Thursday, January 28, 2010

Correction on week 5 meal 4

I was going back through some numbers and realized that the chicken and brown rice casserole from week 5, meal 4 was off. Instead of splitting it into 10 servings for 250 calories it should be 5. So if you have felt a little famished after that meal...that could be why. It is double the portion of what I had before. Sorry about that.

Easy Low Fat Enchiladas-130 calories!

I decided last night as I made the low fat enchiladas for the family, that I would calculate all of the calories using the brands that I had purchased. After analyzing all of the labels and ingredients the total calories for 1 hefty sized enchilada was only 130!!! I recalculated several times to make sure. That is pretty good, in fact we had to eat two and some veggies and fruit in order to meet our goal of at least 300 calories for dinner. I compared it to other chicken enchilada meals on and the lower calorie enchiladas were around 300 and the upper end went in to the 1000 calorie range.

Here are the exact ingredients, brands and amounts that I used for the calculation.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dinner meals

I started this blog for selfish purposes. I wanted to be accountable to someone outside of my family for writing healthy meal plans so that I would stay more faithful at writing them. With that said I wrote these plans thinking that no one would REALLY use them. I have discovered, however, that there are several of you using the exact meal plans, even the dinner meals. With this in mind I am vowing to make the recipes easier to follow.

I included a difficult recipe in week 5 because I have had it requested a couple of times. It is possibly the only "healthy" Chicken Tikka Masala recipe on the planet since most are high in fat because they use whipped cream as a base. I made it last night and tried to follow the instructions that I wrote for it on week 5 meal plan. I had to laugh a couple of times because it was a little hard to follow. Hopefully it worked out ok for those of you who decided to follow the recipe and not substitute it for another family dinner meal.

I hope to change some of the formatting for the meal plan of week six to make it easier to read. From this point on I will only include meals that are easy and have few ingredients.

Good luck everyone and keep the questions coming!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Can You Still Eat Healthy and Eat Cheap?

ABSOLUTELY!!! I would not say that my meal plans are the cheapest out there but the more healthy we eat, the less we spend. For example, look at the healthiest meals on the meal plan. Grilled chicken, steamed veggies, sweet potato and cut apples or salmon, brown rice, steamed veggies and fruit. These items are pretty cheap. Barley, rice, fruits, lean meats and veggies are really pretty good priced when you consider their pre-packaged, processed, high fat or sugary counterparts!

When a person tries to eat healthy like they eat "unhealthy" by buying "healthy imitations" of junk food is when we start to run up the grocery bill.

The Ooey Gooey nachos for example. One night after a grilled chicken dinner my husband said "This is great honey, thanks for cooking healthy but I need something a little more hearty once in a while" so I looked up and found these low calorie nachos. Baked tortilla chips, fat free cheese, fat free sour cream, fat free cream cheese, low fat chili, They really seemed to hit the spot and fill the gap for a hearty meal but fat free cheeses are more expensive than the other cheese that I can buy in bulk. If you grow your own food, buy in bulk or steal from your neighbors it gets even cheaper in price. There are all sorts of ways to save (but really don't steal from your neighbors...its not nice or honest! Just seeing if you are really reading ;)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Adapting Week 5 for Young Children

Here is a good question:

"These meal plans are great but I am still trying to figure out how to work them around my children."

Here are a few ideas. I always make the menu plan and focus on my husband and I when I make it. I then write down some additional items to buy for my kids in the grocery list.

Menu adaptions:
Meal 1 shake
My kids usually don't get this one. They are still asleep when I eat it but once in a while they get a taste or even want one of their own.

Meal 2
Breakfast- Eggs, I use two pans, one for my husband and I and one for the kids, I use whole eggs for them (instead of the egg whites) and real cheese. My kids can use the extra fat. I cook our meals at the same time it isn't difficult. I give them the eggs, with ketchup, wheat toast, a banana and milk. They get the pancakes, and french toast like we do except I use a homemade syrup for them instead of the light syrup that I use for us, I also put a little sugar on their oatmeal.

Meal 3
Since my little ones have afternoon kindergarten they need to eat their "lunch" at 11:30. So the meal plan does not work for us here anyway. Instead of making them a speed meal like I do for myself I try to make them a hearty meal that will hold them over until their after school snack. A typical day is peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread, a veggie (carrots or broccoli), sliced apples, pears or oranges, and chocolate milk (grain, veggie, fruit, protein and dairy-the rule of 5 think of 5 fingers as you make their meals) I also switch to soups and other types of sandwiches on some days, but I always follow the 5 rule for their lunches.

Meal 4
Right when they get home I usually have a after school mix waiting for them. Low sugar or sugar free cereal (rice chex or multigrain cheerios) unsalted peanuts, raisins and a few m&ms and water. Or I use the rule of 5 and make it a meal.

Meal 5
Dinner with the family. They eat what we eat. I apply the rule of 5 with them even if our (my husband and I) dinner doesn't call for a fruit because of calories I will add one for the sake of our children.

Before bedtime snack
This varies according to how well they ate dinner. I feed them if they are hungry. I try to include a protein since it is more filling through the night.

