Restaurant and Party Tips

The month of February for me includes several close family members birthdays so it got me thinking about eating out and attending parties. I thought these tips might be helpful for you guys as well!

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  1. Check the menu in advance. Many restaurants now list their menus, including ingredients and nutrition information, online. Having a good idea of what you want before you go makes things less stressful. Of course, you might not be able to get an advance peak at the menu for a party, especially if its pot luck but if you know the  host very well you could ask a few strategic questions.
  2. If you are attending a pot luck party, make sure your contribution is something that fits with your nutrition plan and something you like. Then you know there will be at lease one thing for you!
  3. Think about your drinks. Certainly indulge in a good glass of wine or a fancy drink if its a celebration but make sure you drink some water too. You want to be able to enjoy the great food so don’t fill up on liquid calories.
  4. Get your veggies. Start your restaurant meal with a salad and if you can choose the sides for your meal, make sure to pick a vegetable, and no, french fries don’t count! If you’re at a party, hit the vegetable tray first.
  5. Enjoy yourself! This is the most important tip. There are lots of additional little tips I could tell you, like…dressing on the side, have the server remove the bread, packs doggie bag right away, blah, blah, blah…but honestly, if you’re at a party or out to dinner, just relax and enjoy yourself. One meal is not going to make or break your overall fitness plan. One caveat: If you eat out A LOT then don’t celebrate every time!

Happy Exercising!

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5 Steps to a Plant Based Diet

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Step 1: Setting Yourself Up for Change.

Changing your habits isn’t about deprivation or will power or punishing yourself. It’s about having a plan. The first step to a plant-based diet is to figure out your “why”. What are your reasons for wanting to eat a plant-based diet? Health reasons? Environmental reasons? Ethical reasons? A combination? Whatever your reasons are, they will help shape your journey. Having an idea of your end-goal can also help. Your goals could change along the journey but knowing if you intend to go fully plant-based or just reduce the amount of animal products you consume each week can help you plan.

Your first step is to answer these questions for yourself. Write down your answers if that helps but give them some serious thought.

1. Why have you decided to adopt a plant based diet? What do you hope you will gain from it?
2. Is everyone in your household on board? It’s ok if they’re not but it will make a difference in how you approach your journey. (I’m the only vegetarian in my house of 5 but we make it work!)
3. What is your end-goal? To be fully plant-based, meaning you plan to eliminate all animal products including eggs and dairy? To eliminate red meat only? To incorporate more plant-based foods into your existing diet? Some combination of these?

This step may be easy for you or require a lot of thought but don’t skip it.

Step 2. Pay Attention.

Be mindful of what you put in your mouth. Don’t worry about changing anything at this point. Just be aware. Keeping a food journal can be helpful but is not necessary. When we eat mindlessly, we tend to eat whatever is easy, quick and right in front of us. Often, we’re not even aware of how many animal products we consume in a day and how little fruits and vegetables we get. For this step, practice being purposefully mindful of everything you eat for the next two weeks. This behavior will likely result in changes to your diet naturally and that’s ok. Just paying attention often results in positive change.

Step 3. Your Surroundings.

Create the right environment. While I don’t advocate being wasteful and throwing out food, getting rid of stuff in your kitchen that doesn’t align with your new plan can be helpful. Donate it or make a plan to use it up and start fresh with your next shopping trip.

Being prepared when you’re out and about is key to supporting your plant-based diet. Everybody is busy and on the go. I get it. Eating out or grabbing food on the run can’t be helped sometimes, but isn’t a problem if you’re prepared. More and more, restaurants are offering vegetarian and vegan options. For this step, investigate places in your area that offer plant-based options you might be interested in. If you have a usual lunch spot or favorite take-out place then check the menu for options that fit your needs BEFORE your next trip. When you’re in a hurry and starving is not the time to try to find new menu choices. Vegdining.com is a great resource to find plant-based-friendly restaurants.

Step 4. Make The Switch.

