How I Know It’s Time for a Diet Reset & Ideas for What to Eat

I did a Whole30 in January of this year. I recap my experience here. Since then, I have felt pretty good! In Melissa Hartwig’s new book, Food Freedom Forever, she states that everyone will eventually fall off track. It happens to everyone whether you are dealing with stress, the holiday season, post vacation blues, etc. I didn’t really notice myself “falling off track” until recently returning home from my 16 days in Europe. I practiced what I preach while I was on vacation by splitting meals, getting in my veggies, packing workout gear and more. Read my tools and tricks here.

When I returned home, I got back to cooking my go-to food in the kitchen and doubling my water, but I still struggling with sugar cravings. I found myself needing a sweet treat daily. This didn’t surprise me because I was enjoying a sweet treat daily in Europe. Cravings will sky rocket when you are doing this (and I knew this) so I accepted the consequences and enjoyed every bite of what I was eating on my trip.

After finding myself caving into cravings for one week post Europe, I knew it was time for a hard reset to feel back to normal again.

Nothing does the trick better than completing a Whole30. While I intended to start on Tuesday, September 5th, I ended up starting on Wednesday, September 6th. A week has passed and I’m already starting to feel like my normal self! I’d thought I’d share what’s working for me and what I’m cookin’!

My Whole30 Keys to Success

1.) Always cook enough for leftovers. 

As you will see in my example meals from my first full week of my September Whole30, I always make enough for at least one leftover meal. I cook for two so each meal makes at least four servings. Leftovers don’t always have to be for lunch or dinner. I’ve used them for breakfast too! If you cook for one, think of meals that freeze really well so when the times come when you don’t want to cook, you have a single serving meal ready to thaw from the freezer. Leftovers also help decrease the amount of time you have to cook throughout the week.

2.) Find new fun projects or things to do. 

While my weekends are filled with different activities or commitments, I always enjoy going out to a favorite restaurant on Saturday. It’s something I look forward to. Therefore, I knew for my Whole30 this month I would need new things to look forward to. To replace going out for a meal or drinks, I’ve planned a hiking trip & I started working on putting together my vacation photo albums. So far it’s been a great replacement.

3.) Seek out new recipes.

The Whole30recipes page on Instagram is my favorite resource for new recipes. Each week they bring on a new food blogger to share their favorite ideas & tricks for doing a Whole30. Like I have mentioned before, sometimes your go-to recipes get old so it’s key to introduce new recipes when you are getting bored.

4.) Don’t forget it’s okay to stick with the basics. 

If I tried to cook a new, fancy meal every night, I would burn out quickly. So, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to eat a can of tuna fish or just grill up a chicken breast for a meal. Have some go-to staples ready in your pantry or refrigerator for those nights when you really don’t want to cook. You’ll see some meals that easily fall into the “basic meal” category below.

Example Meals & Recipe Links

I usually eat 4 meals a day. One meal is usually a snack that consists of whatever I have available. A lot of the time I use deli turkey, veggies, fruit, nuts or nut butter. Here is a week worth of meal ideas!

Wednesday, September 6th 

  1. Breakfast: Chicken Skillet (spinach, ground chicken, bell pepper, onions) + a side of raspberries
  2. Lunch: Roasted Chicken thighs with Brussels Sprouts & Roasted Sweet Potato
  3. Dinner: Turkey chili with a side salad

Thursday, September 7th 

  1. Breakfast: 1 Chicken thigh + 1 fried egg + 2 cups spinach and a side of raspberries
  2. Lunch: Leftover Turkey Chili with a side salad
  3. Dinner: Salmon Cakes (From the Whole30 cookbook) with a side salad

Friday, September 8th 

  1. Breakfast: 1.5 Salmon cakes + 2 cups romaine + a side of berries
  2. Leftover Chili with 1/2 salmon cake on the side + 2 deli turkey slices (eating up what’s left in the fridge!)
  3. Picadillo with a side salad. For this recipe, click here! I don’t make them as tacos, but just as a meat sauce.

