Menu Monday: “Fast Food” Favorites

12 Nov

Every Thursday on his way home from work, JC listens to a radio show called “Who You Crappin?” – I think he loves few things more in this world. Basically listeners call in to give their “crap”, or in other words call BS on someone or something that completely contradicts itself. It all started with Coach Mike Ditka of none other than Da Bears, so how can you not like it?

Now I can’t hear the phrase “calling BS” on someone or something without thinking of Da Coach and my husband’s radio passions.

I’m 12 days late, but I’ve decided to participate in a “30 posts in 30 days challenge” in honor of National Health Blog Post month (Who knew?) I’ll continue into December to hit my 30, but I’m picking up on Day 12.

When I saw today’s prompt, “Call BS on something that is just ridiculous”, my mind instantly blurted out, “Who you crappin’?!”

Today I have to crap conventional pre-packaged frozen meals (the likes of Lean Cuisine, Smart Ones, etc, I’m looking at you.)

Back in college when I first enrolled in Weight Watchers, I definitely leaned upon these freezer meals at least a couple of times a week. After all, they tasted great, quickly and easily heated up in my microwave, and of course were low in calories. It seemed most people at my WW meetings ate them regularly with much success.

I see a lot of folks I care about at work turning to similar meals at lunch time, usually accompanied by intentions to eat “eat healthier.”

Now I don’t mean to bash anyone here, but I find the products these companies push out to be completely deceptive and downright irresponsible. If you visit their websites or simply read their packaging, you’ll be inundated by claim after claim that these products are healthy.

I started browsing some conventional frozen products and was especially intrigued by a line of products touting itself as “the lighter side”, even going as far as to use words such as “fresh veggies”, “no preservatives” and “whole grains”. Words that these companies know make consumers say, “this is healthy!”

Meanwhile, the ingredient lists are horrifying. Check out this labeling for Thai Chicken with Noodles:

Modified tapioca starch? Corn syrup solids? Modified cornstarch (essentially engineered frankenfood)? Conventional frozen meals, who you crappin’?!

Friends, all quick meals are NOT created equal. My favorites:

  • Trader Joe’s Super Spinach Salad (not a frozen meal obviously, but you will almost always find this is in my fridge!)
  • Amy’s frozen meals, especially low sodium varieties (I recognize EVERY single ingredient! Real food!)
  • Kashi’s Mayan Harvest Bake (Don’t love the ingredients quite as much as Amy’s, but still much better)
  • Chipotle burrito bowl – my go-to fast food. I get a bowl with no rice, black beans, veggies, chicken, a little cheese + guac.

These meals will do the trick when in a pinch, but of course, meal planning a week in advance is my best bet for a successful & healthful week! I do my planning every Sunday, choosing a weekly menu and then making my grocery list from there. Here’s my plan for this week:

  • Monday: Thai with a friend from work (& the Super Spinach Salad above for lunch!)
  • Tuesday: Slow cooker taco soup
  • Wednesday: Dinner with a friend
  • Thursday: Grilled salmon with roasted brussels sprouts and cubed butternut squash
  • Friday: Out to dinner
  • Snacks: pumpkin yogurt from Trader Joe’s (!) and apple slices

We’re headed to Atlanta for Thanksgiving this weekend, so I tried to take it easy on fridge supplies. There’s more “out to eat” this week than normal for me, but believe it or not I still “meal plan” for this instances – I always check out the menu ahead of time and commit to my order so I won’t be moved by hunger pangs at the restaurant.

Moves for the week:

  • Monday: 20 minute Turkey Treadmill workout from Fitnessista (I LOVE this one)
  • Tuesday: Hip Hop Cardio class
  • Wednesday: special workout with my friend Kate!
  • Thursday: Hip Hop class
  • Friday: OFF
  • Saturday: Run before driving to Indianapolis

What are you eating this week? What are your favorite “Quick Meals”? And, who you crappin’?!

Thanksgiving Thursday: Must-haves

8 Nov

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Now that Election Day is behind us, I hope everyone is ready to talk a real American topic: getting your November fat on.

This past weekend marked the celebration of our annual Friendsgiving feast – a true success this time around. I awoke at 6am to a 24 pound bird ready for brining, and all but sprang out of bed. This much-anticipated event culminated in a food coma so painful, only a group viewing of Home Alone could console anyone.

“No clothes on anybody – sickening!”

Since our big event has come & gone, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite tips leading up to my second Thanksgiving feast with the fam (Easy, I can feel your judgment from here.)

My must-haves include: An adorable turkey/pumpkin apron from Crate & Barrel, a festive fall floral arrangement, a nifty probing meat thermometer that runs a wire through the door of the oven (GENIUS!!), a large cooler for brining (absolutely key to a juicy bird), and obviously red wine – I choose Green Fin, a deliciously affordable $3.99 from Trader Joe’s.