You might be the type of person that can jump in with both feet and make a total and complete switch all at once. But for most of us, tackling it in stages works better. For example, phase out red meat over a period of weeks, then pork and poultry, then seafood. Or instead of focusing on eliminating, focus on adding. Bring in one new vegetable a week. Take your time, this isn’t a sprint and going slowly allows you time to adjust. Use this opportunity to be creative. Enjoy your time exploring the produce department! Find new recipes to try. Forks Over Knives and Tasty Vegetarian are good sources for meal ideas and recipes. And Pinterest can be your new best friend!

Step 5. Adding and Subtracting.

When making your food choices, think fresh, whole food. Keep it simple and focus on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Rethink what a “meal” can look like. We’re so used to a meal centered around a piece of meat that we often think its not a real meal if we don’t have meat. If you choose to use fake “meats” and “cheeses” try to phase them out over time. They’re fine for transitioning but you’re simply swapping animal products for processed foods.

For Step 5, choose one item to add/eliminate and work on that for 2 weeks. For example, if you want to reduce or eliminate red meat, work on finding alternative recipes or meal ideas for red meat. Don’t worry about chicken, fish or dairy for now.

If you prefer to focus on adding rather than taking away, find 2 ways to add a plant-based food to your week. Perhaps oatmeal for breakfast instead of sugared cereal. Or your favorite fruit with lunch. Practice a new way to prepare a vegetable for dinner.

Continue slowly adding and eliminating foods over weeks or months. This will be a fun journey so enjoy it and take your time!

Bonus Step: Your Community.

Make connections and find resources. Finding like-minded people can be so helpful on your journey. Being able to ask questions, get advice and share recipes and resources is invaluable. Online groups and vegetarian websites, such as, veggieboards.com and happycow.net are excellent resources.

 

Happy Exercising! And Eating!!!

What the Hell is a Flexitarian??

Me…apparently.
A flexitarian is someone who consumes a mostly planted-based diet but occasionally eats meat, poultry and/or seafood.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been pretty conscious of what I put in my mouth. I don’t always make good choices but I’m at least conscious of it! After I was diagnosed with cancer I redoubled my efforts to eat whole, clean foods and make a hard push towards a primarily planted based diet. I started by eliminating red meat. This wasn’t a stretch for me as I rarely ate red meat to begin with because I just don’t like it! 

I don’t have a nutrition degree but I’ve done an extensive amount of nutritional research and I feel that cutting out red meat and reducing animal products in my diet in general has dramatically improved my health. 
I then started to cut down on the amount of chicken I eat. At this point, I eat chicken or seafood just a few times a month. I also still eat eggs and dairy, for now. I’ve never felt deprived or like I’m missing out on anything. And, although close friends and family know my eating habits, I refuse to expect anyone to accommodate me. When I eat at someone’s home, I just eat extra of the side dishes!

As a fitness coach, I don’t advise my clients to follow a prescribed diet plan or program (unless there’s a clinical need for it) like Atkins or paleo or pescatarian or whatever. I know there are people who have had success with these kinds of things but generally speaking, they’re not sustainable long term and the “label” of being a certain kind of eater is very restrictive. I have friends and acquaintances who “can’t” eat certain foods because they’re on a diet program that doesn’t “allow” them. These kinds of programs are baffling to me! Sure, I choose to not eat certain things but I feel that that’s my personal choice. I’m not being TOLD that I CAN’T. I don’t know, maybe that’s just me!

Which brings me back to what a flexitarian is! I didn’t even know that was a thing until I started researching plant-based recipes. However, the description is perfect…”flexible eater.” That makes sense to me and is a label I can live with!

Happy Exercising!

Detox Diets…

Detoxing cleanses and diets seem to be the latest health trend. People use them to lose weight or to attempt to jumpstart a healthier lifestyle or because they have a belief that their body can’t naturally get rid of toxins on its own. Not true, by the way! If you’re feeling sluggish and unhealthy it’s more likely because of what you’re putting into your body rather than your body’s inability to get bad stuff out.