Weight Training the Secret to Boosting Metabolism

Time and time again I work with women that have plateaued in their fitness. After an initial assessment, most of the time I find that women in general neglect weight training because they are afraid of bulking or want to spend all their exercise time "burning fat".

Strength training is one of the few actual scientifically proven ways to increase the body's metabolism. As we build muscle we increase the fat burning factories in our body. Who doesn't want more fat burning factories? Making our at-rest-metabolism (basal metabolic rate) higher. With a steady state cardio we do burn calories but with strength training, we build muscle which burns calories all of the time even when we are at rest!

Women have a negligent amount of testosterone compared to men and it is very difficult and nearly downright impossible to become "bulky" for most. The few that achieve this look do it through a lot of dedication, hard work and supplementation and it isn't something that accidentally happens.

A weekly work out plan that is varied in intensity, heart rate zone and strength training is best to reduce plateau.

Week 5

Here is week 5. I have had the "Chicken Tikka Masala recipe" requested several times now. I use a recipe where I have omitted the hot ingredients because I am pregnant and the kids can't eat it. I have not included it until now because it is not one of the typical, easy, 6-8 ingredient dinners that I like to put on the blog. I did not include the "Chicken Tikka Masala" dinner items in the grocery list just in case you did not want to try to make it.

I repeated the grilled chicken and salmon recipe from last week. These are both extremely healthy dinners, with the correct balance of veggies, other complex carbs and protein. Keep salmon and chicken portions to 4 ozs.

I took out the protein bars this week because we are getting tired of them and thought we would take a week off.

I found a really good, healthy thin bun for the BBQ sandwiches. Walmart carries it or at least they do in my state. It is called Earthgrains, 100% natural thin buns. Just 100 calories in each bun, which is pretty good for a bun! At first I laughed when I saw them because they looked different but they are really pretty good.

Good luck. Email me if you have any questions:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Helping Kids Adapt to Healthy Food

1- Get a fruit bowl- As simple as this sounds it can make a profound difference in what your child wants to eat. Our fruit bowl beautifully sitting in the middle of the counter in plain sight is, in my point of view, "mommy advertising". Children are greatly influenced by what they see on a regular basis and are exposed to. That is why the cereal, soda and fast food industries don't blink an eye when they spend millions or even billions on advertising to kids because they know it works! I teach a marketing class and believe me, without some type of advertising almost any product will become stagnant in the market. If a child sees a parent eating the fruit and can smell the fresh cut apple, even better! Expect to throw away some unloved fruit at first but keep trying eventually they will start to eat them!

2- Let time work- It is easy to give up after the first time of offering our kids fruits, veggies or fish if they strongly object to them but continue to give them to them and try different varieties of the same food. Your kids may not like raw carrots but they may like them with ranch, or cooked in stew or even carrot juice! I have found that my kids objected one night to a certain food then ate it a week later!

3-Cut them up- This sounds so simple but kids are much more likely to eat fruit or veggies in small portions and in thinner pieces. Veggies cut small make them much more appealing and easy to eat. As you probably have seen by now I like to make faces for my kids with cut fruit and veggies. I keep thinking that they will get tired of this but they never do. Two banana slices for eyes, raisins for pupils, a carrot nose and some type of mouth will go a long way. I can even get the neighbor kids to eat fruit and veggies this way. Make sure that the food is cut appropriate for the age of the child and is not a choking hazard.

4-Look for variety- So your kid won't eat canned peas or green beans, keep trying. It isn't a time to give up! Try fresh veggies and fruits and all types or even canned in a light syrup if they can't eat fresh. Never suppose your kids won't eat something before you try it. My husband is not a fan of tomatoes so I didn't think my kids would like cherry or grape tomatoes, They are actually a big hit. I was eating them one day and they wanted to try, now I have to grow them in the garden to try to keep up a summer supply! I also thought my kids would never like cauliflower. I put it out for dinner one night and now they request it. Don't be afraid to try different unconventional dips like A1 steak sauce, ketchup. I don't like the sugar or extra calories either but I feel like if it gets them to eat veggies than a little won't hurt as long as I am trying to reintroduce them without anything added.

5- Stop buying sugary snacks or hide them!- For some reason when you eat sugary or salty snacks you want more right? So do the kids. Not only that but your taste buds don't want anything else. If kids are eating fruit snacks first, they won't want the healthy snacks. Save the sugary and salty snacks for special occasions or not at all if you would like. If you have to have your own then hide them out of sight. Don't lie about them but keep them hidden so they don't act as a hunger trigger to what your kids want to eat!

