Meal Prep Made Easy

I love finding ways to save time and money when it comes to eating healthy, and I’ve written a lot about that on here. Today, I’m going to put a lot of that information and a few new ideas into one post for you. Let’s get started!

Breakfast

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Egg cups– a great way to get in some veggies early in the day! Bake them at the beginning of the week.
Paleo breakfast cookies– these can be frozen and thaw well. Make enough for the whole month!
Quinoa flakes– can be cooked and portioned out. Add fruit, nuts and seeds or nut butters for variety.
Paleo blueberry muffins– make plenty and freeze extras.

Snacks

Chopped veggies- 1/2 cup is equal to 1 serving
Hard-boiled eggs
Paleo trail mix
Cookie dough snack balls
Homemade granola bars
Smoothie packs– portioned out so you can pull out of the freezer and blend

Lunch/Dinner

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Crockpot packs– prepare and freeze ahead, pull out when you need
Freezer soups
Roasted veggies- roast at the beginning of the week and portion out in containers for each day- sweet potatoes, broccoli, zucchini squash, butternut squash, bell peppers and carrots all work well
Salad mixes- the easiest way to get in a lot of nutrients! Pick a leafy green, 2 raw vegetables, a healthy fat like avocado or slivered almonds, and a dressing. Portion out 2C of greens and 1/4C of each vegetable. Add a few slices of avocado or 2 Tbsp of nuts. Portion these amounts into each container and use a smaller container for 1 serving of your dressing.
Meats- Chicken, turkey, bison and beef all freeze well. You can cook enough for weeks and portion out in your freezer. When you defrost, you can cook in with veggies and spices, or use with a crockpot meal or soup. You can freeze cooked fish as well, but it often doesn’t taste as good as freshly prepared fish.

Desserts

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Almond butter cups
Thin mint freezer fudge
Coconut macaroons
*You can freeze many desserts. Just be sure you aren’t tempted to overindulge while they’re sitting around!

Recommended Meal Prep Materials
If you’re going to be planning and prepping ahead, there are a few things that will make your life a little easier. Here’s a list to get you started.

  • Pyrex containers in 1C servings and higher. You can use larger containers for full meals.
  • Plastic baggies- snack, sandwich and freezer size. If you’re concerned about plastic, you can wrap food in parchment paper before putting in plastic.
  • A good knife for all that chopping you’ll be doing
  • Mason jars- great for storing perfect portions of soup and salad
  • Bento boxes–¬†great for portioning out meals! Use one compartment for proteins, one for carbs and one for fats. Wonderful way to get a well-rounded meal.
What do you do to help save time? Do you have a meal prep trick to share?
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Tips & Tricks for Eating Healthy When You Just Don’t Have Time To

I know that everyone I coach has a life outside of what we discuss. You may have a goal to get healthy or lose weight, but this goal likely stems from other areas of your life. Friends, family, career and personal interests all have the ability to enhance your life when you’re healthy enough to put the time and energy into them that you want to.

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For that reason, I have a few tips and tricks to help you get healthy and still save some precious time that you could be spending elsewhere (rather than in the kitchen).

1. Buy frozen
Buy frozen fruit for smoothies. They go great with the different Shakeology flavors and provide a little extra flavor and nutrition. Buy frozen veggies for quick meals. Stir fries have never been so easy! You can also buy spinach frozen for use in smoothies. Frozen broccoli, zucchini, carrots and cauliflower are all great choices. All you need is a pot of boiling water or a pan with a little oil and you’re set.

2. Portion on Sundays
Baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery and cucumbers can all be put into pre-portioned bags. Carry some hummus along with you and you’re set for snacks. Not in the mood for veggies one day? Make sure you have pre-portioned bags of nuts and seeds too! Doing this before the week starts means you have more time to do as you please during the week, without worrying about meeting your goals.

3. Pick your carbs 
If you’re following a primarily paleo plan, pick out a few carbs for the week. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash and acorn squash can all be prepared on Sunday to get you through the week. Portion them out as needed.

4. Keep it simple
If you’re looking to kick your nutrition up a notch without adding a lot of work, pick two types of leafy greens to get you through each week. It may be spinach and baby kale one week, and romaine and baby bok choy the next. Try to add one cup of greens to each meal. You can have them in breakfast omelets and lunch salads, and they make a great dinner side sauteed with some garlic and/or onions.

5. Invest in a crockpot
Turn it on when you leave the house and have a meal ready when you come home- it’s that simple. Crockpots are great for stews, roasts and tons of other recipes. They’re useful and they don’t require much work other than cleanup when you’re done.

6. Don’t be afraid of a box
As people become more health conscious we’re inundated with messages that tell us not to eat packaged foods. For the most part, this is a good rule. However, there are a few packaged items that can get you out of a slump when you’re just too busy.

