If you are currently in the fitness industry or have goals to be in the fitness industry we have some cool information at the bottom of this article (unrelated to food prep.)
Stop making it complicated.
If you would have told me 10 years ago when I was packing up my Lean Cuisine pizza boats and 100 calorie pack chocolate muffins for lunch (all while counting up my Weight Watchers points ensuring that I had enough for a bowl of Special K Red Berries before bed) that I would be teaching others about nutrition one day, I would have laughed.
Every time I food prep, I can’t help but think of the frozen meals I used to pack up for lunch, all I’ve learned between then and now, and how grateful I am that I get to help others who were in the same spot as me all those years ago. If I could go back ten years ago and teach myself what I know now about food and good health, this is what I think I would say:
- Eat whole foods–things that aren’t prepackaged in boxes
- Eat fruits and veggies–even frozen veggies and berries
- Eat enough protein
- Don’t be scared of carbs but don’t overeat them either…find a balance that suits your energy needs
- View food as a tool for athletic performance or as fuel for a car: either way, your body is an engine, and if you put crap in it, it breaks down on you, no matter what.
- Most fats are good for you, however don’t overeat those either. Those macronutrients add up the fastest.
- Avoid trans-fats at all costs. And high fructose corn syrup.
- Having a glass of wine, a beer, a cupcake, a piece of chocolate, (enter your fave treat) is always fine when you don’t overeat those either. (Doesn’t it seem like there’s a pattern here?)
Eat well, fuel the engine, splurge moderately
Do you know what has turned out to be beyond easy now that knowing what to eat has become simple? Food prep. The one excuse I get from most people who claim they want to be healthier but they don’t have the time is because of food prep. Well I would like to challenge that theory. I honestly believe that when a person knows HOW to eat, prepping to eat becomes easy–so easy that it does NOT have to take much time at all.
I know what I like to eat and I always make a list before heading out to the store. Erik, on the other hand, likes to see what’s on sale, what the produce looks like, and he becomes inspired that way. You don’t have to fit a mold–you just need a method that works for you.
I pick up my groceries, typically on Saturday, after I go to the gym. On Sundays I cook. This weekend has been busy for me so I know what it’s like to have to get things done when in a crunch. I was struggling with my sinuses Thursday and Friday, had company yesterday and today, a date with Erik tonight, and many many many other things happening in my life. So yeah, I’m busy too. Trust me, you can do this.
Just now, I had about an hour to accomplish some food prep for the week. I threw two spaghetti squashes in the oven. I cut them in half, took the seeds out, and baked them at 400 for 45 minutes. The prep for me was only about 5 minutes. You can also put spaghetti squash in a crockpot for 3-4 hours on high and the spaghetti noodles fall right out of the shell. I’ve done this with chicken and sauce all in the same pot. You can even microwave a spaghetti squash. Cut it in half and put it in the microwave for 8-12 minutes.
Zucchini and Yellow Squash:
These squashes are in season right now so I buy a few bags of them when I’m at the store. I simply peel them (to avoid pesticide residue) and I use my zoodle maker to make zucchini noodles. My picture shows the noodles I got from only five zucchinis. FIVE! That’s under $5 and enough noodles for pasta for days. You’re telling me that’s not quick and easy and something your whole family wouldn’t LOVE?! You can steam the noodles in the microwave with a little water when you’re ready to serve them, or you can sauté them in a little olive or coconut oil or with whatever else you’d like to serve them with. They are fantastic with marinara sauces, chicken, shrimp, olive oil and feta, whatever you can think of!
I also really like yellow squash so I grabbed a small bag of yellow squash, peeled them, and chopped them up ready to use this week. I actually really like mashing this squash and mixing it with egg whites in the morning and making a veggie-like pancake. But no matter how you like your squash–baked, sautéed with some flank steak, whatever makes you happy–it literally takes no more than five minutes to peel it, slice it, and stick it in the fridge. Yeah, you may have to heat it up later but you would have to do that anyway with whatever you prepped. Now you have options as you go through your week.
After I spent all of 5 minutes putting spaghetti squash in the oven, I put four nice-sized sweet potatoes in the crockpot with a little water, on high for a few hours. I’ll turn the crockpot on warm before Erik and I head out on our date and I’ll probably cut the potatoes up into chunks and put them in the fridge for the week, or even mash them. I haven’t decided yet, but regardless, I’ll have plenty of sweet potatoes ready for me when I want them.
PS–you can bake sweet potatoes, cook them in the microwave (4-5 minutes), or even slice them up and make your own fries. Chop them into pieces and make sweet potato hash with eggs and local sausage (SO yum) or mash them with some apple sauce and enjoy as a healthy post-workout carb source. I could talk sweet potatoes for hours…
If you have a sweet tooth or you’re the obsessive snacker, put some fruit out. Cherries are in season right now and I LOVE cherries, so that’s why they’re on my counter. Instead of looking for the peanut butter jar every time I walk through the kitchen, I can grab a couple cherries. Kids love cherries, apple slices, citrus fruits…fill your counters and mason jars with ALL the colorful nature-produced goodness.