6- Kick out the juice- Juice has a bad reputation lately and for good reason. Lots of the options out there are artificially sweetened and little of the drink is actually juice. Unless you make your own or pay attention to what is in it, water and milk are so much better for a growing child. Fruit juice can be made healthy a person just needs to be selective.
7- Find a grocery store that prides themselves in their produce- If we buy bad apples or bananas no one will eat them at home. Some grocery stores really do not care if their produce is poorly selected. I have a grocery store near where I live that has the best produce around (other than a farmers market which is wonderful too!) I have inquired why and discovered that the grocery manager really prides himself of the selection and quality of his produce. What a difference. Rarely do I see shriveled green peppers or bruised fruit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Protein shakes and bars vs real food

I have had some questions emailed about both protein shakes and bars. Thanks everyone for first of all reading the blog and second for emailing questions. I have now received the following questions from two different people

"Tell me why you use the bars for one of the meals instead of food." and "what type of protein powder do you use?"
Because there are six meals you are unable to shoot from the hip and not plan ahead, if you do that the calories would be through the roof. So predetermined meals are very important.

There are three ways to do a 6 meal plan like this:
1-Make all the meals as you go along- which I have done and it gets tiring and you feel like you are cooking the entire day.

2-Have speed meals incorporated- Which I have tried to do with these meals. Half are very fast, these include shakes and bars.

3-Cook and prepackage meals ahead-I have done this as well. This is probably the best way. I would cook everything at once and then put it in zip lock bags and then set things out the night before. It is very efficient and you can do healthier food like beans and rice, chicken salad or other yummy make a head meals. I switch back to shakes, bars and other speed meals because sometimes I get to the moment of a meal and what I have planned does not sound good to me. With the speed meals I can easily make a switch to a more appealing option.

So in short the shakes and bars are purely for convenience, the easier those meals are to make, prepare or grab the more likely I am to stick to the plan and when I have my husbands meals and my meals to have in advance they are so much easier for me. If you get a chance give the make-ahead meals a try. I try to do some type of make ahead meal every other week for variety.

I use a 100% protein whey powder of any brand. You can buy it at a health foods store but I find it is cheaper at Sams Club, Costco and Walmart. I switch between vanilla and chocolate daily so I don't get too tired of the taste of one. They also carry other flavors like cookies and cream and strawberry. I will eventually post some additional shake options. There are lots of yummy shakes to try.

Glut-amine Powder is recommended by Kristi as part of her plan because she has a workout element added. ( Some protein shakes already have it added to them so watch for that. If you are incorporating exercise daily (which is a very good idea) you may want to consider it. Glut-amine powder is supposed to assist in the rebuilding of muscle and lessen muscle soreness. 

I honestly don't know how it works or if it does. I haven't read the research to make any conclusions but I do know that when I was running 10 miles a day I would crash unless I had a recovery drink soon after the run. The crash was severe like I had the flu and I would have to lay down and suffer sometimes for an hour sometimes it seemed to last only a few minutes. When I started doing a glut-amine drink and replenished my electrolytes soon after my run I could mostly completely avoid the crash.

Protein bars are expensive (according to my standards)! I try to use coupons when possible. I get a whole bunch of coupons, I then wait for the bars to go on sale and then I buy a whole bunch at once and use the coupons doubled with the sale. They then become really cheap, even free sometimes!!! is a good site for you Utah Folks who want to keep an eye out for coupons and is more statewide.

Happy Healthy Eating!

- Susan

For my FREE clean eating meal plans please go here and enter your name and email.  You will be sent my printable pdf files with the shopping lists, bulk prep, meal plan and the recipes! 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting started with Clean Eating

The following steps apply to both nutrition and exercise.

1- Get a plan- Although I believe that in the end it is "habits" and not an actual "plan" that helps a person succeed, a plan can help a person form and change habits. Stay away from the idea to "jump start" your weight loss with a special diet that you can not maintain. Start with the hard changes but have confidence that the results will last this time because the hard changes have been made.

2- Set up an environment for success-- Set up your environment and make decisions before the moment of weakness. These meal plans helpful to prevent hunger and therefore prevent a moment of weakness. Different people are motivated by different things. 

I have never paid for a gym membership (I always get them free, that is one reason why I teach) but you can bet that if I were to pay I know I WOULD go. I am motivated by money and do not spend it frivolously. On the other hand I have seen MANY people who pay lots of money for memberships and they don't use them. 

These same people would use them however if they had a friend to go with. I have discovered that the key for me is to get other people involved. If I have a running group waiting for me or a running partner waiting outside my door, I will not fail them. That is just the type of person I am. Find what motivates you and build up your environment for success. A good example of not building an environment for success is using a fad diet, diet craze, crash diet to loose weight.

Fad diets are set up to sell, whether it is an idea, a book or weight loss products. These diet creators and enthusiasts make billions on their products and ideas each year! Fad diets all have three things in common, you loose weight fast (that gets people hooked and talking about it to their friends), the habits are not maintainable and weight gain returns with a fury after at the most a year (which people don't like to talk about). 

For the average person who would like to loose below 30 pounds a fad diet is a real bad deal. Contrary to popular belief fad diets are not horrible for the body of a morbidly obese (clinical term) person who can benefit since any weight loss at that point is beneficial even if it is gained back. The psychological effect however can be devastating! These people feel like they have done it all. And they have, they have taken shots, pills lived on relatively no food and yet they return to their former weight or an even higher weight so why try. They have tried everything but the right thing. 

It is the hard changes that set up the environment for success. Watching calories or portions, really focusing on what you eat, planning ahead, shopping at the grocery store with a list, making meals, sacrificing some taste and restraining most of the time when faced with a goody. It does take work and effort.