Detoxes come in a variety of forms. Some have you drink only juices, some allow certain foods and some “require” supplements or proprietary products from the company promoting the cleanse. You may see weight loss with a detox diet simply because you’re taking in so few calories not because this program is so healthy. And you will likely gain the weight back when you’re done with the diet. The detox will leave you feeling weak and depleted. You could experience headaches, nausea, muscle aches or cramps and fatigue. Does any of that sound healthy to you?!

The human body is naturally equipped to handle toxins if you fuel it properly. The very best “detox diet” you can perform is to eat clean, healthy, whole food. Lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and minimally processed foods. These kinds of foods will help your body run efficiently and ultimately get you the results you want in a healthier and more sustainable way.

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Here’s a sample of meals for a day just to get you started. I’m not vegetarian but I don’t eat red meat and I eat chicken and fish only occasionally so this sample day may not be right for everyone. But it gives you an idea. I usually have 2 cups of coffee in the morning and drink water the rest of the day.

Breakfast
Cottage cheese with blueberries and roasted pumpkin seeds
Fruit smoothie made with strawberries, pineapple, spinach, oats, chia seeds

Morning Snack
Baby carrots and hummus

Lunch
Spicy black bean burger
Apple
Almonds or peanuts

Afternoon Snack
Banana

Dinner
Vegetable stew
Whole grain bread

Let me know what kinds of healthy, whole foods you enjoy. I’m always looking for new ideas.

 

Happy Exercising!

Salad vs. Veggie Sticks

We eat pretty healthy in my house. 80% of my personal diet is plant-based and my kids understand the importance of a healthy diet and appreciate how they feel when they eat well. But, kids will be kids and they fight me on the veggie front a lot. Shocking, I know. They love fruit so getting enough of that is not a problem but those leafy greens and other colorful veggies are a problem.

Up until about 6 months ago, I made salads often to go with our dinner. What’s better than raw, whole foods, right? Especially in the summer. My husband doesn’t like tomatoes, onions or peppers so that limited what I could put in the salad and I had to get creative. Sometimes, I made one big salad in a bowl and sometimes I made a salad bar so hubby and kids could make their own. Everyone would eat it but I usually had to remind them and there was always leftovers.

I figure I spent a good 20 minutes prepping a salad three or four nights a week and for what? So I could grumbling at the dinner table when I reminded them to fill their bowls? Why was I fighting this? I hated that getting a good dose of vegetables was drudgery for them. It shouldn’t be this hard and unpleasant.

Then I had a vegetable epiphany…

It was more like a “duh” moment actually.

Everyone in my house loves raw carrot sticks and hummus. We have it as a snack often. The kids even take it in their lunches. They like a few other veggies like broccoli, cherry tomatoes and cucumber but carrots seem to be the gold standard for raw vegetable snacks. So one day for dinner I put out a bowl of fresh raw carrot sticks and hummus instead of a salad.

I thought my family would think I was being lazy but they loved it! It was so much easier on me and it was completely gone before dinner was over. This has now become my new norm. I switch it up sometimes with different veggies and dips and sometimes apple slices. And while this isn’t at EVERY meal, it has made everything so much more pleasant.

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Carrots and hummus

The lesson here… Don’t fight it based on an idea of what you think a meal should be or needs to be. It just makes being healthy miserable. Rethink your meal plans, get creative and make it easy on yourself.

Happy eating!

My New Favorite Book…Simple Green Smoothies

Simple Green Smoothies by Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner is more than just a recipe book. The authors have written easy, real life guidelines and instructions for including whole delicious foods in your day. They make it so perfectly simple. They include practical information on washing, prepping and storing ingredients as well as info on different blender options. So helpful!

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Simple Green Smoothies by Jen Hansard and Jadah Sellner

The 10-day Challenge is the ideal way to get started with green smoothies. The ingredients are all recognizable and easy to find. No exotic fruits you have to travel all over town for! Jen and Jadah talk to you, the reader, throughout the book in a friendly conversational way which makes it easy to follow along. All their recipes are gluten and dairy free for those that want or need it.

This is not what you would think of as a “fitness” book but the authors promote a fit and healthy, and most importantly, balanced lifestyle. If you need to make nutritional changes in your life this book and the green smoothie lifestyle is the perfect place to start. There are so many great recipes and simple ingredients to choose from. You’ll never be bored drinking the same thing every day.