I buy ground turkey — a lot. I cook it all at once and then eat it throughout the week with whatever dish I am having. If I’m having spaghetti squash and marinara, it’s already to throw together in a bowl and heat up in the microwave. And if I want a taco salad, all I have to do is throw the turkey into a bowl with all my other taco ingredients, add seasoning and salsa, and I’ve got a taco salad. I love ground meats because of the versatility and I only have to cook the meat once during the entire week.
Ground meats not your thing? Erik will actually go to the store and buy whatever meat is on sale. So he may come home and make a full pork tenderloin or a pot roast. Many times he will grill a couple packages of chicken thighs and legs. (Remember animal fat is not bad for you.) He will grill, sauté, pan fry, or use the crockpot, and then eat off his purchase all week.
Cooking and prepping food or meat does not have to be stressful. At the most it may take some creativity on your part if you want a menu with variety. But overall, don’t make being healthy harder than it has to be!
How About Some Easy Grab-n-Go:
- If you can tolerate dairy, grab a bag of string cheeses. These are perfect little protein and good fat snacks that you can take anywhere.
- Don’t call me crazy but the little baby food squeeze pouches are some of my favorite things ever. Sometimes I get the fruit ones, sometimes the veggies, but either way, you can get in a serving of GREAT foods, fiber, and it’s quick, easy, and requires NO prep.
- I’m not a big fan of deli meats, and yes they are processed so they are not the ideal snack solution all of the time, but sometimes you can get a “natural/hormone free/grass-fed/etc. etc.,” deli meat at a high quality food store. So sometimes I grab these because you can wrap deli meat around pickles or cucumbers, add a little mustard and have an awesome mid-day snack. I’ve been known to fill a couple slices of turkey with hummus, sprouts, and cucumbers. I love that combo.
- Like eggs? You can buy them already hard boiled and that transports easily in your lunch bag! Even if you boil them yourself to save on cost, it only takes roughly 15 minutes to boil. Put the eggs back in the carton when done and peel them when you eat them.
- I love cottage cheese and Greek yogurt. I always get plain, add my own fruit, and typically eat the yogurt post workout or the cottage cheese before bed. If you’re not opposed to dairy, try plain Greek yogurt, add your favorite fruit, and then take that one item that you craving (like the cereal in my picture) and sprinkle JUST a little on top. Now you’ve got a bowl filled with GOOD things AND that special treat that will satisfy your “splurge” cravings.
- Always keep a low-sugar/healthy pasta sauce on hand. You can pour pasta sauce on any meat, on your zucchini noodles, you can dip your cheese sticks into it, cover a plate of steamed cauliflower with it, and so much more. I always keep pasta sauce (and frozen cauliflower) in my pantry/freezer.
- Speaking of frozen, I have found some really fun frozen veggie meals in the freezer section of my local grocery store. Buffalo cauliflower, teriyaki broccoli, and this sweet potato blend have not only added a little flavor to my meals, but they are super quick to cook–all you do is throw it in the microwave! Below, I already pre-portioned out the sweet potato blends. This will make a perfect side dish or snack for me when I’m hungry or searching for a few more carbs for the day.
One of my biggest goals with Strongfigure is to help those who are ready for a change, need some inspiration, or just the basic knowledge that living healthy isn’t hard, expensive, or impossible to accomplish. Just figuring out little tips like cooking a spaghetti squash in a crockpot is sometimes all someone may take away from this post, but I’ve helped someone figure out an easier way to cook healthier foods. And that truly makes me happy: helping others.
Below you’ll find your Strongfigure Conditioning Workouts for the week–another way I love helping our audience become fitter, healthier, and stronger! Personal training, group fitness training, nutrition coaching–all things I find myself feeling lucky to do each and every day. I still can’t believe that 10+ years ago I was the newbie in the gym. Now? I don’t just get to help others the way that I was helped so long ago, but I also have the opportunity to help trainers grow their businesses. If you’re a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, or you would like to be one of these people–listen up! This part is for you:
We’re emailing all of our Strongfigure Ambassadors AND those who especially express interest in learning how to grow your fitness business–whether it’s one-on-one coaching, group coaching, gym owning, etc. So if you’ve ever thought that you wanted to be your own boss and learn how to support the lifestyle you want, please drop your email in the box below. The amount of information we’re about to send out (starting tomorrow, Tuesday 6/16) via our new joint venture partner is frighteningly amazing. 😉
[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Yes I am interested in growing my fitness career.’ type=’checkbox’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]
This week’s Strong Figure Conditioning Workouts:
Workout One: 4 Rounds of
- 400 meter run
- 25 burpees
Workout Two: 15 minutes, As Many Rounds Possible
- 10 walking lunges (weight optional)
- 10 kettlebell swings
- 10 floor presses (each arm) use same kettlebell as swings
- 30 second plank hold
Workout Three: 3-5 Rounds
- 12 (total) front rack squats (hold kettlebells, dumbbells, or a barbell on front of shoulders)
- 10 handstand push-ups (or regular/your push-up variation)
- 8 V-ups
As always, if you don’t have equipment, you can substitute a different body weight movement or complete a movement without the weight (non-weighted lunges or squats for example, push-ups instead of floor presses, glute bridge-ups instead of KB swings, etc.)