If you are wondering if a diet is a fad diet or not here are some ways to tell:

Ten Signs of a "Fad" Diet:

1. Promises a large or fast weight loss (more than one to two pounds per week)
2. Does not include suggestions to consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian
3. Encourages you to eliminate food groups (such as grains) or eat from a limited selection of foods
4. Offers rigid menus that don't consider your likes, dislikes and lifestyles
5. Neglects active living or lifestyle changes
6. Provides far fewer calories than what is needed for an energized, healthy lifestyle
7. Contradicts what most trusted health professionals say
8. Depends on special products, supplements or treatments
9. Has miraculous claims
10. Relies on testimonials and anecdotes rather than scientific evidence

Here is a website that I feel is fair and weighs both the pros and cons of certain diets.

3- One foot in front of the other- Maintenance at a higher level is key here. We need to make adjustments to whatever we are doing so that we can maintain the eating pattern without giving up too easily but yet being reasonable. I would love to go all soy, no sodium or sugar and shop entirely with coupons but I just can't maintain any of those things at this time in my life. I will keep trying but I am in it for the long haul, just like a marathon, I can't full out sprint I have to find a pace I can maintain for a long time. Balance is the key within reason.

Just some ramblings :) Happy Healthy Eating!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Free days

I am not advocating free days but I am currently doing them. Plans such as Body for Life/Eating for Life and a few others incorporate them. My opinion is that it depends on a persons personality. I have heard people say that having a free day was the only thing in the week that would keep them going. I have also heard them criticized because people can consume large amounts of calories all at once, or they declare instantaneous free days when ever they get into a situation where they are faced with a goody.

I am finding that they work for me but only when I have a friend on board with me. My good friend Alisha was the inspiration behind me doing free days. I was going to cut out the chocolate completely. I am a chocoholic. (Seriously. I don't know if there is anyone on the face of the earth as bad as I am.) I have found success in the past with treating my chocolate as an addiction and going off of it completely for sometimes years at a time. Once I am off it for around two weeks the cravings seem to stop and I can carry on. My friend suggested free days (which I have tried before). The idea that I am implementing now is that my 6 meals stay the same on those days and I stick to my meal plan but I can have a treat too. I want to find something that I can do for the rest of my life.

At the end of the month Alisha and I have a lunch date. If I mess up throughout the month I buy her lunch. If she messes up she buys mine. If neither of us mess up than we buy our own. It has been great. It is the right motivation for me. For some reason if I answer to someone (besides my husband) than I have success.

I started teaching aerobics classes for this reason as well. I wanted to set up my exercise environment for success. If I have a running partner outside my door in the morning or an aerobics class waiting for me than I do it. That is something I can set up ahead of time so that when the early morning comes and the alarm goes off, I will get up and not sleep in.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Week 4 is here

Here is week 4.

Just a word of caution. If you are doing the 6 meals a day make sure you are staying around 250 calories per meal as well as including a healthy carb and a protein! That will carry your hunger into the next time period for eating. It is A LOT of food and if you aren't counting calories you might find you are not reaching your weight loss goals like you desire.

So don't discount the fat free and lower calorie options. If you do, you might want to cut back to fewer meals with even lighter snacks in between. I know this system won't work for everyone but I would hope for the benefits some will give it a full hearted try.

I included the dinners on the shopping list this time. I hope it doesn't mess anyone up. I would prefer that you did your own dinners and try to make them healthy but I got tired of making two shopping lists so here it is. It will help the few of you that want to try the dinners that we are using.

Cooking with brown rice

We don't eat white bread in our home. I know, I know. It sounds a little extreme and maybe it is but when I started counting calories I was horrified at the difference it made!. When I eat out (which now isn't often), I do eat my share of bread sticks and yummy rolls but this is the exception and not the norm.

I have also stopped using white rice (well mostly). We now use brown rice. The first few times I used brown rice I could hardly stand it. I had gone from a fluffy, tasty, palatable white rice to a chewy unsatisfying brown. Seeing the plain nutritional facts, however, I was unwilling to give up! I turned to facebook, and asked my great friends what to do about the problem. One response out of the many came back to my rescue. You are supposed to soak brown rice!!! Did you know that? No body told me and it wasn't on the package. Soaking it for more than 8 hours makes it soft and actually increases its nutritional value by helping the bran layer on the outside to release enzymes. It still isn't the same as white rice but the difference after the soaking is slight and completely worth the health benefits! My kids didn't even notice the difference, which says ALOT!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Healthy Easy Microwave Popcorn

Here is something kind of exciting. You don't need a popcorn popper to have healthy popcorn! You can put a 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in a small, brown paper lunch bag folded over at the top and cook it in the microwave on the popcorn setting.

If you don't have a popcorn setting you wait until there are two seconds between pops and memorize how long that took for next time. It is super easy with no butter or salt. I personally think it is still pretty tasty but I don't like the butter and salt on it anyway.

