout the day eat small, frequent meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady. Under-eating can lead to fatigue, low concentration, and headaches.
2. Prepare healthy snacks the night before that include protein to keep you satisfied throughout the day. For example: a handful of lightly salted edamame, red pepper strips with a Laughing Cow Light cheese wedge, plain yogurt with a tablespoon of chopped walnuts, or 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter with apple slices.
3. Drink plenty of water! It will keep you hydrated all day long and keeps your stomach full.
4. If you go out to lunch, eat smaller portions. Decide to only eat half of what you are served. Choose lean protein like grilled chicken, turkey breast, or plain tuna without the mayo on top of a salad and always order your dressing on the side.
5. Keep a food journal! Keeping a food journal helps you pin point your eating patterns and will enable you to easily modify it.
6. Keep some easy, convenient meal-type foods on hand. Try frozen vegetables, bean soups, peanut butter or turkey sandwiches, and ready-to-eat tuna. Buy pre-cooked grilled chicken to throw over a salad.
7. Avoid choosing sweets and sugary foods at work. Instead, stock your workplace with healthier snacks. Too much sugar encourages overeating! Energizing snacks that you can keep in your desk are nuts, raisins, soy nuts, peanut butter, and whole grain crackers. Make a nutritious trail mix with dry roasted legumes or nuts, whole grain cereal and plenty of dried fruits like raisins, apricots, figs or prunes.
8. Avoid overdoing caffeine! Caffeine gives you immediate energy, but you pay for it with a rebound drop-off in energy later on. Caffeine in the late afternoon and evening can also interfere with a good night’s sleep.
9. Write your weight loss and fitness goals down with a date that you want to achieve them. You must believe that you can accomplish whatever you commit to! Every day begin to visualize the outcome you desire, and develop a plan to attain those goals.
10. Get containers to store your food. Purchase plastic storage containers, sports bottles, a water jug and a cooler to store and carry your food. Having nutritious meals within reach during a hectic day can keep you on track.
Everyone wants good things for their family: health, happiness, and enjoyment of life.
When it comes to raising kids, it can be tricky. Despite our best intentions, the growing child obesity epidemic suggests that for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. With all the advances in medicine, how could this possibly be true? The blame definitely can be attributed to today’s toxic food environment and lack of physical activity.
In short, our families are eating too much junk and are not active enough. Kids are especially vulnerable to developing unhealthy behaviors. Junk food is advertised directly to them and it tastes great! TV, video games and computer time can be a lot of fun.
The good news is that healthy food also tastes great, and physical activity can be fun for the whole family! We can give you simple tips and transform your child’s diet (and the rest of the family’s) into one that is packed with good health. If you make it a family event to be active and healthy together, you have a great support network to keep everyone motivated.
Parents are the primary influence over a child’s food environment at home. As the parent, you decide what food is offered and you model food behaviors to your child. The first step is to get the whole family on board with the idea of eating more healthfully. This does not mean eliminating all treats, but it does mean limiting access to them. As a general rule, at least 80% of the food in your home should be healthy, nutrient dense foods.
Try these tips to make healthy foods more attractive:
1) Add Color
Adding bright and colorful fruits and veggies to your child’s plate will get their diet on the fast track to health. Fresh fruits and veggies are filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health.
If your kids are resistant, try to make it fun. Serve veggies with yogurt or hummus as a dip. Cut fresh fruit in the colors of the rainbow and place them on a skewer. Serve a color themed meal – all green, all red or all orange. Use your imagination and you’ll come up with an endless number of ways to make fruits and veggies fun to eat.
2) Think Whole Foods
Processed foods are the biggest problem with our modern diet. Packaged and refined food products are devitalized and filled with empty calories that quickly lead to weight gain. Unfortunately, processed foods make up a large portion of the diet of many children.
Help guide your kids to choose whole foods, rather than packaged ones. Packaged foods should be presented as a treat to enjoy occasionally. For daily eating habits, emphasize whole foods in their natural state. An apple. A piece of sprouted grain bread spread with natural peanut butter. A piece of hormone-free chicken. A bowl of beans. You get the idea.
3) Use Wholesome Sweeteners
Refined sugar and corn syrup are packed into many of the foods that your kids love. But wait, there are more wholesome sweeteners available – sweeteners that add vitamins and minerals rather than empty calories. Use the following rather than white sugar or corn syrup:
Sucanat: This pure, dried sugar can juice retains its molasses content. Use it to replace white sugar in baking.
Pure Maple Syrup: Forget the “fake” syrups containing corn syrup. Pure maple syrup contains potassium, calcium and some amino acids.
Dates: Throw a few seeded dates into your blender to sweeten your smoothie rather than adding white sugar.
Honey: Contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, and also contain an number of compounds that act as antioxidants.
4) Make Smart Substitutions
Kids love pizza and pasta and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Rather than fight your kids on their favorites, try making smart substitutions to make their favorites more nutritious.