Saturday, September 9th 

  1. Breakfast: 2 fried eggs, 2 slices of bacon, 2 cups spinach + a side of roasted red potatoes (spinach not pictured – I eat it out of the box sometimes!)
  2. Lunch: Leftover Picadillo + a side salad
  3. Dinner: Whole Foods Hot Bar. This is great for a Whole30 because they list all of the ingredients used for each hot bar entree. I picked the pork carnitas, butternut squash, two strawberries and a salad

Sunday, September 10th 

  1. Breakfast: 1 fried egg, ground chicken, leftover bacon & roasted red potatoes + a side of spinach
  2. Lunch: 2 sausages, asparagus, berry salad
  3. Dinner: Grilled chicken breast, roasted sweet potato & steamed broccoli

Monday, September 11th 

  1. Breakfast: ground chicken, spinach salad, side of raspberries + 1 TB almond butter
  2. Lunch: collard green wrap with tuna fish & homemade mayo + a side of roasted sweet potato (not shown)
  3. Dinner: Chicken & Vegetable soup

Tuesday, September 12th 

  1. Breakfast: leftover ground chicken + 1 fried egg, spinach salad, side of raspberries + 1 TB almond butter
  2. Lunch: collard green deli turkey wrap with homemade mayo + roasted butternut squash + 1/2 apple
  3. Dinner: Chicken & Sweet potato curry. For the recipe, click here! This was my one new recipe for the week, but my husband and I loved it! It will make the monthly go-to rotation in our kitchen. I followed the slow cooker instructions.
The Secret to Success With Diet and Exercise

My Biggest Secret To Success with Diet & Exercise

The Secret to Success With Diet and ExerciseOver the course of my career, I’ve worked with hundreds of people looking to improve their diet or stick to an exercise plan. It’s hard for anyone to truly make a change, especially if they have years or decades of less than stellar habits. I’ve written about my own journey here.

So, what’s the secret for actually making a lifestyle last…well…forever?

Make your meals satisfying and enjoy what you’re doing for an exercise program. 

For diet: If you are cooking healthy meals that you don’t enjoy, your journey at cooking healthy will be short lived. The common American comfort foods are popular for a reason – they’re satisfying and they keep us wanting to come back for more! So, how can you make your home cooked meals or healthy meal dining out satisfying?

  • Add fat for flavor. Fats tend to get bad press. Remember in the early 90’s when everything needed to be low fat? All fats are not bad fats. My go-to fat choices are olive oil, ghee, coconut oil or even butter. I rarely eat vegetables raw or steamed because I simply don’t like them as much (except carrots, leafy greens & steamed green beans because they are enjoyable). I roast or sauté almost all of my vegetables with my choice of fat. This is what keeps me eating vegetables every single day. My current top four veggies choices: sautéed zucchini noodles (garlic powder, salt, pepper in ghee), sautéed mushrooms (with minced garlic, salt, pepper in ghee), roasted sweet potatoes (chili powder, salt, pepper in olive oil), roasted Brussels sprouts (garlic powder, salt, pepper, in olive oil).
  • Find healthy snacks you love. Every week, I buy a container of fresh almond butter from my local PCC grocery store. It’s expensive but it’s a 10 on a satisfaction level and it helps me from wanting to eat sugar. Sometimes I eat it on celery, while most times, I get out my tablespoon and a tiny spoon to eat it with. I eat two TBs slowly and savor. Other things I enjoy: roasted nuts, Pink lady apples, whole carrots, bell peppers, a plain rice cake with almond butter + fruit spread or my Trader Joe nitrite-free ham. All great healthy choices, but most of all, they tame my sugar cravings because I find all these snacks very satisfying.
  • Choose a variety of protein choices. Yes, there are many benefits to white fish, chicken breast or 99% ground turkey. I have many go-to meals where those choices are delicious, but I don’t eat them 24/7. Egg whites also fall into this category. I incorporate eggs, chicken thighs, pulled pork or steaks a few times in my weekly meals. Since they have more flavor because of the slightly higher fat level, they keep me on track instead of wanting to get takeout Thai, pizza or burgers. Plus, it’s a nice balance between the leaner choices I make throughout the week. Example: A few meals a week for breakfast I’ll make two fried eggs, I’ll choose the carnitas at the Whole Foods buffet for lunch and for the past month, I’ve been roasting chicken thighs for one meal a week. Since my satisfaction level is so high with these meals, I don’t find myself with sugar cravings afterwards or wishing I had gone out for pizza instead.

Bottom line: I prefer to make the healthy choices over my favorite comfort foods because I learned how to make them really satisfying. I still love going out for pizza, but I no longer want it as much as I used to.

For exercise: Ask yourself if you look forward to your next workout? If exercise feels like a chore, you might not have found what you like yet. I realize there are some people who simply don’t like exercising, but there has to be a reason to keep them doing it every week. Do they like the increased energy? Do they like how it relieves stress? Do they like how their clothes fit? Do they enjoy the personal satisfaction of completing a workout? Regardless, there needs to find a deep reason for exercising every week, otherwise it won’t truly stick as a lifestyle. Here are some my go-to workout choices and the reasoning behind it.