What are your holiday feasting must-haves? Anyone else enjoy spending inordinate amounts of time preparing and hanging out with poultry?

You can admit it.

Menu Monday: Turning into a Turkey

5 Nov

This weekend marked the arrival of a favorite holiday in our little family’s household.

Friendsgiving!!!!

We’ve stuffed large birds and our closest friends’ bellies for 3 years running now – not to toot my own horn here, but I think this year was crowned the most successful showing yet. More to show off (along with tips for your own feasts this year!) on Thursday!

Much manual labor and kitchen slaving was poured into the production of a 24 lb turkey feast, but to host this giving of thanks among friends does not come without its distinct benefits.

I’m talking leftovers. Lots. And lots. Of leftovers. Here’s how I’m re-purposing much of them this #MenuMonday!

  • Last night: leftover turkey (at this point my insides are beginning to take on the shape of a turkey) + brussels sprouts roasted with onion and some coconut oil (okok and some sweet potato casserole)
  • Today: Out to dinner for work, OR a backup salad I snagged at Trader Joe’s in case
  • Tuesday: Stir fry with leeks, chestnuts, baby broccoli and spicy sausage – wintery!
  • Wednesday: Italian Acorn Squash with – you guessed it – TURKEY
  • Thursday: Dinner with a girlfriend
  • Friday: Omelet/fridge clean out
  • Breakfasts: Paleo pumpkin bars (will share recipe if it turns out well!), eggs, vegetable juice
  • Snacks: Greek yogurt + plums, bananas and oranges

My pins come out of my maimed finger on Tuesday, and after Friendsgiving this weekend, I’m feeling inspired to pick up a knife again (and not kill someone, burn down the house or drown my iPhone due to broken finger clumsiness.)

So, to review, my goals for the week are as follows:

  • Don’t die from Tryptophan over-consumption
  • Don’t burn the house down or otherwise ruin everything with my gimp finger as I attempt to cook again
  • Eat well after a Friendsgiving feast (some tips, tricks and ideas coming later this week!)
  • Get at least 3 runs in – no more fitness excuses now that I’ll be living pin-free!

Dream big. What are you trying to accomplish this week? Anyone meal plan yet? Never too late!

Becoming a Health Coach

1 Nov

As the author of a blog focused  (mostly) on integrating a healthy lifestyle into a normal social life, it probably comes as little surprise that I’m interested in expanding my horizons.

 After over a year of closely following the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I’ve enrolled in the health coaching program they offer. I love what I’ve seen for many reasons, but I especially love that this is a part-time, online program. I really enjoy my current job and have no plans to change it, so I’m thrilled I can pursue this passion on the side while I continue to develop my career as a sales trainer.

Reasons I’ve decided to work towards a health coaching certificate:

  • Fierce desire to deepen my own knowledge and understanding of the different dietary philosophies out there
  • Even more fierce desire to help others make heads or tails of it – conflicting information leads to confusion (is dairy ok or do I avoid it? Am I supposed to eat meat or not? Are carbs “bad”?) and, ultimately, frustration and defeat.

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  • Fascination with concept of “primary foods”. Of course the foods we actually eat fuel us (some better than others), but there’s more to the story. Career, spirituality, relationships, physical activity – these are all “primary foods” we consume day in and day out just by existing. Is it not reasonable to admit these have a profound impact on our overall health?

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  • Fear & sadness around mainstream menus. We see so many meal options comprised of 2 proteins and 2 refined carbohydrates on a plate, and in the world as we currently know it eating well is a luxury afforded by only the financially stable. (Basically, eating healthy doesn’t have to suck and no one should have to break the bank to do so.)
  • Belief that we should challenge ourselves to step outside of the “I have X symptom” -> “You need Y drug” mentality. Medications & treatments are incredibly vital, crucial and have their place. But medicine only takes us so far – examining those outside influences & factors in our lives can deeply impact our overall health.

What a Health Coach is not: 

I can’t help but notice a number of misconceptions floating around about what health coaches really do; or rather, do not do. And, I get it – the word “health” is in there, so people assume we’re running around with stethoscopes and the authority to prescribe. Some people cannot fathom how someone with a year’s worth of studies and a certificate can be considered an authority of any kind.

A health coach is not a doctor. I will not be handing out medical advice or even pretend I know what types of medical conditions someone might be up against (although I will take anybody on in a WebMD search-off.) In fact, if at any point someone comes to me showing serious symptoms or hints at underlying issues, I’ll be glad to point them in the right direction. But I will never, ever hand out medical advice.

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Main objectives for my mission: 

  • Take on a listening role, helping clients uncover “dots” and urging them to connect them. Health is a complex web, and identifying factors that impact health (positively or negatively) is key. Ultimately I’ll strive to ask questions to help the client discover a fuller, more colorful picture of life all on his/her own.
  • Share best practices for integrating healthy choices into a happy, “normal” life. Much like the mission of this blog, I used to “diet” on and off. It wasn’t until I found a system that works for me always that I found true success. I hope to help others discover their upbeat eating style.