The bags can actually be reused if you are into that sort of thing or you can buy them for pennies at the grocery store. I think this is the secret that microwave popcorn makers have been hiding from us for years!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Rotation System of Meal planning

Numerous studies support the benefits of eating regular, frequent, healthy meals. Most of us know that six meals a day is more beneficial than a traditional 3 meal a day plan. It is not only about what you eat but how you eat that plays a role in metabolism and energy levels. 

How to do it, however, is another issue. This rotational system makes it easy, cheap, and possible. (If you want to skip the history of the plan you can scroll down and see a simple table below of how it works)

I was converted to meal planning early on in my marriage (ironically enough) while living in the jungles of Africa. My husband and I were on a humanitarian aid project for several months in Kenya. We lived with another newly married couple and we had to make one trip to the store together every few weeks. I figured we needed to make a plan if we were going to survive. 

The other couple (who I love dearly) lacked some planning skills. We would both go and buy our groceries then make them last as long as possible. They would be out of food by the end of the week if not after just a few days. I saw how a plan made our food go further, last longer and saved us a difference of what would be equivalent to $100 US dollars a trip.

When I first started trying to eat 6 meals a day I did everything wrong. Since I already was a planner I would sit down and write a plan for well, 6 meals a day. They were 6 different meals each day, throughout the week. If you do the math that adds up to be 42 different meals. 

I found that we were wasting a lot of food. I got frustrated and overloaded. Those plans were too complicated. In the end I would have around 42 meals to buy, make and eat. I got frustrated with the 6 meals a day and stopped doing it but soon I found that I was still snacking and again wasting money.

I then read some research about how it is beneficial to repeat 6 meals daily for a week. I tried a meal plan that incorporated that principle. While my husband thrived on this plan (he can eat the same meals every day) I found that I often became nauseous when I thought about eating the same food again. I felt great physically, but I couldn't mentally bring myself to eat the same items over and over again. I needed variety.

That is where the rotation system comes in. It is a meal plan made for a week, and the week can even be repeated (making it a two week plan). You have six meals a day but three of these meals can be rotated with other meal options. Meal options within the same rotation should have approximately the same amount of calories. 

I originally had 3 meals a day that were repeated daily and did not vary, then incorporated 3 other meals in between that had a rotation. This worked well! Extremely well. I found that I could stick with this and feel great too. I didn't have to figure out calories for 42 different meals I could just do it on a handful of meals.

Here is the basic system:
meal 1 same
meal 2 rotate 3 meals options with approximately same calories
meal 3 same
meal 4 rotate 3 meals options with approximately same calories
meal 5 same
meal 6 change up each night

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The benefits

It is easy -Although it looks a little complicated at first glance it is a simple way to do things.
Saves money- compared to a plan that has several different meals a week. You buy items more in bulk and you are able to use them longer. And since the week plan can expand to two weeks you can do a two week shopping trip and stay out of the store which as anyone one knows that saves money!

It helps to boost metabolism- This system stays with the idea that if you eat the same amount of calories at the same time each day your body knows what to anticipate and actually plans for the calories making your metabolism more efficient.

Variety- It also has enough variety to make things interesting but a pattern to keep things less complicated.

I am not selling this system. It really is a work in progress and will continue to be. I have also stopped taking new clients for some time now with my pregnancy. My hope is that someone reads through this, tries their own version of my ideas and that their family eats a little better because of it. Good luck everyone!

- Susan

For my free clean eating meal plans go here and enter your name and email. The printable pdfs come with shopping lists, bulk prep, the meal plan and recipes. Remember you CAN do this!

Kids snack

Just wanted to share a snack that two of my kids enjoyed today. The other didn't get into it as much. It is a twist on a treat you have probably had in the past.

A strawberry yogurt for dip and fruit like bananas and apples to dip in it. The twist is to put some different, additional toppings on the plate. For example I have a low fat granola, the boys would dip the fruit in the yogurt then roll it in the granola to make their own creation.

Smashed gram crackers, and sprinkles of any type were another option that came to mind. Nothing new but they had fun.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I don't have time for 6 meals a day!!!

When I tell people that I do 6 meals a day there is often a look that I recognize as "I would never be able to do that". I sit down with clients who claim that they wouldn't be able to do 6 meals because they work full time, have too busy of a schedule or just don't have the discipline. I then have them keep a food journal for a few days asking them to eat as they would normally. 

We discover that 7 times out of 10 they are ALREADY eating 6-7 times a day. What they are eating however are chips, candy bars, fries, juice, sodas, granola bars, cereal or other things that are not ideal. Wouldn't it be better to plan a little and eat great things for your body and consume as much or even more than normal but less calories? To have more energy and some great habits that will last a lifetime!

There are people who consume 3 meals or less a day but what I find with them is that they consume a lot of calories all at once with large spaces in between which according to some research messes with metabolism

There are three types of meals in these plans.

Grab meals- these take little work and can be ready in less than 3 minutes. Nuts and fruit for example or shakes.

Make and Grab meals-
These do take some initial preparation. Like the protein pancakes and casserole for example. You make them ahead and then they become grab meals for the rest of the week.