  1. Walking. I walk at least 30 minutes every day. For me, I have to move daily to release the small stressors in life that build up. Walking allows me to clear my head, resets my intentions and truly makes me feel better. I also like the personal satisfaction of hitting my step goal of 10,000+ steps. Lastly, it’s an opportunity to spend time with my dog. He loves his walks and when he is happy, I’m happy.
  2. Strength Training. I commit to three full body workouts a week. I try to stick to the same days every week for the habit (Tuesday, Friday, Sunday). These are usually my favorite days of the week for exercise. Lifting weights makes me feel strong physically and mentally, plus I like the challenge of trying new movements. I switch my strength program every four weeks to prevent boredom, but also to keep my body from adapting to my program.
  3. High Intensity Intervals. Again, I try to stick to specific days of the week for the habit. I take a boxing class every Thursday morning. Nothing feels better than hitting and kicking the crap out of a punching bag. I also enjoy incline walking. Recently, I’ve set the goal of trying to climb 2,000 feet in less than 30 minutes. It’s my latest challenge! I also love completing sprint intervals. All three of these workouts leave me feeling happier after ever session.

Bottom line: if you haven’t found something you like to do for exercise, be open minded and try new things. Maybe you’ll learn you love to exercise in a group setting or in the comfort of your own home.

If you are currently working on building lasting healthy habits, pay attention to what may cause you to fall off track. Are you not enjoying your workouts? Are your meals satisfying? After years of practice and learning, I’ve finally found what works for me. Don’t give up on your journey. The more your work it, the easier it gets! Remember, you don’t want to strive to be perfect. 80-90% compliance gets great results and truly helps a habit stick forever.

Diet or Exercise? What’s More Important When Seeking Results?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the course of my journey is that you can’t out train a bad diet. In my early twenties, I always tried to exercise more to compensate for my poor nutrition choices. It wasn’t until I focused on eating the right food where I started to see my body change. When I committed 30 days to my nutrition at the start of this year for my Whole30, I saw great results without adding more exercise or even changing my exercise routine.

As a health and fitness professional, both diet and exercise are important. But, if I were to put a percentage on both, nutrition is much more powerful. As many of us say, it’s 80% nutrition, 20% exercise. It’s true! Some people who just focus on their nutrition and put minimal effort into their exercise can see great results. If you find you’re putting a lot of effort into your workouts, but are not seeing your body change, it’s time to take a look at your daily nutrition.

Three Key Nutrition Habits To Focus on

2.) Eat at least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day

– this isn’t breaking news. We all know we need to eat more fruits and vegetables to live a healthy lifestyle but it’s certainly important if you’re seeking results. Most Americans eat more fruit than vegetables. When seeking weight loss, focus on eating more vegetables than fruit. I like a 4:1 ratio (for every four servings of vegetables, eat one serving of fruit). This equals out to probably one serving of fruit a day. Everyone is unique, so you can start there and add more if you need it.

How to do it? If you’re a visual person, look at a meal plan visual here.

Make a Switch. First, take a minute to think about what you’re eating for meals or snacks. If you notice you eat crackers, chips, granola bars or cookies on a regular basis, start to replace those items with a fruit or vegetable. When I first started changing my diet, I was eating a lot of crackers, granola bars, pasta, pizza, frozen dinners and bread. I slowly started replacing my snack foods with vegetables or fruit and for my meals, I replaced grains with more vegetables.

Pair a Vegetable with Every Meal You Eat. It’s easy to eat fruit on-the-go, but vegetables are a little bit more work. To help yourself eat more vegetables, buy conveniently already chopped vegetables from the store or commit a few time each day to chop. Of course it’s more expensive to buy already chopped vegetables from the store, but if that’s going to help you eat more vegetables, go for it! I also buy a lot of pre-washed bagged salad. It’s not that much more in money but it’s a time saver! Every meal, ask yourself what your vegetable choice will be. For breakfast, maybe you throw in spinach into a breakfast smoothie or make a frittata loaded with vegetables.

2.) Protein

Protein helps you build and maintain your muscle mass, helps you stay full between meals and stabilizes your blood sugar. It plays a big role in seeking body change. So, how much protein should you eat a meal?

Focus on the size of your palm. This is a good start for the average person, but some people who are very active will need more. Start to read your labels to see how much protein is in the food you’re eating.

Protein Choices I buy every week at the grocery store 

  • Chicken breast (1-2 packages)
  • Boneless chicken thighs
  • Ground Turkey
  • Ground Beef
  • Ground Chicken
  • Tuna fish
  • Canned chicken
  • Mahi Mahi or some type of white fish
  • Eggs
  • Breakfast Sausage Links

* I eat most meals from home and cook for two. This always gets us through the week!