Pizza: Up the nutritional content of your pizza by opting for whole wheat crust over white, adding veggies to the toppings and sticking with lean meat toppings.
Pasta: Use sprouted grain or whole grain pasta rather than traditional white pasta. Add veggies to your pasta sauce. Avoid cream based sauces, and look for red sauce without added sugar.
PB&J: A PB&J, made with white bread using sugar-filled peanut butter and corn syrup-filled jelly, is fairly void of any real nutritional value. Try the PB&J Makeover recipe below instead for a sandwich that will provide real wholesome fuel for your child’s day.
5) Ban Sugary Drinks
One of the best things that you can do for your child’s good health is to instill in them a love for water rather than sugary drinks. Soda pop and and even fruit juices are filled with empty (or near empty) calories that encourage weight gain.
The easiest way to do this is to stock your house with lots of pure, filtered water. Don’t have fruit drinks or soda pop readily available so that they grow accustom to drinking only water.
PB&J Makeover Recipe:
Not all PB&J sandwiches were created nutritionally equal. It all depends on the quality of the ingredients that you use.
If you use white bread, corn syrup-filled peanut butter and refined sugar-filled jelly, the result would be a sandwich that will skyrocket your blood sugar, promotes fat storage and leaves you feeling hungry a short time later.
However, if you make this recipe, with sprouted grain bread, true peanut butter made from one ingredient: peanuts, and fruit preserves that are naturally sweetened with fruit juice rather than sugar, then the result would be a nutritionally dense food that would promote stable blood sugar levels and provide you with hours of sustained energy.
Your kids will love the fun twist of having their sandwich grilled and stuffed with banana slices!
Here’s what you need:
Sprouted grain bread
1 Tablespoon pure peanut butter (no added sugar or corn syrup)
1 Tablespoon natural fruit spread (no added sugar or corn syrup)
1/2 of a banana, sliced
Spread one piece of bread with peanut butter and the other with fruit spread. Line one side with the sliced bananas and sandwich it.
In a grill pan over medium heat, grill each side until grill marks appear and the sandwich is warmed.
Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 380 calories, 8.7g fat, 53g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, and 13.2g protein.
When you hear “starch”, most people think “foods to avoid”. Potatoes, rice, flour…. Is it too much carbohydrate?
Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate (just like other forms of starch), but acts more like fiber. It resists digestion in the small intestine – where most carbohydrate digestion takes place. Instead, resistant starch, like other types of fiber, is digested in the large intestine by healthy bacteria lining your GI tract. Think of resistant starch as “food” for the healthy bacteria in your gut.
The bacteria produce healthful short-chain fatty acids that keep your intestinal cells healthy, decrease bowel inflammation and decrease bowel time. All of these benefits help to keep your intestines healthy and can help prevent colorectal cancer (one of the most preventable cancers).
Where is Resistant Starch Found?
Seeds, legumes (peas, lentils, beans), under-ripe (green) bananas, unprocessed whole grains, cooked and cooled potatoes, rice and pasta are all great sources. Resistant starch can also be made chemically to be used as a supplement or food additive.
Health Benefits of Resistant Starch
- Did you know that bacteria cells in your gut (called your “gut flora”) outnumber the body’s cells 10 to 1? It makes sense to keep these microorganisms healthy! Resistant starch promotes the growth or healthy gut bacteria and decreases intestinal inflammation.
- Resistant starch improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, which can help improve blood sugar control fro those at risk or diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.
- Since resistant starch acts similarly to dietary fiber, it also provides a feeling of fullness to help control your appetite. There is some evidence that shows reduced calorie intake and improved weight loss with diets high in resistant starch. Resistant starch has fewer calories than regular starch (2 vs 4 calories/gram).
Use this white bean hummus instead of creamy dressings or cheese in your sandwich. The hummus is filled with healthy protein and fiber.
Here’s what you need…
- 2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- dash of salt
- Throw everything into the food processor or blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Spread onto whole wheat bread or use as a dip for cut veggies.
Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 124 calories, 1.6g fat, 20g carbohydrate, 5.5g fiber, and 7g protein.
Gone are the days when tuna melts were laden with fat and served on slabs of bread with a pile of French fries – this recipe gives you all of that comforting taste without the guilt. And it only takes a few minutes to make! Serve your healthy tuna melts up with a side of whole grain rice and steamed veggies for an all around winner of a meal.
Here’s what you need…
- 6 oz can of albacore tuna (in water), drained and flaked
- 1 egg white
- 2 Tablespoons oatmeal
- 2 Tablespoons diced onion
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons low-fat shredded cheese
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Blend all of the ingredients (except the cheese) in a bowl. Pre-heat a frying pan and coat with cooking spray. Form two patties.
- Cook one side until brown and then turn. When the second side is nearly done, sprinkle cheese over it.
Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 138 calories, 2g fat, 4.5g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, and 25.5g protein