Make and eat meals- These take preparation. If we are going to eat healthy we need to learn how to make healthy food because the prepackaging industry and the fast food industry are not doing it for us. Still I try to select meals that are easy, contain only a few ingredients and are not all that time consuming.

I was forced into the 6 meals a day when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes my first pregnancy. I was extremely diabetic to the point where I needed to take medication. I asked my doctor however if I could try to work on my diet for the first week or so to see if I could get my blood sugar under control. It was difficult those first few weeks as I tried to figure things out and as I had to poke my finger ever couple of hours. 

I stayed with it however and was able to manage my blood sugar. It was interesting to see how little things would influence my levels to a great degree. I found it difficult to only eat half of what I was used to in one sitting and I found it difficult to have to remember to eat only 2 hours later but my body quickly adapted and I found great rewards in the process. 

I found that I didn't have to eat until my body said it was "full" that if I stopped before that point I was much better off. I found that I would get a "buzz" from eating healthy foods for an extended period of time, something that I never dreamed would or could happen.

Some diet plans call for 5 meals a day. If this works better for you then do it! I believe if you follow the biggest looser they do 5 meals a day. The morning pre-workout shake is an easy one to omit especially if your lifestyle doesn't accommodate and early morning workout.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

More Week 3 meal tips

Chicken Casserole- Make sure to use whole wheat spiral pasta. Don't' over cook the pasta when boiling. Cook the mixture all at once and split into 9 servings (290 cal each) and store in the fridge. A little salt will make it taste better. It is a good quick meal for variety.

Protein pancakes- I times the recipe by 4 and cook several at a time. I then freeze them in groups of 2-3 medium pancakes (this is the serving size) When we want them in the morning we pop them in the toaster and they taste as good as fresh. Depending on your blender and the amount of moisture in your cottage cheese you may have to add 2-3 tbs of water to the mixture to thin it out a little bit.

Apple pie breakfast- This is a recipe. I pull recipes from websites and books like the Biggest Looser, Eating for Life, the American Heart Association etc. so I often get confused but try to still site them. I wanted to make sure to give her credit for this fabulous breakfast.

I buy my chicken in bulk for 1.25 a pound at the local grocery store (which is great by the way). I then slowly cook it in the crock pot with some chicken bullion seasoning. I then freeze it in 3 oz servings bags. If I double bag it or use freezer bags it stays fresh and tastes great to put on salads or use in casseroles. I just microwave it for 1 minute and it is ready to go.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Feeding the metabolism

Meal tips
You may notice that I keep repeating the same morning shake. I have tried other shakes and I find that this is the most palatable for me especially throughout my pregnancy. I tried to get creative with them before and it wasn't working for me. I do add 6 small strawberries on occasion instead of the banana and I switch between the vanilla and the chocolate protein.

I repeat the meals that work the best for me and my husband. I look at food labels and try to find the lowest caloric intake. It is surprising how many brands seem so similar but are very different on calories.

My goals for my meal plans are: simple, maintainable, easy and cheap.

Protein bars are probably the most expensive item. I tried to make homemade and even have the recipe for it on a former post but it just wasn't working for me. I am too picky. Coupons are great for these.

Caloric needs.
The meals plans so far are between 1600-1800 calories (that is without adding the milk to meals 2 and 4). Although he is a big guy, I keep my husbands calories between 1700-1800. I try to keep my caloric intake at around 2000-2200 calories. This is because I am pregnant (an extra 300 calories a day) and still exercise 1-2 hours daily, my caloric needs are high and I am not interested as a pregnant person in loosing weight as that can be harmful to the babies brain development. My husband would like to lose 2 pounds a week (the max for a healthy maintainable loss).

You can go onto and click on the dailyplate link or click on my own chart below in order to assess your caloric needs. It has a great tool on there. I have waited for years for a program like this. It will help you asses your needs. You can even keep a food journal on it. Those who keep food journals are 80-90% more likely to lose weight than those who do not. I only do it for a week or so at a time when I need a kick in the pants. Since I use this rotation system there is really no need to do it because I know how much I am consuming. I have left calories off of somethings in the meal plan because depending on brands the calories will vary.

I try to keep the first 5 meals around 250-300 calories then the dinner meal has a little more space. I try to pay attention to portion sizes as well.

Beware of too low of calories!
A person should never drop below 1,200 calories a day. At that point muscle is used instead of additional fuel sources to maintain the bodies processes. Thanks to the survival of our ancestors in droughts and famine, the body goes into starvation mode and holds on for the long haul. Since fat is the bodies most valuable resource (it contains 9 calories of energy compared to the 4 in others) it becomes stingy with it's fat and taps into other resources like muscle when it sees a starvation threat.

Muscle is heavier than fat, as most of us know, and it looks like a person is losing a lot of weight on the scale but really they will not have a maintainable loss. When the body begins to consume again (the fad diet is over) the starvation mode does not end it kicks into it's second phase. The body begins to hoard calories now and stores as much as it can as fat, when it can. That is one reason why after an affair with a fad diet most people gain back more than what they lost and it seems more difficult the next time they try to lose it. Our bodies are amazing machines! They adapt well.