3.) Water – at least 8 cups or half your body weight in ounces.

When I first started dating my now husband, he always teased me that I never drank any water. It’s true! I was always drinking diet pepsi, diet peach Snapple or Propel. Wow, have things changed! Not only does water keep your body hydrated but it plays a role in healthy skin, improves energy and of course, helps with weight loss.

Two things that helped me drink more water:

  • Buy a nice water bottle and carry it everywhere you go. Every time you leave the house, be sure to grab your water bottle. I have two water bottles that I really enjoy, but when I first started trying to drink more water, I found having a water bottle with a straw really helped me.
  • Add flavor when you are tired of plain water. Sometimes I get tired of plain water so I always have lemons or limes on hand to add a bit of flavor when I need it. There are many options you can use besides lemon or lime: berries, cucumber, mint, etc. Sparkling water is also a nice treat, but I always open one once I’ve already had my filtered water goal for the day (75 ounces).

If you feel like you are working hard in the gym, but aren’t seeing the results you want, it might be time to assess your diet. How many times a week are you eating out? How many desserts? Alcohol? All those factor into seeing the results you want. Most importantly, remember why you want the results you’re looking for. My biggest goal this year is to watch my sugar intake. I want to enjoy it when I want, but not let it get out of control with cravings. Sugar can be a slippery slope for me, but still a month after my Whole30, I feel good about my relationship and it’s helped me see better results.

Yes, You Can Enjoy Your Holiday Treats & Stay Fit Too

Yes, You Can Have Your Holiday Treats & Stay Fit Too

The holidays are here and we all have our own holiday traditions to celebrate. We all know it can be challenging to maintain your weight and weight gain is common during this time of year. But, it doesn’t have to be this way and by focusing on a few solid strategies, you can enjoy your treats and stay fit too.

Schedule Your Workouts Like an Appointment 

How to Maintain Your Weight During the Holidays

Exercise is essential to maintaining your weight over the holiday season.  Don’t look at exercise as a punishment for enjoying your favorites holiday treats, but more as a way of feeling good physically and mentally. The holiday season is busy and stressful for many people and it’s very easy to make it appear that you don’t have time for your normal workout routine. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do for your exercise program. Take a look at your schedule week(s) in advance and plan your workouts like an appointment you can’t miss. No excuses allowed. Don’t pick days that *might* work because this makes it easier to possibly talk yourself out of skipping it if your day doesn’t go as planned. Remember, workouts don’t have to be an hour long to be effective. Simply find a way to consistently move at least three times per week.

Look Forward to Your Splurges 

Everyone has a certain “bliss” point. Some people may love their cocktails, while others like sweets or savory meals. Regardless what you love, have a plan for when you want to enjoy it. This goes back to looking at your calendar and writing in your fun activities. This helps you stay aware of days where you may indulge in something more calorie dense and it can help you say no to something tempting that may come up unexpectedly. I love looking ahead because it reminds me it’s important to make a good choice today because I know I will really enjoy (fill in the blank here) at my holiday party on Saturday.

Ask Yourself if It’s Worth It 

Temptations are everywhere this time of year. Whether it’s holiday parties, treats at work, or special “holiday” items that only come around once a year, it’s hard to say no. I’ve been there before where I found myself eating everything that crossed my path for years during the holiday season. In order to break this cycle, I had to start focusing on what foods I truly enjoyed and which foods I could easily pass on. Create a short list for yourself of foods or drinks that are too good to pass up. Also, think of items in the past that weren’t “blow your hair back” good and practice saying no this month.

My worth it foods: our family holiday cookies, homemade pie, Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinner, or a meal at one of my favorite restaurants.

Not worth it items: most store bought items, fast food and most alcohol.

Practice Consistency

The holiday season can really challenge your healthy habit consistency. Weight gain or weight loss occurs when you are consistent. During the holidays, if you find yourself consistently indulging and skipping your workouts, most likely you will start the New Year heavier than before the holiday season. However, if you consistently stick to your good habits during the holidays, but savor your favorites, you will start the New Year without any setbacks. Here are a few things to keep in mind this month.

  • Make 80% of your meals filled with a good source of protein & vegetables.
  • Stick to your workout calendar.
  • Find work-arounds when something doesn’t go as planned.
  • Bring your water bottle with you everywhere you go.
  • Find ways to decrease your stress that don’t involve food or alcohol (hot bath, tea, a good book, phone a friend, listen to relaxing music, etc.)
  • Learn what to say to friends or family members who pressure you to indulge when you really don’t want to.

