Here’s a meal plan recently put together for a client of mine interested in the idea of theme nights. While it may not provide for the spontaneity and variety that some need and want – it can be a great solution for some. If theme nights aren’t for you but you want to start a meal plan process consider following the schedule for Sunday – meal planning, shopping, and making a large quantity of protein for dinner that you can pull from for the week. Cooking more food at home can be your bedrock for better nutrition and healthy weight maintenance!
Take time during Sunday a.m. to:
-Choose Sunday evening Protein
-Wednesday night Crock-Pot Recipe
-Make shopping list for meals through Friday
|Sunday: Grill Protein (extra)w/ Side Salad, quick grain of choice (couscous, brown minute rice)|
|Monday: No-cook Taco/Burrito NightUse leftover protein, rinsed canned beans, shredded bagged lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, light sour cream, salsa, avocado, sliced black olives|
|Tuesday: Individual Pizza NightCrust: pre-cooked or fresh dough (thin crust)Sauce: Red, Barbecue, Pesto
Toppings: Shredded Mozzarella, Canadian Bacon, leftover grill protein, mushroom, sliced peppers, sliced mushrooms, red onions, diced tomatoes
Side: Bagged Salad
|Wednesday: Crock-Pot Night (start in a.m.)Recipe resource: cookinglight.com; eatingwell.com or simply google for recipes. Look for recipe that contains protein, starch, and vegetables. If no starch, have bread or brown minute rice as side. More vegetables add side salad or raw baby carrots for texture.|
|Thursday: Stir-Fry NightNeed: bag of pre-cut stir fry vegetables (fresh is better texture, but frozen available). Asian stir fry sauce of choice (teriyaki or other), Protein (lots of options already cut for stir fry, Rice (frozen brown or white jasmine rice available or go with minute rice or regular white – 15 min to cook)Method: Saute/stirfry meat on med to high heat. Empty pan. Cook vegetables. Add protein back, toss to warm, and add stir fry sauce. Serve over rice.|
|Friday: Leftovers or Baked Potato Bar NightAnything goes well on a baked potato! If not leftovers to put on then simply have canned chili on hand, frozen broccoli, cheese, mushrooms, salsa…|
|Saturday: Dine Out|
If you like cereal for breakfast or a late night snack, you’re not alone. The most popular varieties I see on food logs are Honey Bunches of Oats, Honey Nut or regular Cheerios, Special K, Chex, Raisin Bran, etc. While these don’t have a ton of sugar it’s certainly true that they’re processed and lack protein and fiber so they break down very fast in the bloodstream as sugar/glucose. All highly processed carbohydrates do that. Luckily, when we use dairy or soy milk we add some protein to the mix, but unfortunately beverages are digested quickly too. Bottom line is that any processed cereal digests quickly and can create a rise in blood sugar and for some a dopamine-induced pleasure response. And for some this can lead to an addictive response and cravings can escalate. This can certainly make it challenging to maintain or lose weight.
There are other reasons cereal can be alluring; we usually have it around and it’s easy. The crunch of cereal before it gets soggy can also be highly rewarding as we seek to chew our way out of the day’s stress.
When confronted with your next bowl of processed flakes, here are some whole food add-ins that can bring you more satiety and nutrition. You’ll likely feel fuller longer and avoid some of the physiological responses that lead to being hungry sooner or craving more. Try swapping half your bowl with the following add-ins:
If you’d like to start with a higher protein cereal, try any of the Kashi Go Lean varieties or Special K Protein Plus. (Kashi Go Lean also has added fiber.) I still think the whole food add-ins listed above are better choices as their nutrients take longer to digest and enter the bloodstream.
So, my advice is to experiment with ways to make your cereal less flaky. With half of your bowl as whole food add-ins, you’ve turned your average bowl into a better bowl.