My own green smoothie recipes were perfect for me but hit or miss with my kids. The Kid Friendly chapter in Simple Green Smoothies solved that problem. We haven’t tried all the recipes yet but the “Banana Split” and the “Happy Monkey” are big hits. And the ice pop recipes are genius!

I love oats but I never thought to add them to my smoothies until reading the Fitness Fuel chapter. This is now my new favorite ingredient! This chapter provides recipes for pre- and post-workout drinks that are so much better for you and tastier than pre-packaged, processed drinks.

I like that they include recipes for making your own nut milks and nut-free milks. Coconut milk…yum! Certainly, it’s convenient to buy them if you can find them but Jen and Jadah’s instructions make it so easy to make your own and ensure that you know exactly what you’re getting in your smoothie.

I can’t say enough great things about this book! I’ve made smoothies at home for a long time but Simple Green Smoothies has re-energized my blender and kicked me out of my rut.

P.S. I checked the book out of the library before buying it but you can find it on Amazon.com here Simple Green Smoothies: 100+ Tasty Recipes to Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Feel Great in Your Body

P.P.S. The above link is my Amazon.com Affiliate link…I have no financial affiliation with Simple Green Smoothies specifically.

2 Simple Keys to Healthy Grocery Shopping

I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of healthy shopping advise before, like, make sure you go to the store with a list, don’t shop when you’re hungry, blah, blah, blah…

All good advise, to be sure, but if you want to see real change in your health, here are some additional keys to shopping to keep in mind.

The #1 most important thing to do is choose REAL food. If you make this your priority it will make most of your shopping easy. On a side note, I believe buying organic whenever you can is best but I also know that can be tough. It’s expensive and sometimes hard to find. Do what you can and make the best choices for your family.

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Fruity Deliciousness

 

  1. The produce section should be your first stop. Look for seasonal fruits and veggies and refer to the USDA’s Dirty Dozen list for produce that should be bought organically if possible. You can’t go wrong with fresh fruits and vegetables so load that cart! Pre-cut and packaged produce is super convenient just make sure its fresh and nothing else was added.
  2. In the meat department, choose lean cuts of meat and seafood. Beware of convenience packs of things like pre-made burgers and other meats pre-seasoned or marinated and meats injected with added fluids. Just check labels so you know what you’re getting. When choosing meals, remember that a small amount of meat goes a long way and meats don’t have to be the center of the meal!
  3. When buying grains like oatmeal and rice, look for whole grains with minimal or no processing and avoid packages with added spices or seasonings. You can always add your own. For example, individual serving packs of oatmeal are convenient but are usually loaded with sugar and other additives. Make your own with whole grain oats, a dash of cinnamon and some dried fruit or nuts. It takes about 10 minutes to make a weeks worth of breakfast packets. In the morning, combine the packet contents with water and microwave for a quick, healthy breakfast.
  4. Nuts and seeds are great non-meat sources of protein. Look for raw or lightly roasted sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds and walnuts, to name a few! Avoid mixes with candy or other sweetened items in them and salted nuts and seeds. There are lots of options and grocery stores are carrying more and more varieties so experiment, mix some together and find what you like. Nuts and seeds are also great as a salad topper.
  5. In the dairy department, read labels and buy organic if possible. Look for natural cheeses. Not cheese-flavored products! Buy yogurts with whole fruit and no added sugar. Better yet, buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit since you’ve already been to the produce section! Honey is also a great, more natural sweetener.

The #2 most important thing to do is read ingredient lists. If you are buying packaged food, ignore the front of the box and never assume you know whats in it. Calories, fat and sodium content are important things to consider but if you opt for products with short, pronounceable ingredient lists, you’re probably doing ok! I realize this isn’t true 100% of the time but chances are, the less processed the food, the better it is for you.

Need dinner tonight?…

If you’re running short on time and you need to put something on the table quick, a fresh roasted chicken from the meat or deli department and a tossed salad are about as easy as you can get.