Find Go-To Emergency Meals

Since the holidays are so busy, plan in the back of your head what you could eat in case you find yourself doing last minute holiday shopping, working late or anything else where you are not wanting to cook. It’s okay if you don’t want to cook a healthy meal, but don’t let it be an excuse to cave into comfort food. The old me always ordered pizza or went out to a comfort food restaurant. This is where having a go-to emergency meal is essential and if you do decide to make something from home, make it as quick as possible.

At home ideas: reheated leftovers, canned tuna/chicken, an omelet or lastly, a good protein shake. Keep veggies in the freezer (or in the fridge) that you can easily whip up for a side.

Have a few go-to restaurants: Preferably, pick somewhere where you aren’t tempted by comfort foods. I can definitely make a good choice at a Mexican restaurant, but if I’m tired or stressed, I will eat the free chips that come out right away. However, Chipotle works great for me because I have to buy the chips and it’s a no brainer to pass.

My two go-to places: Whole Foods Salad Bar or Chipotle (salad, chicken, salsa, fajita veggies and a side of guacamole)

 

How To Quickly Shed Vacation Weight Gain

The last three weeks have been incredible for me! I had a wonderful wedding ceremony and reception on August 27th and then went on a two week honeymoon to Europe. I love exploring new cities throughout Europe and make it a priority to travel there every year. After traveling through Southern France, Paris, Belgium and Amsterdam, I came home with many pictures, memories….and 5 more pounds to my body!

That’s right, I gained five pounds in the last 2.5 weeks, while my husband lost four pounds (insert mad face here). Luckily, I have zero guilt about it because everything I ate in Europe was worth it and I savored every single bite! Now, some of the five pounds gained is water retention, while a pound or two may be fat. I wanted to share my five go-to strategies to shed my Europe vacation weight quickly.

1.) Drink Water Like It’s Your Job 

waterIn order to shed the water retention, you have to drink a lot of water. My focus is to drink 125 ounces of water, which equals to about five Starbucks cups. I like to use my water bottle to keep track of my ounces because it helps me stay on track.

2.) Let Veggies Be Your Carb Source Temporarily 

Even when I was in Europe, I made sure to eat vegetable every day, but it was no where near the amount that I eat at home. Since I consumed delicious almond croissants, chocolate, fruit tarts, bread and pizza throughout on vacation, I’m happy to take a break from any type of splurge food. For quick weight loss, eat 1-2 servings of non-starchy vegetables every meal. My goal is 5-8 servings a day. This helps me stay full, while also filling up on nutrients! I’m taking a temporary break from fruit, potatoes, rice, rice cakes (my normal go-to starchy carbs) for the next 3-5 days.

polar3.) Exercise Intensely

I walked a ton in Europe (185,000 steps in a week) but I did not have one intense workout. It was nice to get back to my routine!

This workout consisted of 20 minutes of stair mill intervals (Level 13 for 40 seconds and Level 3 for 20-30 seconds).

I completed the following circuit 3x.

  • 100 jumps with a jump rope
  • 15 up and overs on a step box
  • 30 second heavy ropes
  • 30 speed skaters

4.) Eat Plenty of Protein 

Each meal I’ve been focusing on eating at least 20 grams of protein. I have also stuck to very low fat protein sources like chicken breast, ground turkey and tuna fish. I don’t eat much dairy, but when I do, it’s normally cheese. Dairy can cause an inflammatory response in the body for some individuals, which could slow down weight loss, so I will eliminate any cheese from meals temporarily.

5.) Watch Salt & Eat From Home

Even if I’m eating a grilled chicken salad at a restaurant, I’m still consuming a lot of salt. In order to shed water weight, you need to watch how much salt you’re consuming. My goal is to keep salt to a minimum by watching how I season my foods and avoiding salty options like deli meats. Again, I’ll focus on minimizing salt for 3-5 days before going back to my normal cooking. To season protein sources like ground turkey or chicken breast, I love using no-salt seasoning.

Example Day 

Sun Warrior Protein Shake with unsweetened almond milk, 1 Tablespoon of Raw Almond Butter, 1 cup spinach.

Lunch: Baked Chicken with Olive Oil and No-Salt seasoning paired with veggies.

Snack: Can of Tuna with Celery, Onion, Peppers, Lemon Juice and 1/2 small Avocado

Dinner: Grilled Bun-less Turkey Burger with steamed veggies

Exercise: Walk 30+ minutes a day paired with a strength workout OR complete a high intensity workout (30 minutes) paired with 30 minutes+ of leisure walking.

This type of eating and exercising cannot be done long-term and it’s meant to be done in short cycles. Mentally, it’s challenging because food choices are more strict and carbohydrates are limited. As for exercising, you don’t want to tax your body every single day. So, after 3-5 days of hard exercise, a rest day is important. Rest days usually consist of stretching, foam rolling and walking.

