Healthy Father’s Day

Whenever a holiday or special weekend comes up, I always see people the following Monday in the gym dragging themselves and lamenting about how much they overdid it.  Family gatherings and summer get-togethers don’t HAVE to be bad for you, guys!

I think one of the biggest saving graces is staying in control of your shopping – you absolutely can stock up on unhealthy options while at the store (especially if you are shopping hungry!)  But you have control over what you put in your cart and end up with at home…so stay focused from the get go and you will avoid having leftovers or unopened boxes of cookies that you really don’t want around as a temptation later on!

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For us, the goal was to get a good, heathy variety that would keep everyone filled up…even the kids.  Surf and turf always works, giving everyone a few options for the bulk of the meal.  Corn on the cob is a fun, summer veggie, that is totally okay to have also – I have some friends who avoid corn completely but it isn’t going to kill you once in a while, so don’t stress.  

The benefit of the foods we grill primarily is that we don’t layer on sauces and dressings – Montreal Seasoning, or salt and pepper does the trick – it gives you a little kick, but still allows you to actually taste the food itself (which I always think is the point, no?!) 

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We didn’t actually buy desserts so we didn’t’ end up with them.  Instead, we had some sweet red grapes laying around – which definitely worked! – and later we took a walk to get some ice cream for the youngest of the group.  Adding a walk is always helpful, as is not having the extra goodies left over, so it worked out perfectly.  

I was definitely full after dinner but it wasn’t a feeling-guilty kind of full…which no one – truly – has to feel after a shindig.  Just remember that you have full control over what you buy and serve…and also what you eat!  

(PS – Don’t forget about having breakfast and regular meals during the day, prior to gatherings where food is served – if you go out hungry, you might set yourself up for a binge!)

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Keeping it CLEAN. . .

Stocking Up At The Supermarket…

I go to the store almost daily – I think for some people, that sounds like an alarming rate. . .but going once a week simply doesn’t work for me. 

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I go through my food at a rapid pace, but given the quality of it, I’m okay with that (I’m not going to beat myself up for devouring all of my vegetables, whereas if I was mauling bags of potato chips, I might have to second guess my restocking habits!)

The usual suspects:

  • Fresh vegetables
  • Fresh, packaged greens (spinach, mache etc…)
  • Frozen vegetables 
  • Still water 
  • Carbonated water without chemicals (flavoring from natural fruit)
  • Ground chicken (I prefer organic, but sometimes can’t get it)
  • Popcorn (the lightest kind I can find, non-greasy, just a touch of oil and salt.  PERIOD.)
  • Almond milk (unsweetened)
  • Coconut creamer (which I mix with the above)
  • Chia bars (Heath Warrior, chocolate peanut butter)
  • Hummus
  • Organic eggs
  • Egg whites 
  • Nitrate-free sliced turkey 

There are a few other things I pick up, but those are the typical cast of characters.  I think it’s important for us to shop often. . .and NOT to shop hungry.  

Food preparation is always a wonderful thing if you can do it (that can be done once a week, maybe twice – there are fabulous blogs out there specifically dedicated to this, not only for fitness competitors, by the way!)

What kinds of foods duo you buy?  Are you shopping several times a week?  I see the store when the snow comes and I’m always shocked.  *LOL*

 

 

Weekend Meals

Weekends are my wind-down time – I do have two activities on Saturday (Ninjutsu Combat Simulation, and Aerial Yoga), but they aren’t as rigorous as my weekly workout routines (Brazilian JiuJitsu four times a week, cardio three times a week, lifting at least four times a week, Ninjutsu classes four times a week…, and some teaching with Martial Arts kids classes.)  I’m incredibly thankful I can schedule so many activities, as I’m energetic by nature and need to move around.

But for me, Saturday afternoon and Sunday I can give myself a little bit of a break physically, and sometimes as far as eating out.  During the week we usually eat at home, and my meals don’t vary hugely in terms of content… On the weekend, I’m still really clean, but I might have more yolks than I typically do in the mornings, or I might have more servings of fruit, or almonds.  None of it is unhealthy, but I’m less concerned with portions and timing – I sort of just have the clean foods I like with less stringency.  

I’m asked a lot whether or not I have “cheat meals” – I don’t really.  But again, the weekends, or when I travel, I loosen the reigns a bit, going with whatever the flow might be.  That’s enough “cheat” for me – I stick to healthy options, so I never get totally out of hand, or go so overboard that I’m beating myself up.  Just what works for me personally!