The best way to lose fat is to convince your body that you are going to maintain a lifestyle in which it does not need it. By feeding your metabolism and eating regular, healthy meals you are having a conversation with it convincing it that it can use the fat because more food will be on it's way. By exercising daily at a fat burning level (and higher on other days) you are also convincing the body that you need the muscle to continue the bodies processes not the fat.

Since muscle takes up less space than fat, as you lose fat and gain muscle the "weight loss appearance" multiplies! 2 pounds of weight lose looks like 4 in appearance, and 5 looks like 10!

Focus on the habits not the scale.
I personally like to focus on habits and not pounds. I have my own body fat analysis machine at home (actually I have four) and I don't pay attention to that much anymore either. Once I focus on the habits the weight falls off. I usually give myself about three months between measurements and the difference is joyful. Since I gain an average of 50 pounds each pregnancy (I know "what the heck?") I have had plenty of opportunities to lose (after the pregnancy of course).

One of my clients made a comment several months ago about me not knowing what it was like to be "fat". (Sorry for the use of such an awful word.) I laughed out loud and had her repeat it to see if I heard her right. Then I realized that she was serious. I guess sometimes we look at people and suppose that is the way they are naturally. Like Jillian Michaels. Did you know she has battled weight in the past? Which is probably what led her to her current occupation. I gain weight easily and quickly if I am not careful.

A system for establishing habit maintenance.
When I am trying to establish a new habit I have a system. First there are carrots, next there are habits and then there is maintenance. I use carrots when I am trying to establish habits. Carrots are rewards. I am not motivated by buying myself something as a reward. I am motivated however by making bets with friends (I must have a competitive nature, or a people pleaser tendency I am not sure which it is).

Right now I am doing a bet/reward system with a friend. We plan a dinner out at the end of each month. If I mess up and eat what I am not supposed to I buy her dinner and she does the same for me. If we both succeed we buy our own. It seems to be working well. When I sit down with clients I often try to find out what they are motivated by. Find out what would motivate you, set it in place so you will be most likely to succeed.

Thanks for reading.

Week 3

Here is week #3 with a grocery list for everything but the dinner meals. I did put our dinner meals on this time but I haven't analyzed the calories on all of them.

I believe dinner meals are extremely important to family life. Research shows that dinners eaten together as a family help to prevent drug use and other risky behavior and increase the academic success of children. Dinner meals should be healthy but enjoyable with a large serving of veggies!

Again good luck make them your own! If you do follow the 6 meal a day plan. Try not to skip meals, when you eat is almost as important to your metabolism as what you eat.

Week 3 and 4 meal plan!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Feeding Kids

Once in a while I will take pictures of our kids food creations. I made this one but I will also let them make their own. This pictured meal has basically the rule of 5 explained below.

I'm soon to have 4 kids under the age of 5! What an adventure it will be. I do feed my kids what I eat but I find they need more creativity at times!

The Rule of 5 for Kids

I follow the rule of 5 (taught to me by a neighbor):
1 grain, 1 veggie, 1 fruit, 1 protein and water (I prefer milk for my kids). For the 3 regular meals and a healthy carb and protein for the snack meals. I keep portions small to fit everything in. This has it's advantages too. Instead of a large serving of veggies that they don't want to even start they will have one or two broccoli flowers that they realize they can at least try and finish.

Making Healthy Foods More Attractive
I also throw in a creative flare and make faces with the items that I have for them. Sounds time consuming? Not really. I have found that it takes as much time to make a face with it as it does to just put it on the plate normally. If they need encouragement to eat a food I will lower my voice and say "No please don't eat my carrot nose!". They will usually proceed to giggle and eat it while I say "Oh no! my nose! Did you just eat my nose?" I know it sounds a little gruesome but it works! And it still works after a few years of doing it. I'm not sure how this will hold over with older kids (since mine are still so little) but once in a while I do it for my husband (just the face part not the voice) and when he thinks I am not looking, I catch a smile.

The picture above has whole wheat bread (grain), sliced apple eyes(fruit), raisins for the mouth (fruit), carrot nose (veggie), and cheese hair (protein). And although it is not pictured I do try to incorporate green veggies as much as possible. You will notice it doesn't have to be a traditional sandwich, all the elements are there.

I stay away from healthy extremes such as no microwaves, no sugars, no lactose, all organic etc. Those things are too difficult for me at this time. I also don't worry as much about which veggies and fruits are best. Although mangos, carrots and peas have more sugars I don't worry about that for my kids. Just for me. I am concerned more about maintenance and long term eating habits. We have hot dogs once in great while and you can even find some happy meal toys in our toy collection. But as a rule we try to eat healthy meals the majority of the time and save those goodies for the exception not the norm. Once a month is plenty for fast food.

Use After School Snacks as an Opportunity- I also feed them right when they walk in the door from school and use this famished moment as an opportunity to eat healthy food. They are willing to eat about anything that I have ready for them when they walk in. At that point and it might as well be something good.