 

Healthy & Fresh Pico de Gallo Recipe

Pico de Gallo with Avocado

I’m always trying to find new ideas to add to my meals. Luckily, my sister made this during our beach trip a few weeks ago and it was a hit! I put it on taco meat, fajitas or just take a few spoonfuls! Enjoy!

Pico de Gallo with Avocado

Healthy & Fresh Pico de Gallo Recipe2 Roma Tomatoes

1/2 onion (I’ve used red and yellow)

1 avocado, diced in small chunks

1 lime, juiced

2-4 Tablespoons of chopped cilantro

2 small jalapeños, diced & remove seeds

Salt to Taste (I used a little less than 1/2 tsp)

Stir all together and enjoy!

How to Stay Motivated to Eat Healthy When You're Craving Unhealthy Foods

What Inspires Me to Stick with a Healthy Lifestyle

Over the last eight years, a lot has changed in the course of my nutrition journey. Exercise has always been enjoyable for me. Being involved in different sports throughout my entire childhood inspired me to get involved in the fitness industry for a career. My nutrition, on the other hand, has been a work in progress, but I’ve come a loooong way. I enjoy looking back now.

My childhood and early adult life consisted of breakfast cereal, macaroni and cheese, fast food, crackers, chips, ice cream, cookies and take out. Since I lived most of my life on those items, I still find them enjoyable and when I find myself getting bored of my healthy meals, I always gravitate towards the old favorites.

Those old favorites never get boring.

I’ve learned that I have to consistently work at staying healthy. Here are three tools that continue to help me make healthy choices every week.

 1.) Find a new recipe.

Sometimes this can be as simple as modifying one ingredient in your current recipe. Lately, I’ve added raw cashews into my vegetable + chicken stir-fry and BAM it elevates the meal. Even Taber raves about how much he enjoys it. Pinterest, food blogs, and healthy cookbooks are also crucial for me. I don’t find a new recipe every week, but I use this trick when my healthy meals don’t sound good. The more you can increase your healthy recipe library, the more likely you will make this a complete lifestyle change.

 2.) Invest in your kitchen.

How to Stay Motivated to Eat Healthy When You're Craving Unhealthy FoodsRight now, I’m receiving wedding gifts for my upcoming wedding and it has been so fun to receive my gifts! My two favorite items are my wood cutting board and food processor. The wood cutting board stays on my kitchen counter and it allows me to continue to eat 5+ servings of vegetables a day. Since it’s on the counter, it acts a reminder, but it also saves a little time. The food processor helps me change the texture of my vegetables. Recently, I used it to shred cabbage and beets so I can use them for salads all week. Again, it changes the ingredients for my go-to salads, which keeps me wanting to eat salads every week.

3.) Move daily.

There is something magical about exercise and how it can influence you to make better nutrition choices. It helps you become more mindful about what you’re having for your next meal, especially if you just had a tough workout! Daily movement for me helps me feel better mentally, but even a leisure walk can reset my nutrition intentions if I’m craving something unhealthy.

Like anything in life, the more you practice something, the better you get. Plus, it becomes a habit. It’s the same with living a healthy lifestyle. I’ve transformed my nutrition habits the last eight years, but I still have bumps in the road. With these key tools, I work them right away.

How to Say No to Food Temptations and Eat only your favorite foods

Is it Worth It?

Let’s face it, temptations are everywhere! When you’re focusing on living a healthy lifestyle or seeking weight loss, this can be very frustrating. Junk food may randomly show up in your work break room, a neighbor may stop by unexpectedly with cupcakes or you might even be tempted by a candy bar as you check out at the grocery store because you’re hungry. It’s hard to fight off these temptations. However, two things can help you fight the urge to indulge.

For years, I would indulge in mediocre food. For me, I would settle for burgers, pizza, desserts and much more that really wasn’t that good. Many times I would feel guilty afterwards because most likely I was tired when I wanted to make that choice for a meal.

Two solutions helped me work through unexpected temptations.

1.) I asked myself if it is worth it.

2.) I asked myself if I had something planned later in the week that would be worth it?

What do I mean by is it worth it? Consider this an item where every bite is absolutely delicious. You eat it slow and savor it. You may even make great facial expressions or noise. This item may be a homemade cake or dinner. It may be a meal out at your favorite restaurant. It may even be something that brings you back to a special memory like going to Dairy Queen with your grandpa. Whatever this item is, it’s worth every single calorie. So, when temptations arise, I ask myself if it’s worth it? Store bought cake? Not worth it. A burger at Wendy’s? Not worth it. Papa Murphy’s pizza? Not worth it. I know these things now because these were go-to places when I was too tired to cook or was craving. In order to break the habit of going to those places, I had to ask myself what was worth it.