Many know what it takes to successfully implement the nutrition and exercise strategies to lose weight. It’s a skill and is based on measurable lifestyle changes that target sustainable fat loss. When confronted with the period of Thanksgiving to the New Year, we often deprive ourselves of dietary indulgences or we throw in the towel by allowing ourselves to get out of our routines – most notably, exercise. And then we gain weight. Is this weight gain caused by our dietary choices? Unless you’re going to a holiday buffet on a daily basis I would emphatically vote no. Occasional dietary indulgences are not the reason we gain weight. We at SAC are all here to remind you that exercise is your skill set to maintaining your weight during the holidays!
Exercise is the key to weight maintenance.
As you mindfully enjoy holiday foods, push yourself to go an extra 15-30 minutes during your next workout. Look for opportunities to walk more and take the stairs when you can. It all adds up to burning off those extra calories.
For most, delaying weight loss goals to the month of January is more realistic. By allowing yourself to mindfully include the dietary holiday traditions you enjoy you’ll be that much more prepared to transition to weight loss in the New Year (if that is your goal). And, by practicing the skill of weight maintenance over the holidays you’ll be that much more equipped to maintain your weight when you’ve accomplished your weight loss goals.
Enjoy the holidays and remember to be vigilant and double-down on your exercise routine. What a way to combat holiday stress as well!
In his recent book Blue Zones, New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner explores the dietary and cultural traditions of peoples around the world that have the largest number of centenarians. The dietary similarities in these groups can be summarized fairly simply. The groups with the highest longevity globally do two things. First, they eat meat as a condiment rather than as a dietary mainstay. Second, they eat beans daily.
Here are a few easy ways to increase the amount beans in your diet:
1) Buy some Red Lentils in the bulk section of your store.
- Red Lentils cook into a lovely creamy soup in just 15 minutes. Add a bit of curry powder and throw in leftover vegetables as it simmers. You need one-part lentils to 4 parts water/stock.
2) Keep canned beans on hand. (Black, garbanzo, pinto, etc)
- Rinse them and add to fairly small, cut up, raw veggies of your choice and add a vinaigrette dressing or oil and vinegar. Add crumbled feta or any dried herbs you like. Voila! You have a salad with protein that will keep in your refrigerator for the whole week!
- Like chips and salsa? Add some rinsed black or pinto beans to your salsa before you dip your chip!
3) Frozen edamame/soy beans
- Add them to a salad or fried rice or just eat them alone. Yummy!
Don’t forget your favorite bean chili, baked beans, and hummus count toward your consumption of beans. All beans, in whatever form you enjoy them, will add protein, soluble fiber and a host of vitamins and minerals, including iron.
If you have other ideas for incorporating more beans in your diet or need help in creating a healthier meal plan for you or your family please email Kathryn at email@example.com.
Effective meal planning must encompass the nights when you need to get dinner on the table for yourself and/or your family in 15 minutes or less. If we have the right ingredients on hand we can always answer the question “What’s for dinner tonight?”
Below is a list of some of my favorite quick proteins, starches and vegetables. A healthy meal can combine all these into a well-portioned “balanced plate”: ¼ protein, ¼ starch and ½ vegetables.
Leftovers or rotisserie chicken, precooked chicken sausage (Adele’s or Trader Joes), precooked turkey kielbasa, canned and rinsed LS beans, eggs, tofu, frozen edamame, precooked veggie or salmon patties, canned tuna or salmon, frozen turkey meatballs
Frozen microwaveable rice, microwaved sweet or russet potato, frozen peas or corn, roast a bag of pre-cut squash, sweet potato or fingerling potatoes, microwaved spaghetti squash, frozen grain blends, couscous (takes 5 minutes to cook), quinoa or white rice (15 minutes to cook), whole wheat pitas/tortillas/bread
Frozen: broccoli, asparagus, pepper strips, Brussels sprouts, frozen specialty blends with or without sauce (TJ’s has a lot of interesting blends), bag of broccoli slaw (add raisins/craisins, sunflower seeds and poppy seed dressing), bag of prewashed and cut veggies (green beans, mini zucchini, cucumbers, snap peas, baby carrots, mushrooms, specialty mixes), bagged fresh lettuce: romaine, spinach, mixed greens (add shredded bagged carrot, grape tomatoes, pre-sliced mushrooms)
Next time you meal plan buy the ingredients for a quick meal as a back-up. An example would be a flavored pre-cooked Adele’s chicken sausage, a box of couscous and a new frozen vegetable blend. These ingredients will keep for weeks/months. You’ll always have a quick meal on hand and will avoid the pitfalls of dining out.