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This weekend we went to brunch and my fiancé – who’s always looking out for me! – ordered the eggs that came with HIS meal exactly the way I ordered my three.  😀  Normally I have a whole egg and egg whites in the morning, with a ton of vegetables – but when I’m out, I’m eating three whole eggs in a sitting…and in this case, a few more!  It isn’t something I do every day, so I’m not overly worried about having a few – I could definitely use the aminos, and the healthy fat…plus…PROTEIN! ❤ I always order fruit salad too, for some sweetness…AND extra vitamins!  

We had dinner at home – my favorite ground chicken recipe, and tons of roasted broccoli (he’s always makes it perfectly.) Filling, wonderful nutrients and solid macros…good stuff!

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What’s your weekend plan?

For more of what I munch…!

 

Healthy Snacks For Everyday

I don’t know about you but I love to eat.  Most of the time I find that people don’t believe me, often retorting with a snide “oh yeah, right.”  

I am generally a clean eater, and after all I’ve been through, I can’t say that I love food in the same way.  But. . .YES. . .I LOVE to eat, and I could easily eat too much.  Volume is key for me – I need to feel full or I will just keep munching.

It can get a little frustrating when people say “oh, but you work it off.”  Or, “you do so much that it doesn’t matter – you can have what you want.” Actually….

No.

I CAN’T.

If I eat too much (and for each of us, that amount will vary), I will see it on my waistline.  Most of the time I am clean, healthy, and quite active…but it takes work for me.  I can’t just eat whatever I want and hope that my exercise routine will balance it out –  I don’t get off so easily, and frankly very few people do. So what helps?  Being educated!  I know that I will be hungry so I try to figure out what I can do to:

A.) Not feel like I’m starving all the time…

But also…

B.) Stick to my goals

That’s where being educated about nutrition, and my own personal needs, comes in to play. Keeping in mind that I am not a nutritionist or medical professional, these are some of the snacks I have found to help me manage my hunger. . .and my waist size!

SWEET

  • Fresh Fruit or Fruit Salad – I don’t eat a ton of fruit.  I prefer vegetables, and I don’t want to go overboard on the sugar.  But having some fresh fruit can help satisfy a sweet craving, without causing you to pack on the pounds you might with a candy bar or other deserts!  (Dried fruit is also a culprit, having much more concentrated sugar per serving than the fruit when it is fresh.)
  • Berries with a dollop of Yogurt – Sweet, plus a little protein, and lots of antioxidants. 
  • EatPops or something similar – I loved these when I read about them!  Healthy, not at all crazy in the calorie department, refreshing and sweet.  I also love the Almond Dream bites, in moderation, since I’m a chocolate fan.  If you don’t want to spend on prepared, you can always blend and freeze your own.
  • Cooked or Baked Fruit – so many great recipes out there that turn regular fruit into something sassier!  I sometimes slice and apple, add cinnamon and sometimes a dash of sweetener and bake in the convection oven until warm and slightly softer.
  • Peanut or Nut Butter – There are some nice brands who offer single serving packages – Some have up to 200 or so calories, so be mindful of that (it is about what you’d get in one serving from a jar, but you can’t go overboard with one package!)  I have seen some that just have 90, which I like better.  Either way, you get heathy fats with a nice dose of protein. You can add a little to some apple slices for extra sweetness.
  • Sugar Free Chocolate – Not the best nutritional option but sometimes one sugar-free peanut butter cup helps stave off inhaling something much worse, and in much higher quantity!

SALTY and SAVORY

  • Hummus with Baby Carrots –   I like to put a bit of hummus in a bowl with some carrots (or other veggies) so I’m not eating right out of the container (which might cause me to eat too much.)  Raw veggies can be tough on the tum, so just be mindful of the ones you choose.  Broccoli and cauliflower that hasn’t been cooked, for example, can cause some digestive troubles.
  • Greek Yogurt or Cottage Cheese – I can no longer do dairy, so this is out for me.  BUT…these are excellent choices, giving you a nice amount of protein per serving. Only thing to watch out for is extra sugar, as some Greek yogurts are sneaky. 
  • Nuts (Almonds, Pistachios) – Nuts are a great option BUT… But, but, BUT…you HAVE to be mindful.  Nuts are calorically dense and incredibly easy to overdo.  Many brands offer 100 calorie bags, which are a fabulous idea.  You can certainly portion out your own, but buying the ready-made is a great option. Pistachios are one of the best where calorie and protein per serving is concerned.