Try these:
Epic bars
Justin’s almond butter squeeze packs stick to plain rather than flavored options
Rythm Superfoods kale chips
Larabars
Enjoy Life crunchy flax cereal
Amy’s Kitchen organic low sodium vegetable lentil soup
Sunshine Burger vegan burger patties
Wild Planet wild caught fish in can

7. Relax
You don’t have to make a 5-star meal in order for it to be healthy. Here’s a simple formula to follow: protein, carb, fat, vegetables. You can change this formula up every day. For example, one day you may have salmon with sweet potatoes and a side of asparagus sauteed in coconut oil. Another day you may have ground bison mixed with zucchini squash, shredded carrots, quinoa and avocado. You can add in herbs and seasonings as you like, but don’t feel pressured to follow a recipe full of obscure and expensive ingredients.

Put these tips and tricks to use the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed. Remember that in order to live a healthy lifestyle, the changes you make have to be sustainable. Start now and don’t look back!

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Natural Sugars: Too much of a good thing

Sugar is everywhere. It’s lurking in places that you wouldn’t expect to find it. Soups, sauces, dressings and even baby food contain more added sugar than you would imagine. As consumers have caught onto the danger of excess sugar consumption, it’s easier to find items that promote the use of natural sugars. This is a turn in the right direction, but it’s not without problems.

What’s the problem with natural sweeteners and sugars?
Well, nothing on the surface really. Everything from honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar, to date sugar and molasses, can be found in “healthy” versions of cakes, cookies and bars on Pinterest. Popular bloggers and authors promote the use of these sugars because they’re natural and often contain more vitamins and minerals than straight table sugar (sucrose).

The problem begins with consuming too much. Let’s say you start the paleo diet and you love to bake. Chances are, you’ll be using a lot of natural sweeteners, or a lot of fruit, namely dates, bananas and apple sauce. Are these better versions of baked goods than what you buy in a package? Kind of. However, if you’re making the assumption that you can eat more just because they contain natural sweeteners, you’re doing your body a disservice. Too much sugar of any kind is bad for the body. Additionally, when your taste buds are constantly exposed to that sweet taste, they will naturally want more. The body wants energy, and sugar is one of the fastest ways to get it.

What happens when you consume excess sugar?

Consuming excess sugar can affect everything from your weight and hormones, to immunity and energy. Your body simply cannot process too much sugar coming at it on a regular basis. But what’s too much? That’s going to depend on you. Someone who exercises intensely on a regular basis can afford to have more fruit and healthy carbohydrates in their diet than someone who has diabetes or most other chronic illnesses. Remember that if you aren’t using carbohydrates, you’re storing them as fat.

How should you manage your natural sweetener intake?
If you’re craving something sweet, start with fruit. The more you can tone down your taste buds, the more you will be satisfied with fruit over candy or cookies, regardless of what kind of sweetener they’re made with. Try to consume fruit that’s higher in fiber like apples or berries. You may consider limiting the amount of fruits that are higher in sugar, such as mangos, pineapples and banana. As a snack, pair fruit with additional protein and fiber. Try a 1/2 cup of berries with a handful of walnuts, or a banana with almond butter.

Another thing you can do is limit the amount of baking you do. Reserve cupcakes, cookies and cakes for special occasions so your body doesn’t come to expect them on a regular basis. When possible, use fruit to sweeten any treats you make. Ripe bananas, apple sauce, date puree, or even sweet potatoes and butternut squash can be used to sweeten homemade treats. The less you rely on any form of added sugar to get your sweet fix, the better off you’ll be.

Finally, pay attention to your cravings. Women may notice they crave sweet foods at certain times of the month. Why not plan ahead by having a little extra fruit on hand, or baking something you know will nourish your body and still satisfy your cravings? If you are constantly craving sugar, make sure you are eating enough calories. If you aren’t getting enough food each day, your body will let you know, and oftentimes it does so by screaming for quick energy.

What about artificial sweeteners? Are they healthy?
Artificial sweeteners are still praised by some health professionals, but I don’t recommend them for several reasons. For beginners, they are often several times sweeter than regular sugar, which means your taste buds will continue craving more and more of a sweet flavor. That is exactly what you want to avoid.

One of the biggest problems with artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame is that when your body receives the message that it’s getting something sweet, it expects calories to follow because sweeter foods are often higher in calories. What happens when the calories don’t come because you’re eating or drinking something that’s low calorie or calorie free? Your body STILL wants calories. It will remain hungry, which can throw off hunger cues, hormones and much more. Research is now showing that artificial sweeteners can actually cause diabetes.

Additionally, most artificial sweeteners are derived from corn, soy or sugar beets, which are some of the most genetically modified crops in the United States. If you’re trying to avoid GMO’s, skip the artificial sweeteners.

Make better choices
Now that you know a little more about the dangers of excess sugar consumption and artificial sweeteners, use that knowledge to help you plan ahead and avoid a moment of weakness. There’s no need to deny yourself of the occasional treat, but when you start to make healthy changes for the better, I think you’ll find that sugar becomes less and less appealing.

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