Meal Prep 101

With the summer almost behind us, and the excitement of a new season ahead, September is always a great month to assess, make goals, and create change. I think one of the reasons that I love fall so much is its feeling of a fresh start.

I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to getting back into a routine after a summer of lots of travel, late nights, and maybe a little too much indulging. No regrets though! My first priority – meal prep! This is a great way to set yourself up for a successful week filled with healthy meal options. If you don’t have a plan and leave your food choices to chance, most likely those choices won’t be the best ones. Meal planning can be overwhelming at first, but I have compiled my tips below to simplify things and to inspire this to become part of your weekly routine. Don’t expect success, but rather prepare for it by making your food options easy.

Let’s start with the most important part of meal prep…the planning.

Each week I start with the best locally grown produce offered at the best price (Trader Joe’s is my go-to), and I plan my meals from there.

Here are a few strategies to decrease the stress of making healthy meals.

Planning Tips

Prioritize. Choose recipes that will bring you the most value. If dinner brings you the most stress, plan dinner. Where in the week do you feel you have the most stress or most difficultly? When are you finding yourself standing in front of your pantry looking for snacks? Meal prep for those meals.

Start small. Only plan and shop for up to 3 days’ worth of groceries. Not only do you want to have fresh produce on hand, but you also don’t waste ingredients or get overwhelmed.

Select recipes to make during the week. Create a shopping list so that you have everything you need for the recipes that you want to prepare. Plan out and include actual quantities. Make sure you have the list with you when you’re shopping! This might sound obvious, but I literally forgot mine 2 days before writing this newsletter. I recommend keeping a running grocery list in the notes of your phone because it’s something that you usually have with you. Also, stick to list to avoid unhealthy, impulse buys. And don’t shop hungry!

Set aside time to cook. Finding the time is usually the biggest setback when it comes to meal prep. Schedule it in your calendar. I recommend creating a ritual every Sunday when you create a to-do list, and then find the time in your calendar to get those things done. You will be surprised by how much more productive you can be with your time when you know what you need to be doing with it.

Make a habit of bedtime meal prep. Use the time before you go to bed to review your menus and prepare. Some of you will prefer to make meals for the whole week all at once. I prefer to cook every few days so that it isn’t such a daunting task. Figure out what works best for you and stick to your plan!

Cook in quantity. Cook multiple servings at once, then store leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer for convenient use in the future.

Storage. Don’t rush to seal your meal! The steam created from a sealed container will not only continue to cook your food, but the excess moisture can leave your meat tasting rubbery and your veggies tasting soft and mushy. Also, invest in quality storage containers to increase the chances of a fresh meal. This will be cost effective in the long term. Make sure the containers are glass or BPA-free.

Overlap ingredients. Try to pick recipes with similar ingredients so that you’re not wasting food, you can save money, and you’re more efficient with meal prep. For example, if you are making a dinner recipe that calls for quinoa, get creative with the leftovers and use them for breakfast with sautéed veggies and fried eggs. Get creative with the recipes and make them your own! Swap out ingredients, use different spices, or try a different way of preparing the food.

Create a master recipe list. Organize your go-to meals that you have tried before and enjoyed. This will be helpful to reference when you’re looking for inspiration about what to make. I recommend creating a Pinterest board to keep recipes in one place. Most websites have a link to save recipes to Pinterest.

Make it fun! Listen to music. Get your kids or your significant other involved. Cook with friends. Make this an enjoyable experience so that you can taste the love that you put into it!

Cooking Tips

Chopping your food. This will not only save time when you are cooking during the week, but it will also guarantee that you actually use the ingredients that you bought. I recommend washing and cutting everything the day that you shop and organize everything in clear containers in your refrigerator. You can also buy your veggies pre-cut to save time.

Roast veggies! Baking your vegetables is such an easy way to cook in bulk (and this cooking method brings out the sweetness in the food). I roast a large batch of veggies on 2 big trays so that they are ready to use throughout the week by simply adding a protein and healthy fat. Be sure to prepare veggies together that have similar roasting times. For example, mushrooms and tomatoes have similar cooking times and temperatures versus cauliflower and sweet potatoes. Veggies that are great for roasting: carrots, peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, and sweet potatoes.

Protein prep. Cook all of your protein ahead of time, and store it in the fridge or freezer to ensure you have meals on hand.

Get familiar with different spices! Bland food is so uninspiring. Experiment with different flavors to create marinades and dressings that you love. For example, mixing tahini, lemon juice, and parsley. Use a lazy Susan packed with sauces, spices, and herbs so that you can easily see different options and access them readily.

