The Beginners Guide to Meal Planning

http://thepioneerwoman.com/food-and-friends_cat/how-to/

With all the back to school buzz, I hear people saying, “We’ve got to get back on a schedule,” or “We’ve got to bet back into our routine.” Between work obligations, school hours, and extracurricular activities, putting a healthy, well-balanced meal on the table can fall by the wayside—and understandably so. I’m here to encourage you that this does not have to be the case!

Two words: meal planning. Now don’t freak out, I’m not saying you have to go all Pioneer Woman! There are so many resources out there to help make meal planning effective and simple.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! When starting something new, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. You won’t stick with it if it stresses you out .Try start with planning/prepping for 2-4 dinners the first week.
  2. Start off in your comfort zone. Are you a chicken or pork wizard? Good, start there! Pick recipes you know you can execute well. The last thing you want is to prep and cook an obscure recipe that no one in your family enjoys.
  3. But don’t forget the freshness! Pick sides that include fresh vegetables and herbs. For me, the point of meal planning is to make better use of my time at the store and in the kitchen, and to eat well. When the bulk of your grocery list lives in the produce section, that is a good feeling.
  4. Pick a resource. There are so many great resources out there for meal planning. Take some time to Google your options. Be sure to check back here on Thursday and I’ll share my experience with one of my favorites—it even generates a grocery list that is divided into categories for easy shopping!
  5. Pick a day to shop and prep. Sunday works best for me. I go to the store with my pre-generated list and shop away. I come home, round up the hubby and we prep—organizing and chopping up ingredients. You can store your preps in Ziploc bags or Tupperware, label it for the appropriate day, and your done! Include the whole family—all hands on deck!
  6. Stay up on those dishes! Maybe I’m the only one, but most the time I throw dishes in the sink, the sink gets full, and then we do dishes. More cooking at home means more dishes. Nothing is more discouraging than having to do dishes before you can even start cooking! 

Be sure to check back Thursday when I go over one of
my favorite meal planning websites!

 

All About the Flavor!

photo 1A new way to flavor meats and veggies

Since I eat vegetables with practically every meal, I am always looking for new ways to cook, prepare and season them to add variety to our meals. This red pepper and almond sauce is so unique; it will instantly jazz up any vegetable, chicken, fish or pork dish.

For the Veggies:

  • 1 bell pepper, any color
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks, julienned
  • 2 small zucchini, cut into thin sticks
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • Ground thyme, garlic powder, salt for taste

For the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 2 ½ large roasted red peppers, cut up (I used almost half of a 16 oz jar)
  • ½ cup almonds (I used a dry roasted variety)
  • 1 big bundle of cilantro
  • 2-4 tbsp of olive oil
  • Salt, minced onion to taste      photo 3

1. Heat 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in large sauce pan. Once heated, add garlic cloves and cook for about 5-8 minutes until cloves become softened. Make sure to turn them so they do not burn. While garlic is cooking, cut up your vegetables.

2. Once garlic cloves are done, remove cloves and put into food processor. Add vegetables to sauce pan now and cook in same oil garlic was in. Season with a touch of salt, ground thyme and garlic powder. It typically takes me 10 minutes to cook these veggies til they are soft but still crisp.

3. Add roasted red peppers, almonds and cilantro to food processor with garlic cloves. Blend until a puree forms. Slowly add 1 tbsp of olive oil at a time until desired consistency is achieved. (I stopped after 2 tbsp). Season with salt and onion powder.

4. You can pour the red pepper sauce over vegetables and heat together or simply dress your meat and veggies when you are ready to eat them!

Recipe adapted from paleomg.com

A New Spin on Breakfast in Bed

Romance-red-rose-newspaper-breakfast-in-bedWhat better way to pamper a loved one than by serving them breakfast in bed! However, many times these special meals consist of biscuits, donuts, toast, waffles, pancakes and syrup. We might have the best of intentions when making these menu items, but a heavy refined-carb breakfast may make one feeling sluggish and bloated a couple of  hours later. Not to mention, this wouldn’t make the best choice of food items for someone who has blood sugar problems. This is a new breakfast that I am absolutely obsessed with! I made this for my mom and sister while visiting them in Tennessee. There’s nothing better than starting off the day with a light, healthy, green and omega-3 rich meal!