1) Enjoy the food and festivities.
This seems a given but we often berate ourselves while we could be celebrating! The more we enjoy life and create the experiences we want, the more energy we’ll have to focus on nourishing ourselves. In terms of food, pick those indulgences you really love and fore go the things that bring the calories without much enjoyment. If you have to drink or eat your way out of an event you really don’t want to go to – re-assess if it’s really worth it.
2) Hydrate well and watch the booze.
The more we drink the more our inhibitions go down. And if we lose our mindfulness and inhibitions we’ll likely not remember all the good tips you’re about to read. Give yourself a 1-2 drink maximum and hydrate in between to prevent dehydration.
3) Workout a bit more.
Exercise is the number one way to maintain your weight. As you mindfully enjoy special occasion foods push yourself the next workout to go an extra 15-30 minutes. Look for opportunities to walk more and take the stairs when you can. It all adds up to burning off those extra calories.
4) Keep up on fruits and veggies.
With plenty of fiber – you’ll have less room for other things. It’s always better to focus on what you want more of than simply avoiding things you “shouldn’t” eat. Shoot to fill half your plate(s) with fruit and vegetables.
5) Sleep at least 7 hours the night before.
If we get enough sleep we won’t be as tempted to indulge in the simple carbohydrates –sweets and bready things that are so abundant. If you’re too tired you’ll crave these things. Make your sleep a priority and you’ll be more equipped to healthful food choices.
For more information, please contact our Nutritionist, Kathryn Reed, MS, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In all my years I have yet to hear anyone in the diet or nutrition field suggest we eat fewer vegetables. We might hear it’s best to eat more of the dark green leafy kind or choose based on all the colors of the rainbow. That’s all great advice but it may be best to take a simplistic view at times and focus our efforts on just eating more of them. There are times to use sheer will when doing so (baby carrots in hummus when you really feel like chips and salsa) but will-power can only get you so far. Let’s consider new possibilities…a vegetable upgrade if you will. Below are some new and hopefully tastier ways to get more vegetables in your day.
Muffins: Look for a muffin recipe that incorporates shredded zucchini or carrot into the batter. “Morning Glory” muffin recipes are a good bet.
Egg Scramble: Throw in some diced onion, tomato, mushroom and spinach to your egg scramble.
Smoothie: Make a “green smoothie” by adding a handful of leafy greens to your normal smoothie. It won’t change the flavor just the color and texture.
Leftovers Add-Ins: Add some frozen vegetables like broccoli or brussel sprouts to your main dish leftovers in a microwavable glass container. They will defrost by the time you’re ready to microwave at work.
Raw Vegetable Dippers: Make a tuna fish salad and use fresh vegetables like baby carrots, grape tomatoes, celery and mini-peppers along with some whole grain crackers as dippers.
“Hard” Salad: Salad doesn’t have to mean lettuce. Create a hard salad by cutting your favorite raw veggies into small pieces. Cauliflower, broccoli, red onion, bell pepper, snap peas, cucumber, mushrooms, tomatoes, carrot, cabbage, a bit of avocado all dressed with your favorite dressing or oil and vinegar. Try adding some dried herbs like Italian seasoning or dill for more flavor. The crunch of a hard salad is very complimentary to any meal. It’s especially satisfying if you enjoy salty crunchy foods.
Roasted Vegetables: You can roast any vegetable. Roasting vegetables sweetens them and creates a texture that’s anything but mushy. Just cut them up in a uniform size, spread them on a baking sheet, toss them with olive oil and salt and roast them for 10-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Make sure you don’t crowd the vegetables so they don’t steam. If you’re using an outdoor grill use some metal skewers to roast them. Some clients say they hate cauliflower but when they try roasted cauliflower they love it.