MINI-MEAL ITEMS

  • Muffin-Tin Egg Frittatas – Not everyone loves eggs, but these are a ton of fun. You can make them with egg whites, egg beaters, whole eggs, a mixture…whatever!  Add in a few sprinkles of soy crumbles, low-fat turkey, steamed vegetables, even salsa, and you have a dozen awesome “bites” for later!  Sometimes I want to much on something, and this will do the trick.
  • Shrimp Cocktail – Lots of protein, not a ton of calories.  A little bit of cocktail sauce and spices are okay, and won’t break the bank (whereas something like tartar sauce will.)
  • Beef or Poultry Jerky – One has to be mindful about the salt content here, and it is always good to look at ingredients to be sure there aren’t crazy preservatives.  But this is one of those savory protein snacks that can come in handy when you need to nosh.
  • Turkey or Chicken Slices – I’m careful to avoid nitrates here, as many deli meats are laden with such preservatives.  Organic is great if you can come by it, but just being mindful of the ingredients is a good idea.  You get a lot of protein for not a ton of calories, so you will feel satisfied longer.  Roll them up and dip in mustard, siracha sauce, salsa…!
  • Sliced Chicken Breast or Lean Meat – I love ground chicken.  I will eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND for a snack.  Nothing wrong with having lean meats when you are hungry!  I mix mine with a hefty dose of steamed veggies (remember: VOLUME) for a snack when I feel I’m teetering on “ravenous.” You can also pair with greens or add to a light broth for volume.

TRADITIONAL SNACKS

  • Popcorn – Okay, so it isn’t the best snack nutritionally speaking… But there are brands that have as little as three ingredients (think a touch of salt, popcorn, and a dash of olive oil) that you can have in more quantity without going overboard.  Air popping your own is a great idea also (love the microwave ones but many contain some incredibly unhealthy chemicals, so best to avoid as much as possible!)
  • Chips and Salsa – Crunchy, salty, maybe a little spice… What to watch out for here is having too many!  Just take a few and put them in a bowl – sometimes just the act of portioning it out makes you feel like you are having more, or a special treat, instead of wolfing down the whole bag mindlessly.

The key with any of these is to just be mindful of portions – when you can either prepare a smaller portion of what comes in a HUGE bag…OR…you can get ready-made items (such as the 100 calorie almonds), you will find you can stick to the plan a little better.  There are also a ton of wonderful blogs with recipes for lower calorie snacks (I prefer those also high in protein because that’s what my body needs.)

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A few of the snacks I take on trips here and here.

I also have a ton of fun recipes bookmarked here.

 

Buona Pasqua!

I almost can’t believe Easter has come and gone already – wasn’t it just New Years!?

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I had the good fortune to visit my hometown, my family, and my love’s family for the weekend – we both have Italian heritage, and Easter was always a big hoopla growing up.  Nowadays, it’s more about being able to spend time together – the children (in my age range) are all grown, many with little ones of their own, and live in different states.  So having some quality time over a long weekend is a joy and a blessing.

I actually don’t recall precisely what our menu was comprised of when I was younger – the Christmas meals are clear in my mind for sure, but on Easter morning I think I was so gungho about the Easter Bunny baskets that I may have blocked everything else out! 

For lunch we ran to a wonderful little grocery store – I pickup up sliced turkey (I opt for the kind that doesn’t contain nitrates and other ugly preservatives!), and my hunnie found some broccoli spears to go with it.  Delicious!

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For dinner this year, we all decided on lobster, steamed shrimp, filets, and chicken breast, along with veggies – you might imagine I was thrilled! ❤  

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I will often hear people lament (half-heartedly, let’s be honest!) about holidays because they feel there is just so much temptation.  But the reality is that there are ALWAYS healthy options.  I’m very blessed – and thankful for it every day – that my family and friends consider what I will be having.  I am absolutely the most particular of the bunch, and I am so grateful that others care about what is being served, and if there are healthy options for me.  

In this case, though, it was a wonderfully healthy selection for everyone!  Yes, we had cakes and cookies too…but we also had children in the group! 😉  

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I had some fresh fruit salad from earlier in the day that I pulled out during dessert – sweet enough to keep me away from ingurgitating the cookies, and a nice end to the meal with my coffee (and coconut creamer. 🙂 ) 

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Holy Whole Foods!

I remember when getting healthier options wasn’t “a thing.”  It wasn’t trendy to seek out specialty grains, certain types of algae for energy, probiotics, less-ingredient-foods…(though in figure skating and dancing, many top athletes were promoting them, so I learned early!)  But somewhere along the line (within the last decade), the notion hit the mainstream.

