Holy cats, guys. I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post. I wish I had a better excuse for you, but the fact of the matter was that I just needed a break. I spent the last part of the year enjoying life – a trip to Hawaii, a road trip to Texas to spend the holidays with the hub’s fam, and lots and lots of yummy food. We even added a new addition to our little family: a tiny little kitten named Mickey. He’s slightly cross-eyed and totally adorable; we just love him! (Our older cat, Malcolm, isn’t impressed with this decision, however. If anyone has tips for helping an older cat acclimate to a new kitten, I’d love to hear them!)
Now that the New Year is fully underway, I wanted to get back into the swing of things with the blog. One of my blog-related resolutions is to get back into the habit of posting regularly, so let’s see if I can keep this resolution!
Not only does the New Year bring blog resolutions, it also brings health resolutions. I stepped on the scale a few days ago and was completely dismayed to see I had gained 10 pounds since June. It really snuck up on me over the last few months, and I can pretty much pinpoint where it started going downhill. I was having some knee troubles late in the summer, likely brought on by poor form while doing some exercises (squats and lunges, my physical therapist thinks). It took me a few weeks to get into the doctor, who then referred me to a physical therapist. I stopped my workouts pretty much completely during that time, other than exercises approved by my PT. I tried to follow a healthy diet, but I’d still indulge here and there.
Once I was cleared to work out, I was a little scared to go back to my more intense workouts, worrying that I’d hurt my knee again. I did Pilates a few times a week, but it wasn’t enough to counteract the typical holiday diet I was enjoying. I kept saying to myself, “I’ll get back on track in the New Year.” Probably not the smartest mentality—but one I’m sure many of us have over the holidays!
So, with the New Year, I’m back in the habit of eating really healthfully and planning out my meals – which brings me to the topic of this post. Let’s talk about meal planning and prepping!
First, let me start with this disclaimer: I am by no means a dietician or expert in nutrition. The things I outline below have worked well for me, but they may not work for everyone. Everyone’s nutritional needs can vary.
I’m no stranger to meal planning/prepping. I’ve been doing it for years, ever since I got hooked on Tone It Up (which I’ve talked about in a previous post). It is, by far, the best way to ensure you keep your diet in check.
Every Sunday, I start by planning out my menu on paper. I even created a handy little template that I use (which you can download here). I plot out my meals for the week, broken down into three main meals plus two satisfying snacks. I’m the type of person who can eat the same thing every day for breakfast, lunch and snacks—which makes it easy for meal planning—but I definitely need to change things up for dinner every night. If you can’t stand the thought of eating the same thing for so many days in a row, you can totally change it up. But remember, the more variety in meals that you add into your menu, the more prep work you’ll have!
I choose meals that are high in protein, contain whole grains, and have lots of veggies and fruits. I don’t actively avoid dairy, but I do keep it in moderation.
Here’s an example of what my meal plan looked like last week:
- Breakfast: Scramble of 2 eggs plus 2 whites, with diced cherry tomatoes, green onion, mushrooms and feta cheese. Served with a slice of Ezekial toast, plus coffee with coconut milk.
- Snack 1: Smoothie with spinach, frozen mango and raspberries, coconut milk, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds and bee pollen. (The recipe is courtesy of The Skinny Confidential. Check her out; she’s bomb.)
- Lunch: Brown rice, lean turkey meatballs and a roasted veggie medley (peppers, onions and zucchini).
- Snack 2: A boiled egg with 2 clementines.
- Lean steak, roasted cabbage and quinoa.
- Pork chop with pomegranate balsamic reduction, sweet potato and steamed broccoli.
- Salmon filet with lemon and dill, roasted Brussels sprouts and quinoa.
- Spaghetti squash with a sauce made of marinara, lean ground turkey and sautéed spinach.
- Salmon fish tacos on corn tortillas with cabbage slaw, a side of black beans and sautéed peppers and onions.
I tracked my calories in MyFitnessPal, and it averages out to about 1600 calories a day. Again, everyone’s needs are different. I’ve read article after article about how 1200 calorie diets are completely ineffective in the long-run, but I also have a goal of losing some extra pounds. Anywhere from 1500 to 1600 calories is the sweet spot for me, keeping me fueled for workouts while not overdoing it on calories.
Now let’s talk about the prepping part. Obviously, I wasn’t roasting vegetables for lunch every day or boiling an egg each time I needed a snack. Once I made my menu on Sunday, I drafted my grocery list and picked up all my food. Then I spent a few hours of my afternoon doing all the advanced prep work – like boiling eggs, roasting a huge pan of vegetables, making turkey meatballs and cooking up a big batch of brown rice. (I took the cheater’s route on the rice: I purchased frozen steamer packets of rice in bulk from Costco, and microwaved enough to last the week.)
This approach essentially ensures you have no reason to stray from your healthy meal plan, since it’s already made! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at work and was tempted to join co-workers in eating out at lunch, but then felt guilty since I already had a healthy meal in the fridge. It really does help keep you on the right track!
I will definitely acknowledge the fact that my sample menu isn’t necessarily catered to someone on the go. My breakfast scramble takes time to make in the morning, but you could easily turn them into egg “muffins” (like this recipe) and keep them in the fridge to simply heat up in the morning. Likewise, you could premake smoothies and freeze them, then let them thaw in the fridge at work.
Here are a few last tips:
- A food scale is your best friend, so if you don’t have one, I highly recommend investing in one. I have this one and love it. It makes it super easy to know exactly how many ounces of protein you’re getting, instead of having to eyeball it. For my body, 4-5 ounces is usually perfect for a serving.
- For other foods, here’s the portion guidelines I follow: For carbs like brown rice, quinoa or beans, I’ll eat ½ cup per serving. As far as veggies are concerned, I don’t really limit myself. And I try to keep fruit at 1 cup per serving or less. Remember, everyone is different — figure out what works best for you and your body!
- While I don’t advocate being a slave to calorie counting, MyFitnessPal can be a great resource in figuring out how many calories certain types of meals contain. That, in part, can help you build your meal plan accordingly. I also find it keeps me on track, especially when I want to cheat. If I have extra calories left, then a small piece of dark chocolate won’t hurt at all!
- When you’re thinking about your menu for the week, try to be efficient. For example, I made turkey meatballs for lunch all week, which required 2.5 lbs. of turkey. I used the remaining 0.5 lbs. to make my spaghetti squash marinara sauce. Likewise, I roasted cabbage steaks earlier in the week, and used the remaining cabbage to create a slaw for my fish tacos.
- Look for ways to save yourself work, like buying steamer packets of brown rice or quinoa, or frozen, pre-cut fruit for smoothies. And buy organic whenever you can!
In case you’re curious, I’m supplementing my diet with a new workout plan I purchased from a trainer in L.A. that I discovered on Instagram. She’s amazeballs, and I’ve always wanted to go to her gym for one of the workout classes she offers – but I’m not all about driving 100 miles round trip for a workout. Her name is Jenn Glysson (check her out on Instagram: @bodybyjennLA), and she recently released a 12-week guide to “Get the Body.” I’m on week 2, and it’s definitely challenging! My body is permanently sore! And, I’m happy to report that my knee is doing OK so far!
Do you have meal planning resources that you love? Tips for meal prep? Workout plans you just started and love? As always, I love hearing your comments, so share them below!