For even more ideas on getting vegetables in your diet (or any other kind of healthier food), please contact our Nutritionist, Kathryn Reed, MS at email@example.com.
The only thing every person on the planet agrees on in terms of nutrition is that we need to eat more vegetables. Thankfully we’re in the summer salad season – but it takes time to prep a fresh lettuce salad and we can often get bored with the same choice.
Below is a new twist on salad – a way you can use a variety of vegetables you have on hand. As the name implies this is a salad that doesn’t get soggy because you don’t use lettuce. Since you aren’t worrying about it getting soggy you can easily make a batch of it on Sunday to pull from for an easy dinner side or packed lunch for the week. The flavor, color and texture variations on this salad are truly endless!
Marinated Hard Vegetable Salad:
Vegetables – At the base of the salad is any raw vegetable you like; the trick is to cut the vegetables in small ½ inch size pieces so that every bite has a good mix of flavor. Think carrot, broccoli, zucchini, purple or green cabbage, tomato, cucumber, onion, cauliflower, corn, radish….the list is endless. If it’s a vegetable and it doesn’t wilt in dressing it’s a good choice.
Vinaigrette dressing – Use one without additives or preservatives or simply add oil, vinegar or lemon.
Dried herbs (optional) – Sprinkle on any dried herb you like; such as Italian seasoning, cumin, oregano, dill, basil, etc.
Beans (optional) – Add any rinsed canned beans you like; such as garbanzo, black beans, great northern, etc. Adding beans provides protein and a different texture.
Crumbled cheese (optional) – If you enjoy a creamy tang add some feta or other crumbled cheese.
The longer this salad marinates the better the flavor develops. Enjoy!
For more information, please contact our Nutritionist, Kathryn Reed, MS, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Effective meal-planning must encompass the nights when things blow up and you need to get dinner on the table for yourself and/or your family in 15 minutes or less. If we have the right ingredients on hand we can always have a meal back-up plan.
Below is a list of some of my favorite 15-minute meal ingredients. I’ve separated them into Proteins, Starches and Vegetables. A healthy meal can combine all these into a well-portioned “balanced plate”: ¼ protein, ¼ starch and ½ vegetables.
Quick Proteins (1/4 of plate):
Leftovers or Rotisserie Chicken, Precooked Chicken Sausage (Adele’s or Trader Joes), Precooked Turkey Kielbasa, Canned & Rinsed LS Beans, Eggs, Tofu, Frozen Edamame, Precooked Veggie or Salmon Patties, Canned Tuna or Salmon, Frozen Turkey Meatballs
Quick Starches (1/4 of plate):
Frozen Microwaveable Rice, Microwaved Sweet or Russet Potato, Frozen Peas or Corn, Roast a bag of pre-cut Squash, Sweet Potato or Fingerling Potatoes, Microwaved Spaghetti Squash, Frozen Grain Blends, Couscous (takes 5 minutes to cook), Quinoa or White Rice (15 minutes to cook),Whole wheat pitas/tortillas/bread
Quick Vegetables (1/2 of plate):
Frozen: Broccoli, Asparagus, Pepper Strips, Brussel Sprouts, Frozen Specialty Blends with or without Sauce (Trader Joes has a lot of interesting blends), Bag of Broccoli Slaw (Add raisins/craisins, sunflower seeds and poppy seed dressing), Bag of prewashed & cut veggies (Green beans, mini zucchini, cucumbers, snap peas, baby carrots, mushrooms, specialty mixes), Bagged Fresh Lettuce: Romaine, Spinach, Mixed Greens (Add shredded bagged carrot, grape tomatoes, pre-sliced mushrooms)
Next time you meal plan – buy the ingredients for a quick meal as a back-up. An example would be a flavored pre-cooked Adell’s chicken sausage, a box of couscous and a new frozen vegetable blend. These ingredients will keep for weeks/months – and you’ll always have a quick meal on hand – and avoid the pitfalls of dining out.