I don’t much care for being trendy and honestly, I’m not about to go pick up some herbal cleanse concoction or extreme take on a protein shake just because the larger population (at least the larger, health-conscious population) says it’s the “it” item of the moment.  But what I am incredibly thankful for is that the level of trendiness has prompted countless retail establishments to open their doors and cater to those of us looking for healthy options

The other day I happened upon a MASSIVE Whole Foods – one that, quite possibly – dwarfed two or three normal ones.  I was in heaven!  The prepared section is one I don’t tend to purchase a lot from, however, as I find many things are overcooked (no doubt over concern regarding internal temperatures, the feeding of the general public, and the potential for suits!)  BUT…everything else?  I was thrilled!

I don’t use cow’s milk for one – milk and I don’t much care for one another.  The sheer number of choices of almond, coconut, hemp, cashew, and other nut milks was (albeit overwhelming) astounding!  I was also able to find my crunchy seaweed snacks in spades…IN the flavor I prefer. 😀

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Oils…another wonderful example.  The “personal care” area was enormous – I had a pick of countless essential oils, herbal supplements, body lotions, whatever…  The seafood looked amazing… The pick of nut butters, produce, soups…even olives! (healthy fats)…was phenomenal.

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Oh, and then there was the coffee.  I personally use Maple Syrup in my coffee – why?  It’s one of the healthiest sweetener options out there.  Agave actually IS more like sugar BUT…I’d SO much rather use a drop of honey than use sucralose, aspartame, nutrasweet etc.!  And of course, they had almond AND soy milk over on the fixing station – at Starbucks, you have to ask for (and sometimes PAY for) that option.

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So for me…the trendiness is something I embrace, because then I have the wonderful luxury of finding stores with monstrous footprints, filled to the brim with healthy meal choices.  Definitely not complaining about that!  (More like stuffing my face! 😉 ) 

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Rainy Day Fun

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This weekend we had a whole smattering of rain… After our healthy breakfast, we thought we might go visit a farm, just for some fun and sunshine.  But, those water drops came down early, and our trip was out rather suddenly!

It’s been a long time since I visited the amazing sites around my old college campus (the White House WAS my neighbor!) so rather out of the blue, we chose to hit the road – sitting around makes me feel lethargic!  (Active rest CAN include walking for a few hours, even if inside…)

We decided we’d visit one of the Smithsonian complexes on the mall (nevermind the St, Patrick’s Day parade we didn’t realize was going on simultaneously!) because really, what better place to explore when you can’t be outside?  

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I haven’t gone into a Natural History Museum in ages, and I have to say…it was an incredible joy.  As a little girl, I wanted desperately to be an archeologist – the prospect of discovering some meaningful antiquity, coming face to face with a mummy, or finding precious rocks had me enamored.  

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Maybe it was the idea that I’d be close to Earth…and in finding such things, I would have “touched” history in a way – like time travel, albeit not temporally!  

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Anyway…it always amazes me to see the wonders of the Natural World, and it was a perfect activity for such a gloomy day.  After the visit, my cloudy white cowboy boots (to jive with the grey skies) and all-black attire marched to a Hard Rock cafe for some fuel.  Most people would say you can’t fin anything healthy in a restaurant like that  but…I did!  Admittedly, the first time it didn’t come out as I asked…but…we managed!

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You can always ask for plain, grilled fish (I usually ask for this instead of chicken, which often is overly marinated already) and steamed vegetables.  My plate came with mashed potatoes, but I just ignored them (had I known they came in tow, I would have requested they save the food!)  It was exactly what I needed after a lengthy afternoon – protein works wonders to stabilize you, and keep you full longer.  I always as for veggies too because I need volume.

All in all, it was a wonderful day – I enjoyed being out and about, and doing something new and different. I know many folks go to Museums for their children, but it is equally as enriching as an adult…plus, even when it’s pouring, you get to walk round and stay active.  Win, win, win! 🙂 

My Current Go-To Meal

Despite my immense propensity for “getting bored,” I never seem to tire of healthy foods.  I’m enormously thankful for that, as I am scarcely exempt from getting cravings.  Fortunately a giant bowl protein and vegetables is generally enough to derail those venomous “you know you want a cookie”s, but it doesn’t mean it is always easy!  My willpower is tightly tied to my goals – I do my best to adhere to those, and focus on the end result as much as I can, which helps me see past the immediate satisfaction I *think* I’ll feel. 

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Eating protein DOES help – you are providing your body with a slower-digesting source of fuel that registers as “satiety” for a longer period…and I definitely need that!  If not, I’d be in trouble – after my late 20s, food started to “stick,” whether I protested or not.  Staying well hydrated helps to stave off cravings as well, which helps me stick to my goals as best I can.