Food for thought: If you’re going to make an unhealthy food choice, shouldn’t it be absolutely delicious? I learned, “Yes! It should.”

Here are a few items for me that I absolutely love:

Mom’s Homemade Chocolate Cake
Zeeks Pizza
A burger at Local 360
Tillamook Ice cream, Udderly Chocolate
Mom’s Homemade Waffles
Homemade Potato Salad
A Swirl Cone at Dairy Queen
Mom’s Homemade Clam Chowder
Homemade Sugar Cookies

Once I found out what was worth it, it made it much easier to pass on the convenient options.

Next, I asked myself if I had any fun plans or parties to attend in the week. If treats showed up at work randomly, but I had a family party to go to later in the week, it was easy to say no to the temptation at work because I knew the cake at the birthday party would be worth it.

When I work with clients, this is how I teach them how to reset their mindset about temptations. When they plan for something that they love later in the week, they always find it easier to pass on other items. Read more on how to plan out temptations here. 

What if you don’t know if it’s worth it?

How to Say No to Food Temptations and Eat only your favorite foodsIf there is something you really want to try and you don’t have anything planned for the week, try three small bites or split it with someone. When I go to new restaurants or bakeries in new cities, I’m always looking to split it with someone or a few people. This allows me to do exactly what I want to do….taste it.

Picture to the left: Sweet potato pancakes from the Pancake Pantry in Nashville, TN. I wasn’t sure how they would taste so I split them with my mom and sister and ordered a side of scrambled eggs. They ended up being delicious. Still, I ate less because I shared them with two other people, but enjoyed the meal very much.

These two solutions take work and effort, but it pays off in the long run.

I’m going to admit, the first time you say no to a temptation that isn’t worth it stings. It stings because you’re forced to change your old habits. But, the first time you say no to a temptation, the more momentum you will build for the next time an unexpected temptation arises. With practice, you’ll find yourself getting better and better saying no to food that just isn’t worth the calories.

How to follow the 90% rule and eat moderately

How to Actually Follow the 90% Rule & Learn to Eat with Balance

How to follow the 90% rule and eat moderatelyMany people have heard of the 90% rule or maybe even the 80/20 rule. I love this approach because it allows you to focus on the right foods more often without feeling restrictive. I know for me, the moment I tell myself I can’t have something, I want it more! Don’t get me wrong, there are times throughout the year when I take a break from my favorite foods. But, my mindset is different. I wouldn’t be successful if I told myself “I can’t have this right now.” Instead, I’ll use the words “I’m choosing not to have this right now because (insert the why here). I’ll also focus on all the foods that I CAN have.

Back to the 90% rule.

The 90% rule focuses on eating the right foods 90% of the time, while keeping some of your favorite foods in your meal plan throughout the week. Everyone has their favorite foods. For me, it most likely is a dessert or going out to dinner for pizza or a burger. Consider this something that doesn’t provide a lot of nutritional value and is more calorie dense. Maybe even going out for breakfast. For others, it might be alcohol or high caloric coffees.

5 Steps for Following The 90% Rule

1.) Figure Out Your 10%

This is a simple breakdown of how many meals you eat a day. The average person eats 3 main meals. Others may do 3 meals and a snack. You’ll also hear some individuals doing 5-6 small meals a day. Any of these options work.

Once you’ve determined how many meals you eat on average, calculate how many meals you eat a week.

Example:

3 meals a day x 7 days a week = 21 meals (2 splurge meals determines your 10%)

4 meals a day x 7 days a week = 28 meals (2-3 splurges is your 10%)

5 smaller meals a day x 7 days a week = 35 meals (3-4 splurges a week)

Here’s what an example looked like for me last week.

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Now, should you feel obligated to follow this calculation? No. If you’re looking to maintain your weight, you may be able to have more wiggle room. If you are seeking weight loss, you may need to stick to the 90% rule or scale back more on your splurges more. Everyone has a unique metabolism.

2.) Plan Your Week In Advance

I keep a mental note at the beginning of every week. Do I have any birthday parties? Events? Family or friend gatherings? If so, I keep it in the 10% bank if I feel like I will want to enjoy something. Sometimes I don’t have anything going on for the week, but I still want to go out to dinner for fun or enjoy a cookie on a Saturday night. When you plan ahead on what you want to enjoy that may not be the most nutritious for you, most likely you are going to enjoy it. Years ago, when I didn’t want to cook, I would go to Five Guys, get takeout pizza or go out to Mexican food. I always felt guilty afterwards because I didn’t intend to make those choices at the beginning of the day, but I was too tired to care. I also found I didn’t enjoy my meal as much because I was tired from the long day (which brings me to #3!).

