It’s that time of year. Our winter “softness” has hit us like a ton of bricks, diet & exercise ads are everywhere we go, and the idea of wearing a swimsuit makes winter much more appealing. For some reason, our motivation and self-discipline go into hibernation along with our short-shorts. If we could be more proactive about implementing a healthy lifestyle, we would be working on our base-tan instead of riding the wave of weight fluctuation. I believe the first step is in the kitchen, but why is it so hard for so many people to cook? The intimidation and inconvenience of cooking has provided some serious job security for couch potatoes.
The $billion weight-loss industry popularizes supplements, diets and phrases like, “you are what you eat” & “abs are made in the kitchen”. Well if we are what we eat, I must be popcorn. I admit, my favorite food requires no cooking, but my husband refers to me as a “plant eater” because I prefer a diet rich in green stuff! The trick to healthy and practical cooking is in the preparation, and there are plenty of options for the culinarily challenged.
OPTION 1 – THE PREP COOK: This is my preferred cooking style. What I love about prepping food is it eliminates the inconvenience of cooking every day, and the all-too-convenient fast food options. Here are my tips to successful prep-cooking:
Easy-Prep (Healthy) Grocery List:
- Veggies: Avocado, red onion, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, zucchini, squash, brussels sprouts
- *Meat: Boneless skinless chicken breast, sirloin, ground turkey, reduced sodium light tuna in water (pouches), tilapia (6-8 count in individual packages), tofu
- Fruit: Apples, Bananas, Grapes, Grapefruit
- Nuts: Shaved or whole raw almonds, pine nuts, chopped pecans, dry roasted pistachios
- Carbs: Brown Rice, Flat Outs (light original), whole wheat pasta or rice noodles
- Sauces/spreads/mix-ins: Medium salsa, fat free italian salad dressing, light laughing cow cheese, natural peanut butter, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, garlic, lemon pepper, salt-free Mrs. Dash seasonings, red pepper, cinnamon, truvia natural sweetener.
The 4 Cs of meal prep – Chop, Cook, Combine, Convenience:
- Chop veggies and/or meat. (*cook with rice or pasta if desired)
- Cook veggies and/or meat in oven or pan with desired seasonings.
- Combine and place in tupperware for the week (*portion by day if your feeling ambitious).
- Convenience aka Grab & Go: All natural granola bars, light pop corn, fruit, nuts, dry veggies
Basic Cooking Knowledge:
- How do I cook meat? Bake: Almost any individually sized meat will cook in the oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Stove Top: Cook in non-stick pan on medium rotating and checking the center. (chicken-white, fish-flaky, steak – your preference)
- How to I prep vegetables? Chop them up and toss them in a pan! Steamed: cook over medium heat with some water till soft. Saute: same over light oil till browned.
- How can I make healthy food less boring? Season it! First of all vegetables have a lot of flavor when cooked right. I prefer steamed or sauteed in olive oil. There are a lot of healthy seasoning options that don’t involve salt or sauce. My favorites are salsa and fat free italian salad dressing. Lemon pepper, olive oil & red pepper are great also.
OPTION 2 – THE CROCK POT: Although I am not an avid crock pot user, I understand these things make dinner magic. Simply pick a bunch of stuff that you like eating, put it in the pot to cook on low for 8 hours while you’re at work. Here are some quick and easy favorites:
Mix all ingredients together
Put in slow cooker before bed
Cook on low for 8 hours
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/3 cup chopped dates
2/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
4 cups water
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
Vegetarian Chili Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot.
Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
1 diced red onion
1 chopped bell pepper
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 cup diced celery
2 cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
*dash Tabasco sauce
OPTION 3 – CHOOSE WISELY: please note that I am not advocate of fast-food for multiple reasons; 1. It’s an unneccessary expense that will cost you up to 5x more than if you prepped your meals, 2. the sodium content in fast-food is ridiculously high and bad for your heart, 3. eating fast food spikes insulin levels causing us to crave food we shouldn’t and forces our body to over-compensate for the poor nutrition consumed. That being said, if you are going to choose fast food, choose wisely. Here are some options under 350calories, shared by menshealth.com, from the popular book Eat this Not that.
- Panda Express: Mongolian Beef & Mixed Veggies (235cal, 7g fat, 1,260mg sodium)
- Subway 6″ Turkey Breast and Black Forest Ham on 9-grain wheat with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, pickles, olives, mustard. (310cal, 4g fat, 1,255mg sodium)
- Chick-fil-A Nuggets (8 count) with BBQ sauce (315cal, 12g fat, 1,170mg sodium)
- McDonald’s Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap and Side Salad (320cal, 12g fat, 1,540mg sodium)
- 2 Taco Bell Fresco Chicken Soft Tacos (340cal, 8g fat, 1,360mg sodium)
- 2 Dunkin’ Donuts Egg White & Cheese Breakfast Wake-up Wraps (305cal, 14g fat, 965mg sodium)
BONUS! COACHING: To aid in your healthy-living education, health and wellness expert, Jillian Michaels is coming to town for her “Maximize Your Life” tour. Live at the Holland Center March 12th, Jillian will share keys to achieving healthy goals (not size).
“Maximize Your Life” Tour
Wednesday, March 12, 2014 | 7:30 PM
Holland Center | Kiewit Hall The world’s leading health and wellness expert, Jillian Michaels, is live on stage across the country in her “Maximize Your Life” Tour for an evening of inspiration, information, and motivation. In this intimate and uniquely personal experience, Jillian shows how to harness your potential, accomplish your goals and live an exceptional life – sharing her keys to health, success and happiness. No hype, no false promises: Just results.
Adult language. Recommended for ages 18+.