Veggie Scramble with Smoked Salmon

Serves 4-5
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• ½ bundle of asparagus, cut into small segments
• 1 zucchini, diced
• 5 tbsp leeks
• 5 oz baby spinach
• 2 garlic cloves
• Pinch of salt/pepper
• 9 eggs
• 4 oz goat cheese
• 6 oz smoked salmon

photo 3

1. In a medium-large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Meanwhile cut and prepare vegetables.

2. Once oil is heated, add asparagus, zucchini, leeks, spinach and garlic sauté for about 8 minutes or until asparagus stalks become slightly tender.

3. While veggies are cooking, whisk together eggs and goat cheese. Pour eggs on top of cooked vegetables and let sit for about 1 minute. Then begin to gently push eggs around with spatula until cooked all the way through.

4. Add smoked salmon once eggs are cooked and continue to heat for another 1-2 minutes. You may season with a small amount of salt and pepper or dill and chives. I sprinkled a little bit of remaining goat cheese on my dish.

Simple, delicious and a slight gourmet touch!
Recipe adapted from againstallgrain.com

Thanksgiving Traditions

Un-Thanksgiving Turkey & Fixings

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, not necessarily because of the food but more because of the reminder of all the blessings we have to be thankful for in our lives. May this year’s Thanksgiving bless you and your family with good health, safe travels, friendship and kinship. Here are a few tips to help keep health and wellness a part of your Thanksgiving traditions.

  • Rise and shine! Whether it’s hitting the gym, playing a friendly game of football with the family or taking a brisk walk, be sure not to skip your workout today.
  • Do not “save your calories.” Many times, people have told me that they typically skip breakfast and lunch to “save their calories” for their Thanksgiving meal. While this theory may make sense, it really throws your metabolism through the ringer when you skip out on meals. A depressed metabolism can cause excessive hunger later on in the day causing one to overeat at their next meal. Start with a protein-rich breakfast such as a veggie omelet with a small baked sweet potato (3 oz) to get your metabolism started off right for the day.
  • Be aware not to overeat with your appetizers. As the family comes together, we often gather and linger around the appetizer table. As we get wrapped up in conversation, we sometimes drift into mindless eating habits. Take one small appetizer plate and include a fruit or vegetable and pre-portion out anything else that you desire to snack on. By only consuming what’s served on your plate, you will be more mindful of your portion sizes versus constantly grabbing and munching on items while conversing.
  • Survey your desserts. Scan the desserts offered and try to stick to just one. Enjoy your slice and be proud of yourself for practicing good moderation!
  • If Black Friday shopping is a part of your tradition, make sure to pack some healthy snacks to help keep you energized throughout the day. Pre-portion a bag of nuts or pack a small lunchbox with a couple of bottles of water and fruit to have on hand.
  • If you felt like you over ate on Thanksgiving, don’t beat yourself up. Get right back to your normal healthy eating habits the next day by practicing the plate method, good portion control and  being  active.

Hidden Price You Pay

Dollar Sign

I’ll admit it; I am a huge sucker for deals and saving money. Sometimes I take advantage of spectacular sale prices of items I need and other times, the sheer sale itself provokes me to go shopping. For example, I recently went on a shopping trip to Kohl’s. Did I need anything? Not necessarily, but I had a 30% off coupon and $10 worth of Kohl’s cash that I knew could be put to good use! Sales and deals like this can not only entice us to spend money on clothes, household products and electronics, it can also influence one’s eating habits and food selections.

One deal that always grabs people’s attention is the word FREE. When something is free, we almost feel compelled to give in to the deal as if we would be wasting it if we didn’t take advantage of it. Baker’s Square is now featuring their free pie special. Every Wednesday, customers may enjoy a free piece of pie with an approved menu item purchase. While this deal may be great on one’s wallet, it may not be so nice on the waistline.  According to their website,  one slice of their French silk pie ranks in at 650 calories. This is more calories than what most people need for an entire meal. The lemon meringue slice may seem like a lighter fare coming in at 430 calories; however it contains nearly 72 grams of carbohydrates. For diabetics, this slice of pie would most likely cause their post-meal blood sugars to rise higher than normal.