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Lately my protein choices have changed (just a hair!) – since I eat a lot of the same foods, it isn’t at all surprising!  That said, it also isn’t so dramatic a change, my body will have any issues processing.  I’ve swapped out chicken breasts and tenders for ground chicken.  At least for now. I can’t say why specifically, but it totally hits the spot! 😀 Regardless of the protein source (salmon, shrimp and mild fish are other favorites!), I will always add vegetables.  

I add a few veggies into this recipe, but I add even more with it for a meal – I probably go through about 8  lbs of vegetables a day.  Yes…I said A DAY.  You know those enormous 4 lb frozen mixed vegetable packages at the supermarket?  I go through at least two a day (sometimes I use one, along with several smaller packages, varying the “mix.”)  Veggies add healthy, less calorically-dense VOLUME and, because I love to eat, volume is key.  My favorite picks are:

  • California Blend – broccoli, cauliflower, carrots. (I use these for the bulk)
  • Italian Blend – broccoli, cauliflower, Italian green beans, zucchini, carrots
  • Asian Blend – broccoli, snap peas, water chestnuts, red peppers, mushrooms
  • Ranchero Fiesta – broccoli, white beans, chickpeas, carrots, red peppers, dark red kidney beans, Italian green beans. (I generally use half a bag, mixed with less starchy vegetables, but I love these for the extra fiber and protein (which, again, helps you stay satisfied longer!))

Those aside, my favorite vegetables to prepare with the ground chicken are organic red, yellow, and orange peppers (sweeter than the green), sliced baby bella mushrooms, and fire roasted tomatoes.  Sometimes I also add baby spinach, but I’ll toss it in towards the end if I do so it doesn’t get cooked too much and lose nutrients.

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I slice the peppers into small strips, after removing the stem and seeds, and quartering.  The mushrooms just need to be rinsed, and that’s it!  I will heat the stove on high and toss all the veggies with some salt and pepper into my snazzy Curtis Stone pan (which I don’t have to use any oil with! 🙂 ) I generally put the cover on and let them simmer, stirring occasionally, for about six or seven minutes.  

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Then I put two pounds of ground chicken (Whole Foods can grind breast meat for you if they are out!) into a second, larger pan, over high heat – again, no oil is necessary, but I do sprinkle Jane’s Mixed Up Salt on both sides (it’s easy to sprinkle on one side while in the package, then when you place it in the pan face down, you can add to the second side.)  I give it about two or three minutes on high to let one side brown gently, then I flip.  I’ll give it a minute or two and then start to chop it with my spatula, and flip as necessary.  

I DON’T like dried-out meat, so I will get it cooked about 75% through, then add in the vegetable mixture, which is softened by now, but not overcooked.  I’ll let that simmer on a medium to high heat mixing periodically until it’s cooked through.  

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And voila…easy as that.  The whole thing doesn’t take more than about 15 minutes or so, and it lasts me through a few meals.  I DO tend to eat “dinner” a few times at Night, though… 🙂  It really is like feeding a raptor.

For more of my Nutritional Choices… 😀

Feeding A Raptor

My hunnie and I have a joke that feeding me is like feeding a momma raptor (if you saw Jurassic Park, you might have a fun visual.)  I eat like a horse, basically, although mostly my choices are relegated to the vegetable and protein categories.  

The other Night he brought home a HUGE assortment of “surf” (shrimp, sea bass, salmon, lobster tail) and turf” (red meat for him, poultry for me, as I don’t go red) for dinner – I was incredibly thankful, and my tummy was jumping for joy!  

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He’s quite talented with grilling – I’m afraid I’d have trouble keeping track of one item, let alone several!  He did an amazing job with everything – perfect as usual.  

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We generally go light, steering clear of sauces and marinades (you can always add condiments later if necessary.)  So typically, we stick to seasoned salt, pepper, lemon, and Old Bay – you really don’t need more than that and with the richer, fattier fish, it’s not necessary anyway.  If I am desperate for something more, I might use a diluted teriyaki sauce or salsa.

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The raptor was fed, and terribly happy about it all, I must say (though our two feline boys were a wee bit jealous, admittedly!)

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Dins

I came home from Ninjutsu the other night and my hunnie had made me dinner…

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Ground chicken with seasonings, mushrooms, and asparagus…all pan-cooked with zero oil. ❤

When someone cares enough to spend the time to cook for you, and to cook foods that you not only enjoy, but that fit within your goals, please make sure you let them know how thankful you are…

And remind them often!

I will never, ever take it for granted.

For more of my fuel...