Portion control. The whole point of meal prep is to create healthy options for yourself that are readily available, but it would be a useless activity without measuring your food. Portion sizes will vary based on your goals and where you are at currently, but for the most part, below are a few rules of thumb:

  • Use the palm of your hand to measure protein. A portion will be anywhere from 3-6 ounces, depending on your size. A few of my go-to options are: grass-fed beef, chicken breast, ground turkey, salmon, cod, and eggs.
  • Vegetables should make up 1/3 to 1/2 of your meal prep container. A serving equates to about 1/2-1 cup. This includes things like leafy greens, broccoli, spinach, kale, swiss chard, brussels sprouts, asparagus, arugula, green beans and snap peas.
  • Use one cupped hand to measure your carbs. The starch should make up about 1/4 of your meal prep. One serving size about 1/2 – 1 cup (cooked). A few examples are: quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, whole grain pasta, and legumes (lentils & black beans).
  • Use your thumb to measure heathy fats. This should equate to about 1 oz or tablespoon. Healthy fats not only enhance the flavor of your meal, but also keep you fuller longer. Foods such as nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc), seeds (chia seeds, pumpkin seeds), oils and nut butters fall into this category.

I hope these strategies will help to create ease in making healthier choices!

Speaking of making healthier choices…I have exciting news to share!!!

Starting Monday, September 23rd I will be launching my first 5-day Fall detox. Stay tuned for more details to come 😊

What I Learned in Health Coaching School

The health and wellness industry is in a constant state of change, making it difficult to navigate. There is so much information out there and even more is discovered every day, but a lot of it is contradicting.  

I find that it’s easiest to stick to the basics, so I have shared below a few effective concepts that I learned in health coaching school. I promise that if you follow these simple steps, you’ll be on your way to a more vibrant, healthy, you!

Health is a journey, not a destination. I thought it was possible over time to reach a perfect state of health. But because our body, mindset and environment are always changing we need to constantly adapt. Being healthy requires us to be present. It requires us to be aware of the decisions we make on a daily basis. It’s a process. It’s a practice.

We never get good at anything unless we practice. Once you reach a point when you’re feeling your absolute best, you need to keep doing the things you’ve been doing in order to stay there. It takes awareness and commitment every single day to make decisions that will ultimately create a healthy lifestyle that is sustainable.

Bio-individuality. This is the idea that each of us has unique food and lifestyle needs. What works for one person could have the complete opposite effect on another, which is why fad diets and the one-size fits all approaches aren’t sustainable. Just like we all have different taste in fashion, music, and movies, we tend to gravitate toward different foods and activities based on what we inherently know to be beneficial for us. This means you need to look within and listen to your body’s messages to understand what it needs and what it thrives on. There is no one right diet that works for everyone. I encourage you to explore what works best for you and to trust your body. You can’t fail at a diet that you create for your unique self!

Primary foods. It’s not just the food that we eat that impacts our health, but all of the factors present in our daily lives. Healthy relationships, a fulfilling career, regular physical activity, and spiritual awareness are essential forms of nourishment. When these lifestyle factors are balanced, the food that we eat becomes secondary because we are fulfilled in other ways.

Have you ever been so excited about something that you couldn’t even eat? When your primary food is full, you thrive – actual food stays secondary, providing support to be healthy and to do the things you love. Determine your level of satisfaction in each of these categories and identify where to spend more time and energy to create balance.

Deconstructing cravings. Most of us associate cravings with weakness, but in reality, they’re important messages from your body to guide you in maintaining balance. When you experience a craving, deconstruct it. Take notice of when you have these cravings and how you are feeling in the moment. Awareness will help you to identify trends and expose what triggers your cravings so that you can be more proactive the next time around.

Maybe you’re dehydrated? Or maybe you’re trying to fill a void? Being dissatisfied with a relationship, being bored, stressed, uninspired by your job, or lacking a spiritual practice may all cause emotional eating. Take inventory when you experience cravings to identify and treat the root cause rather than the symptom. Our body is incredibly smart. It knows what we need for optimal health – we just need to listen to it.

Crowding out. What I love most about this concept is that it’s not a diet. It’s not about counting calories or macros. It’s not about what you shouldn’t eat, but rather what you should be eating. It’s about creating sustainable changes through positive reinforcement. By eating and drinking foods that are good for you, you will have less room and desire for unhealthy foods. More fruits, vegetables, and water will naturally lead to less caffeine, sugar, and processed food. Simply put – you will crowd out the unhealthy food from your diet.