3.) Determine Your Emergency Meals When You Don’t Want to Cook 

I’ve written about this here. This is CRUCIAL to practice. The more you practice healthy emergency meals, the easier eating healthy gets. First, find meals that take minimal time to make. My favorites include a smoothie, tuna fish or an omelette. We all have days when we won’t want to cook (even the quick options). So, if you have go-to places to go that do not have free temptations, you will stay on track.

4.) Practice Saying No To Unexpected Temptations 

When I started practicing the 10% rule, I definitely had some slip ups. I would plan for enjoying my treat on a specific day(s), but then someone would bring in cookies to work. Ugh. At first, I would eat the cookies or whatever treats arrived in the break room. But, overtime, I practiced saying no. It stings the first time you decide to pass on a temptation, especially when you really want it. But, the more you do, the easier it gets.

When unexpected temptations come up, focus on your why. Maybe it’s because you want to enjoy your mom’s homemade cake on Saturday and it’s worth every bite. Remind yourself that this will be your treat this week, not the cookie today. Or maybe you really want to lose 10 lbs and you don’t want to slow down your progress. When you remember your why in these situations, you’ll have a good chance on passing on the temptation.

5.) Stay Mindful

When it’s time to enjoy your favorite meal, it’s crucial to stay mindful. Here are a few of my favorite tips.

1.) If I plan to indulge for a meal, I’ll scan the menu for what protein source and/or veggie can I pair with it.

  • Breakfast:  I love pancakes or french toast. If I can, I’ll ask if I can order one pancake or 1 piece of french toast on the side (instead of ordering a stack of pancakes because it’s too much food). If I can order a single, I’ll order a veggie omelette as my protein/veggie source or eggs & bacon with my pancake or french toast.
  • Lunch or dinner: I’ll order a side salad. This fills me up enough so I don’t overeat the main meal.
  • Split meals. Splitting meals allows you to get the taste of it without overeating. I’ve found over time I’m perfectly content with a 1/2 burger with a handful of fries & a side salad. When I’ve eaten the whole burger + some fries + a side salad, I’m too full.

2.) Be aware of your other meals. 

If I know I’m going to to dinner, I’ll be sure to get in as much protein and veggies as I can for my other meals for the day. My goal is to have at least 4 servings of veggies before or after my splurge.

3.) Ask yourself if it’s worth it. 

Does it taste amazing? Is it worth every bite? Sometimes it is, but other times it isn’t and you’re disappointed. When you find yourself disappointed, practice eating less of it. This takes time to conquer, but it’s do-able. I’ve been very proud of myself when I notice my splurge isn’t amazing and I stop after two or three bites.

4.) Be aware of portion sizes 

When I go out for pizza, I don’t eat the whole pie just because it’s my meal to indulge! In the past, I did eat up to 4 slices. However, I needed an immediate nap on the couch afterwards because I was so full. Now, by staying mindful and adding some veggies to the side, I’m perfectly content with up to 2 slices of pizza.

Enjoy your splurge by eating it slow, savoring every bite. Don’t scarf it down because most likely you’ll overeat, like I used to with 4 slices of pizza.

My biggest goal when dining out is to leave the restaurant feeling satisfied, not stuffed.

 

Veggie packed, healthy chicken scallopini

Chicken Scallopini

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Chicken Scallopini

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I’ve had some great chicken scallopini dishes and I’m always looking for ways to elevate the meal. So, I added more veggies and cut back on the amount of noodles. Enjoy!

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Serves 4-6

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Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts, diced in small pieces
  • 1/2 bunch of asparagus spears, diced 
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, chopped 
  • 2 zucchinis 
  • 3-4 strips of bacon (cooked)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of capers 
  • 1.5 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • Noodles of choice (I like brown rice noodles)
  • Salt, pepper, granulated garlic to taste 

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Directions

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1.) In a large saute pan, fry up your bacon until crispy. Remove and set on a plate.

2.) Using the bacon fat, place diced chicken in the pan and cook through. Season with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Once cooked, remove from the pan and add on a plate.

3.) Add onion and asparagus to the pan and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Start boiling water for your noodles.

4.) Add mushrooms, zucchini, artichoke hearts and capers. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Salt and pepper to taste.

5.) Chop up your bacon into small pieces then add to your vegetables. Also, add chicken. Then, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Let the butter melt, then toss so the entire entree is evenly coated with the butter.

6.) Serve over a bed of your noodle of choice. For a lower carb option, use spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.

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