Although I try to stay away from dips for myself, like ranch dressing, I use a light dressing with my kids. I want them to try the veggies raw first but then if that doesn't work dips are great. And great for variety. If you family isn't on a fast food diet nor high fat diet, a little fat is good and essential, it makes skin soft, aids brain development, helps with hormone distribution and vitamin absorption.

Happy Family Eating!


I want to recommend a website: This girl is pretty amazing! Her program does 12 weeks of meal plans and workouts. She used to be an instructor at a gym where I head their aerobics program. When I brought her on I had no idea what a gold mine she was! She is a certified nurse, personal trainer and a chef. Take those credentials and years of experience and cram them in together and you get a what I call a "super trainer". Her program gets results and it takes a person back to the basics of both nutrition and exercise. With a primary focus on nutrition and of course meal planning and strength training. Although I have had most of the ideas that I focus on for sometime, she confirmed them all and added to my knowledge of what I should focus on first.

I did her program for a while and I loved it but found that I needed to adjust it for my family and my needs. My husband loved it even more than I did.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Week three on the way!

Thanks everyone for the emails, the comments on the blog and for the people who have talked to me. I really thought no one was reading this so I have been a little bit lazy with publishing meals plans.

Next week I will sharpen things up and have a new meal plan for week 3. As you read the meal plans and actually do it you may notice that some can be repeated for two weeks (like week 1). Because of the rotation on some of the meals it is easy to repeat them without getting too tired of the meals. Week 2 is almost a repeat of week one but with a few changes. If you would like more dinner ideas I can do those as well.

Now on to my post today. I wanted to share a few quick tips on how I pull together a "Fit Family Meal."

Successful dinners in my family include a protein (grilled chicken or salmon), a steamed or oven roasted veggie (peas and carrots are higher in sugar so be careful with those) a grain or another type of complex carbohydrate like a sweet potato.

Working on the mental part of eating is important for me too. Instead of dreaming about a yummy dessert. I try to switch my thinking to strawberries or mangoes. Those are still a treat but a little more healthy. Trying to use lime juice or lemon juice instead of salad dressings is also a good way to reduce the grease and guck.

Also it is important to have a regular grocery shopping day. Set time aside for this. I save the most money when I do a two week shopping trip but I am finding that once a week is also beneficial and more practical for me right now. The more I stay out of the store, the less junk I buy and the less money I spend.

If we are to do priorities here I would say a good eating plan is more important than a good exercise plan. The eating is where it is at for weight loss and the exercise is vital for health, weight maintenance and for those who want the extra edge to looking great!

For my free printable pdfs enter your name and email below or go here.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2 weeks of meals

Here are two weeks worth of meals. The focus is not on the dinner meals for these but on the daily meals. You can choose 7 dinner meals (the 7:00) for your family that fit your needs but try to make them healthy. I believe that it is important to start with the daily eating and not just one meal. As you can tell by reading the meals they are a work in process and formed to my eating preferences. Good luck! Make them your own!

70-80% of how you look and feel is what you eat!

I am completely convinced that 70-80% of how you look and how you feel is what you eat. Drats!!! The exercise part is so easy for me now, but the eating makes me dig down deep and try to change how I think, shop, meal plan and manage my time; And it even affects my social activities. Grrrrr! It sounds so tough but we try and we fail and we try and we fail until one day it becomes who we are and the majority of effort and mystery is gone. And we are so grateful for the new life that we live.

So many of us have forgotten how to eat, how to plan and subsequently how to really live. We don't remember what it was like to wake up refreshed and to have continued energy throughout the day. We claim that we eat well but deep down we know that we really just eat better than the people we see at McDonalds.

I was raised on junk food. Calories, sodium, fat, simple carbohydrates were never even thought of. I grew up having Pepsi in my bottle and meals, if planned at all, were always centered around what "sounded good" and was the most quick to make. No one is to blame for this. I had plenty of advantages in other areas and I was raised with love. I could have not been luckier with my upbringing but I have had an uphill battle to face with learning to eat the way I was intended.

In college I decided to quit my Pepsi habit. It had been a part of my life for so long. I was feeling guilty about the caffeine. The process of quitting was extremely difficult. I remember the headaches and the cravings. But boy am I glad. I am glad I didn't switch to diet of try to focus on caffeine free. I gave it all up and though I had a rough few months I have had years of freedom, without the cravings, without the need.

So were does the statistic of 70-80% come from? I believe it is made up. I have heard it from an amazing personal trainer friend and tried to find even a weak study to support it but I came up empty handed. So why should I support it?

In my own life I have put it to the test. As a competitive marathoner and aerobics instructor who has exercised 2-4 hours a day at times. I see that eating has the major impact upon weight management. I tried to deny it for years saying that I ran or exercised so that I could eat how I wanted. I now know, however, that what it takes me an hour to burn in calories I can eat in 15 minutes (no joke) and most people do. The last two months I have been eating mostly directed by what I wanted and not what was good for me and blaming it on my pregnancy. Our bodies know what is good for us but our taste buds do not. What a waste of time. You never eat a chocolate bar than are grateful you did a week or even a day later. But you are when you eat well.

Now I am ready to begin again to feel good again. Eating well always pays off!
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