Other restaurant deals that frequently occur are the “endless” or “unlimited” promotions such as the unlimited stack of pancakes, never-ending pasta bowls and bottomless amount of fries.

Pancakes

Just like when people dine out at a buffet, the whole “I need to get my money’s worth of food” phenomena kicks in. Ask yourself, “Do I really need 2 bowls of pasta or 10 pancakes?” Unfortunately, most of these items are very carb-rich foods. For individuals with diabetes or even pre-diabetes, controlling one’s carbohydrate intake is of high importance for healthier eating habits and better blood sugar control. A stack of 3 pancakes with 2 Tbsp. of syrup at IHOP contains 96 grams of carbohydrates. For some women, this is the amount equivalent to 2-3 meals’ worth of carbohydrates.

We are powerfully influenced by our environment, especially when it comes to how much food we eat. For example, eating with more people has shown to increase the amount of calories one consumes at their meal. When eating alone, we typically stop eating when we are full and get up from the table. However, when eating with a crowd, one often sits and lingers after they are finished eating. The longer one sits around the food, the more likely they are to continue to nibble and drink. Earlier this year, the family had gone out to eat for my mother-in-law’s birthday. It was a delicious meal and I was full at the end of it. Because it was her birthday, she was eligible for a free dessert, which happened to be an ice cream cake. When the waitress brought out the cake with 6 serving spoons, I threw my internal cues of hunger out the window and dug in with everyone else. And sadly, I became yet another victim to overeating.

christmas dinnerRestaurant promotions on free food or large portions may seem appetizing, especially on the wallet; but, consider the hidden price you may be paying in calories and unwelcome extra pounds from these “deals”. This holiday season can bring on extra stress in our lives, but don’t let an increased waistline be one of those stressors!

 

Becoming Stronger Than Your Excuses : Part Three

a slow cooker Oval Crock Potcrockpot

Taking on healthy eating habits, typically does not occur over night, rather it’s a gradual progression of gaining knowledge and understanding between health foods and less-healthy foods and finding strategies to make health foods fit into one’s lifestyle.

When someone states “I don’t have enough time to make a healthy meal”, my first two questions are “do you have a crockpot” and “do you have a day off during the week”?

Prepare meals ahead of time on your days off. One cooking approach I took up in grad school was cooking my proteins in bulk. On Sundays, I would bake or grill several chicken breasts or fish to have on reserve for my lunches and dinners for the next several days. Doing this saved me time and energy in preparing healthy and well-balanced meals when I would get home after a 12-hour work day as an intern. Using a crock pot is a great method for cooking for those with busy schedules. Home-cooked meals are often lower in sodium than those purchased away from the home.

Purchase pre-cut vegetables or ready-made salads. Purchasing whole vegetables and cutting them up ahead of time will save you a lot of money, but not necessarily time. What’s great about most grocery stores is that they offer pre-cut vegetables that can be thrown into a stir-fry, salad or consumed raw as a snack. Most supermarkets also offer freshly prepared salads which are often bigger (so you can use them for more than one meal) and more cost-effective than a single-serve salad purchased from a fast food restaurant.

Consistency is key. You must be consistent to make any change. This principle applies to many aspects of health. In order for a post-workout protein snack to be most effective, it needs to be taken consistently (for those participating in vigorous strength-training programs). Good habits are as addictive as bad habits. Form a new one now! Eating breakfast can jumpfood3_MP900411701start your metabolism, but it won’t have a lasting effect if you only consume breakfast 2-3 days per week. Exercise can have similar effects on muscle cells just like  Metformin, a common diabetic medication. However, these beneficial effects of exercise last less than 48 hours, raising the importance of daily physical activity. Forming healthy habits can be a challenge for some, but when we identify barriers (our excuses) we can find ways to overcome our challenges and lead healthy, active lives.

Every day is a good day. Some days are just more challenging than others.

I’d love to hear from you! Share your favorite healthy crock pot meals that you have made below in the comment section.

Photo Credit : www.crockpot.com