I’ll begin seeing clients 6 months from now, but in the meantime I’m looking to practice some initial (free, duh) consultations! Please hunt me down if you’d be willing – upbeateatsblog at gmail dot com. It’s simple and can even be done over email if you’re afraid I’m a health nut weirdo.

Oh, also, this.

We went as Sonic the Hedgehog & Tails for Halloween this past weekend. I enjoyed throwing rings at people and disappearing off the screen on the levels that did not require flying capabilities.

Your turn! What do you think of “primary foods”, ie external factors in our lives, impacting our health along with the foods we consume? Did you dress up this year?

Food for Thought: A Dream Seed

30 Oct

How about some motivation to start your Tuesday off on the right foot?

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I’m in Austin this week for work. With 4 nights on my hands, when I’m not rolling around gleefully in the king bed dreams are made of, I find myself with a little extra time inside my own head. My days are packed, but I’m lucky I enjoy my job as a sales coach.

Even though I’m plenty busy, there’s something remarkable about traveling to a strange city completely solo with no one waiting eagerly on the other side. Something that makes me remember how big a place the world is. How vastly American cities can differ from one another, despite pledging allegiance to the same flag. How much people in Texas really believe that you don’t mess with Texas (whoa.)

And how limitless our opportunities are in this life.

Fact is, it’s pretty easy to fall into a routine – wake, work, socialize, exercise, eat, repeat – and even though we might find ourselves quite content with that agenda, sometimes a little shakeup generates thought. A spark. A dream seed that, if nurtured, can prosper and flourish enough to become a big fat reality tree. (I have a thing for trees. And analogies. Stay with me here.)

A morsel for your brain to chew on: your dream is never too big, you are never to small to make an impact, and hard work always pays off.

What do you think about when you find yourself with some extra solo time?

Menu Monday: Road Snacks

29 Oct

Happy Monday! If you live on the east coast and find yourself reading this post – congratulations on your electricity. Cheers to surviving off of more than candles & saltine crackers! Jokes aside, I hope you’re all staying safe – thoughts and prayers are headed your way from us sassy Midwesterners. (You’ll have your turn to watch us get pounded by bad weather, trust me on this.)

Just a quick post from the road – today is not an ordinary Menu Monday because I’m headed to Austin, Texas for work. I have my favorite go-to road snacks with me – I don’t like to leave town without them for fear that I will default to eating airport frozen yogurt for lunch and a happy meal for dinner.

Plus this stuff all tastes awesome anyway. Like special travel treats!

trader joe’s apple rings / larabars / think thin bars / plum kids organic squeezable fruit / justin’s nut butter packs

Are you that weirdo who packs a lunch box full of airplane snacks like me? Loud & proud – own it!

Fall Salad Scramble

25 Oct

If I were tasked with plucking the perfect autumnal afternoon out of thin air …

I would probably choose today. 75 degrees, a little breezy, crisp leaves abound — all inspired an office jailbreak to enjoy a simple & solo lunchtime stroll. Sometimes just taking in the city sights and sounds, no music and no company to converse with, proves so relaxing. I end up more energized for an afternoon of work than I would have been if I had just munched through lunch at my desk (which is what I usually do.)

And because this October weather is the definition of sheer perfection, who wants to be stuck inside slaving in the kitchen right now? Hey, I enjoy cooking as much as the next food-obsessed chick, but 75 degrees in October? In Chicago?! Gotta take advantage of that Vitamin D before it’s all gone!

I thought I would share a simple & quick weeknight meal I’ve recently devised – I can hardly call this a recipe, since it actually involves a mere mixing of pre-arranged ingredients you can pick up just about anywhere. But it takes just minutes, leaving me more time to crunch leaves and take in the sun before I forget what it looks like.

It’s sad how little I was joking in that last sentence.

{Serves 1}

2 eggs
1 pre-made salad – I prefer Trader Joe’s Raspberry, Walnut & Gorgonzola
1 apple chicken sausage link
sprinkling of low fat shredded cheese (optional)

Ready for this complexity? Cut your chicken sausage into bite-size slices, and prepare your salad by … opening the lid.

Begin scrambling eggs in a skillet over medium high heat. When nearly cooked, add all salad components (except dressing) and saute until lettuce is wilted. Add sausage.

Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with cheese, if using. Top with 1/2 provided dressing.

That’s literally it. I LOVE the combination in this salad – hearty greens, gorgonzola, walnuts, dried cranberres and a raspberry vinaigrette topping made for such a satisfying meal with fall spice. Couldn’t be easier than picking up a $3.99 salad and transforming it into a hot dinner plate in a flash.

Think you can out-Fall me? It’s got to be impossible at this point. I have a problem.

Your turn! How do you guys take advantage of beautiful weeknight weather without sacrificing balance?