I can’t wait for you to take these concepts and put them into action!

Follow me on social media for daily nutrition and lifestyle tips.

Want to learn more about my one-on-one coaching program? Email me at kmunley@balancedlifekristen.com to see how we can work together. I can help support you in achieving all of your goals, from eating the right foods for your body to living an inspired and fulfilled life!

*These concepts are coined by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

Start Today

We are exactly halfway through 2019. That gives us 6 months to make a change – starting today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today.

Everyone uses the end of the year to reassess, set goals, and make changes. Imagine if you started now!

You might not have started 2019 off on the best foot or maybe you did, but the motivation waned as time passed. Now is the perfect time to reevaluate and get back in the saddle!

First things first. Let’s start with defining a goal versus an activity. A goal is the desired end result. For example, you want to lose weight, increase energy, stabilize your mood, or simply feel happy. An activity is the means to achieving that goal. For example, I will run (activity) to lose the weight (goal).

Effective goals are clear and tangible whereas the activity can be flexible. If running isn’t working for you, try a different activity such as eating a more balanced diet. To ensure you have success with your goal, use the S.M.A.R.T. method to define what you want to accomplish. For example, I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of 2019 by running 3 days a week and cooking healthy meals. The more specific the better!

This will help you visualize and plan what steps you need to take to reach your goal. Breaking down the activities into small and achievable actions will make the end result less overwhelming. Take it day by day, and over the next 6 months you will be shocked by how the little things add up to something big.

Below are my top 10 tips to help you stay on track!

  • Avoid the “I will…when…” mentality. I will be happy when I lose 10 pounds. The goal is to be happy. The means to get there might not necessarily be losing weight. It might be stress at work or maybe you’re in a toxic relationship. Dig deep to truly understand what you want to achieve.
  • What is your why? While it’s important to understand what you want to achieve, it’s also important to understand why you want to achieve it. Sometimes when we explore our “why”, we realize that our “what” (the goal) might not deliver us what we are truly seeking. Your why will not only keep you honest with yourself, but also motivate you on the days that you just want to give up. Why do you want to lose weight? Do you want to feel confident and happy in your own skin? Do you want to feel confident and happy in your own skin? Your “why” will keep you persistent. Have your “why” front and center in your mind so that you keep going!
  • Schedule it. If it’s not in my calendar, it most likely won’t happen. Each week write down the activities that you are doing to get closer to your goal, and show up for yourself like you would a work commitment.
  • Make it easy for yourself. Set yourself up for success by being prepared! Going to the gym before work? Pack your bag the night before or sleep in your workout clothes if you have to. Do you want to eat a healthier diet? Meal prep, do your research before going to a restaurant, or bring a healthy dish to a party so that you know you have something there you can eat. Willpower will only get you so far so simplicity is key!
  • Prioritize. It is so easy to stay in our old routine and use time as an excuse. If you want to accomplish something you need to prioritize it. Evaluate how you spend your time and create space to work toward your goal.
  • Be resilient. Don’t let the small slip ups derail you. It’s so easy to give up after making a poor choice. How many times did you have a few chips, and then just polish off the whole bag (and then some) because you already got off track? We aren’t perfect! Just be kind to yourself and simply let the next decision you make one that will get you closer to your goal.
  • Stop comparing. Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. Everyone has their own path and their own timeline. This is your goal so stop looking outside of yourself to see what everyone else is doing!
  • Celebrate the wins! Give yourself the opportunity to look back and celebrate your progress! We live in a world that is so fast-paced and ready to conquer the next task without taking the time to look back at how far we’ve come. It’s important to feel that sense of success to keep going.
  • Believe in yourself. Be aware of your mental script. We are our biggest critics, and if we don’t think that we can achieve something then we won’t. We need to be confident in ourselves and think encouraging thoughts. Goals are a funny thing…they can inspire us and generate a feeling of excitement or they can cause us to feel less than or inadequate. It’s our perception of these goals and how we treat ourselves along the way. So be nice!
  • Last but not least, love the journey. Enjoy the process! Otherwise, what’s the point?

One of my favorite things about the health coaching program I offer is the goal setting that we do at the beginning. It isn’t often that we have the opportunity to visualize and prioritize what we want in life, how we want to feel, and what we want to experience.

If you are interested in learning more about this program contact me for a free health consultation at kmunley@balancedlifekristen.com or learn more on my website at http://www.balancedlifekristen.com.

Here’s to a great end to 2019!