I’ve been working really hard over the last weeks, focusing on nutrition and portion control with a sometimes-focus on exercise. Like many folks, consistently making the best food choices is a tough feat, especially when you have children or lead a particularly busy/chaotic life. In addition to being a mom and keeping a fairly aggressive social and work calendar, I also LOVE to eat! New foods, rich foods, super unhealthy foods… and all of the delicious drinks and wine to go along with it. LOVE IT. I’m here to let you in on a little secret – it IS possible to improve your food choices and your waistline while not giving up everything or completely denying yourself the indulgences we all tend to need sometimes. Or all of the time. 🙂
I’ve gotten so much better at controlling my portion sizes and choosing fresh foods when possible, and really cutting down on salt and sugar. Notice I said cutting down, not cutting out! That’s what it really boils down to when it comes to weight loss and health, isn’t it? The food! Exercise is important, but without being consistent with your nutrition you’re fighting an impossible fight. I want to share with you some of my favorite online resources and personal tips that have made a huge difference in my world when it comes to making better food choices.
1) Structure and organization – this is important for me with absolutely anything in life. I need a plan and I need to be organized or I am more likely to fail. When you’re considering a nutritional overhaul, it’s important to find something that is not only realistic, but able to transition into an ongoing lifestyle. So many “diets” fail in the long term because they are quick fixes instead of life changes. I like the idea of structure without being overly restrictive. This was the biggest thing that attracted me to the 21 Day Fix program. It’s very specific in it’s intent while being very flexible in the details. I had a clear picture of what types of foods I could eat from each and every food group, and how much of them I should eat in a day (or in a serving size). I was able to wrap my head around what a REAL portion looks like in addition to making solid ingredient choices. And the best part – it didn’t require me to completely cut out something delicious like carbs or dairy.
2) Meal prep days – this has literally changed my life. Seriously. Taking a few hours on Sunday (or any day really) to plan ahead, cook things in advance, and separate into portions makes the rest of the week so much easier. I much less likely to opt for takeout or convenience food and am more likely to stick to my plan. I don’t have to think on the fly because all of the cooking and portioning is already done for me. My favorite things to pre-portion and/or cook are: variety of fresh fruit, olive-oil roasted vegetables , grilled or baked chicken, homemade spaghetti sauce, whole wheat pasta noodles, steak tips, salads, roasted or baked sweet potatoes. The variety in just those few items is limitless if you think about it. I make a bunch of something, use the colored portion containers (or their corresponding measuring cup amounts, pasted below) to measure, and put everything in a bunch of Ziploc containers. Packing snacks and lunches for work are now a breeze!
3) Flavorful food and simple recipes – the internet is a beautiful thing. Anything you want to know, just type it into your Google search bar. Anything! Try for yourself and search “21 day fix recipes” or “21 day fix desserts” and your screen will be flooded with all sorts of resources from the Beach Body blog to every coach or nutrition person on the planet who has a personal blog. TONS of great recipes, including sweets and treats! I do all sorts of searches and like to try at least 1-2 new recipes a week if I can. I’ve created a Google Doc with links to some of my favorite recipes and recipes I plan to try or adapt. I made my own version of Thai Turkey Lettuce Wraps last night, adapted from this recipe I found online. I swapped the chicken for turkey, cooked it along with some peppers and onions in some fresh garlic and chili garlic sauce, and I changed the peanut sauce recipe slightly as well. It was delicious and my friend Kelly and my husband agreed!
4) Quick and easy go-to meals or snacks – I don’t always have or make the time for a massive meal prep session so having a mental rolodex of foods that are quick and easy on the go take the guesswork out of knowing what to eat. We all pay so much for convenience – literally and physically – so it will help to develop your own convenience foods that are available in your pantry or fridge most of the time.
My go-to snacks are:
– Plain greek yogurt with 1 cup of strawberries/blueberries and some sliced almonds for crunch
– Avocado toast with chia seeds
– Chips and salsa (if I can’t have homemade I like Jack’s salsa, and I really love the No Salt Xochitl tortilla chips)
– Whole almonds or walnuts
– Whole fruit like a banana or apple
– Green smoothie (If I’m near Whole Foods I’ll get their Clean Greens but you can make it with kale, spinach, mango, coconut water, lemon juice + I add blueberries)
– Peanut butter toast
My go-to meals are:
– Baked or grilled chicken with roasted veggies – olive oil, garlic, lemon, spices marinade for chicken and olive oil + black pepper for veggies)
– Lettuce wraps – the possibilities are endless there
– Pasta + red sauce or chicken/veggies or pesto (sometimes I’ll even do a pasta bake with a little bit of ricotta and greek yogurt along with red sauce and/or meat and mozz/parm cheeses)
– Tacos – I like using corn tortillas, but it’s a preference
– Stir fry + brown rice – Just try to make or buy a sauce with low/no sodium
5) Support – when it comes to eating well or exercising I am SO MUCH more likely to do well when I’m doing it with another person or group, or have the support of my husband. I’ve done a handful of “challenges” with my friend Eve, and that has been helpful at times, but I think I’m the most successful when I have a friend or two who is doing the same thing along side me and we are talking and messaging every day. That, along with my husband’s help and general awareness of my goals for when he cooks or when we go out to dinner is crucial. It really makes ALL of the difference to not only have someone who understands what you’re working towards, but is also rooting for you and helping you succeed by making strides themselves. When I see someone challenging themselves and making visible changes in their life it makes me think that I can do it, too. It drives me just a little bit harder. When I’m in a funk but someone is relying on me, I’m more likely to put on my running shoes and get out there! I haven’t worked out in 2 weeks, but when emailing with my friend Billie this morning we decided to drop everything right that second, put on some clothes and meet at the trail… it’s exactly what I needed to get out of my workout slump and I never would’ve done it on my own! Support is SO important, whether in “real life” or in your virtual reality on social media.
So many of us struggle with consistency and making better choices. It’s HARD. It really is. It’s never really easy, per se, but it is very doable if you make it a priority. I think that is the key – make yourself and your health a priority. Once you do that, the rest is up to you on how you execute it. For me, every single one of the items above are crucial to my success. Without a plan, without simplicity, without flexibility and without the support of my friends/family, I probably won’t continue to be successful and to reach my goals. I know I’ll hit a rough patch and I know I will fail… it’s ok because today is a great day to decide to make a change. The key is STARTING. You have to begin. I’m happy to answer any specific questions anyone has about food, planning, time, or even the 21 Day Fix program in general. It’s worked well for my lifestyle and I’m happy to advocate for it.
A personal disclaimer: I want to stress that I am NOT a health and wellness coach, I’m NOT a Beachbody coach, and do not get compensated for saying any of this!!! But I am a regular person who has found something that works well for a busy lifestyle and a foodie appetite, so I thought I’d share my experience with you. I like to do a lot of research about a product before I buy it and, even when I do, I want to form a completely objective opinion about it when possible. I even went so far as to buy off Amazon.com instead of from an independent consultant because I wanted my own experience without all the rah-rah (no offense intended IC’s, I appreciate what you do and love that you are working hard to support your families!) I know plenty of BB coaches in my realm of friends – in real life and on social media – and am happy to make a referral to one of them if you’re interested, it’s just not exactly the way I began my own personal journey. 🙂