Lifestyle: Getting Accustomed to Making Your Meals At Home

Eating a balanced diet doesn’t need to be labor-intensive. With planning and being efficient with shopping, you can save your mola and feel good. Here I am highlighting some how-tos on eating home-cooked meals, catered to those looking after blood sugar control, which in a way, relates to everyone. 

“If we fail to plan, we plan to fail.” Sketch out 7 days and plot 2-3 meals, based on real food, plus snacks (if needed). Intend to make surplus for the meals so you have leftovers. Looking at your calendar:

  • Do you have plans for meals out this week? Will you need to pack any meals for school/work/appointments? For the latter, can you make things or buy items that can easily be eaten as is, or cooked in the microwave?
  • How many people are you responsible for feeding? 
  • Do you have any long days or night errands to run? You will need something portable
  • Make a grocery list with meals in mind and use ingredients that can come from the freeezer or pantry, in the scenario your schedule changes. No one likes throwing money away. 

A French man once said he walked into a North American grocery store and couldn’t find any food.

What? Well, if you think about and roam the aisles and food labels enough, you will find that this certain man is onto something. A majority of our packaged food is not real food. Just this morning I rant to the grocery and reviewed a dozen products and set them right back down because of cheap, unhealthy ingredients listed on them such as GMO beets (sugar), canola oil (very inflammatory), food colorings, chemicals, HFCS, more sugar, MSG, artificial sweeteners, BHA/BHT, nitrates, sulfates, the list goes on. Yet, my point is, know what is good for you and have an idea of where to get it.

Put together a grocery list before you head out. Ideally capture it on your phone. We often leave home without a list, but rarely forget our phone. Review your list before you go, and make sure the items you plan to buy, reflect the volume of foods you want on your plate. For example, if you intend to have half a plate of vegetables, make sure you buy enough vegetables. Same for protein, make sure your cart is about 25-30% of animal protein and 25-30% of fruit, grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables.

Additional ways to save and simplifiy:

  • Look at ads, use coupon apps available on smartphones
  • Buy ingredients, not products
  • By produce in season, when cheapest
  • Grow your own vegetables/herbs
  • Never overeat and see how the quality of food, not volume, makes you feel satisfied (intuitive eating)
  • Cook in bulk and freeze portions for leftovers
  • Buy in bulk, and choose ingredients that can used in multiple dishes
  • Buy whole, canned wild fish or frozen fish
  • Buy fruits and vegetables frozen (just as healthy, if not more healthy)
  • Buy cheaper cuts of meat and slow-cook it to tenderize it.
  • Don’t major in minor things. Focus on buying real food and don’t stress if you can’t get organic or grass-fed
  • Avoid foods void in nutrition, which can simply just increase appetite. For example, gluten-containing grains, sugar, processed food, granola bars
  • Cut out the extras – bottled water, mints, etc
  • Keep food simple, yet, have variety so your palate doesn’t get bored.

Food prep can be therapeutic; especially when you look at it as a time to unwind and forget about stressors. We need to unplug, to recharge. Set aside time, one time a week, to prep meals so when you come rushing in the door, or out, you have something nutritious to quickly reheat or consume within a short window of time.

Meal Ideas:

  • Frittata – these are great, and can be made in advance, sliced and heated or chilled for a well-rounded breakfast or lunch. The ingredients do not need to be elaborate. Choose some produce, lean meat and spices. 
  • Slow-cooker Chicken Vegetable Soup
  • Salad with Tuna – as simple as it sounds. When I was on the road a lot with work, I would run to the grocery before Monday AM, pick up a bag of lettuce greens, canned tuna, eggs (then hard boil them) and some other type of produce, and throw it all together for 3 lunches or so a week. 
  • Lettuce Tacos – buy some lean meat, mix some spices and throw it over some vegetables or romaine leaves. Leftover meat is great with eggs too. 
  • Grilled Fish and Frozen Veg with spices – buy some frozen fish in bulk, pull out however many filets you need in the morning, thaw in the refrigerator, and cook in a skillet with some lemon, butter and pepper and pair with a vegetable. 
  • No-bread Sandwiches
  • Snack options, including portable food ideas
  • Scrambled Eggs and Ham – simple, cheap and satisfying. 
  • Banana Pancakes – take 2 eggs and one small banana, mash, and make 2 pancakes. 

Real change is not easy, but it is worth it.

Cheers to you and good health,

Kelly

Mealtime Shortcuts + Healthy Eating Solutions

My fingers on the keyboard, pondering how to open this topic and my mind quickly goes to a phrase: “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Seriously, in the world of Amazon Prime, we can surely find a way to make dinner healthier, easier, and faster. Maybe we just use Amazon Prime 🙂 So let me just get right to it. Here are some of my kitchen hacks on how to build an easier dish and simpler solutions for mealtime.

Salads:

  • If you plan to have a daily salad, make a large one and store it in the salad spinner. It will last longer, and usually, when you open the fridge it will be at eye level, which will also influence you to eat/want more of it.
  • To whip together a diverse salad without chopping a lot of things, combine coleslaw vegetables with lettuce greens. Come mealtime, top this with high-quality protein (wild, canned seafood or pre-grilled meat) and nuts, and you are good to go. Portable packets of extra virgin olive oil are clutch, along with lemon packets. This serves as a simple, portion-controlled dressing.
  • Portable fruit is a great way to round out a salad-based meal. Don’t fear carbs.
  • Whatever you store the salad in, put a paper towel in with it. It will extend the life of the leafy greens. If I have 1 limp salad, my desire for salad over the next few days…are limp.

Sides:

  • Buy pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables/fruit. Have you seen the awesome cauliflower rice from Trader Joe’s and Costco? Or the frozen zoodles from Trader Joe’s? Easy peasy. You can microwave both of these. Top with some olive oil or butter, salt, and pepper. Nom nom.
  • Canned organic beans. So versatile. Open a can and rinse the beans and toss them in a skillet with a little avocado oil, salt, and pepper. Stir for 5-10 minutes, depending on the texture you prefer. Sometimes, I just want them warm. Overall beans are a great slow-cooker or vegetable addition. Have you made chili yet this Fall? It’s a 5-minute prep process! Pull a pound of ground meat out of your freezer, organic beans, organic diced tomatoes and a pre-mixed spice packet (you can make your own combination, but we are talking easy here). Toss all the above in the slow-cooker and let cook for 6 hours on high and you are good to go. I love my chili with a dollop of guacamole (Costco has a great pre-packaged one. I do not like the 100 cal packs of guacamole as they taste off).
  • Roast veggies (3 sheets of veggies at a time. Make true use of the time you are using the oven. I often roast chopped Brussel sprouts, frozen veggies and some form of potatoes).
  • Fruit or sliced veggies with nut butter packets (like these).
  • I make a box of lentil-based pasta every week (I get my pasta from Trader Joe’s or Thrive Market). I drizzle olive oil on it after cooking to prevent leftovers from clumping together. This is a handy and satisfying side to mix with most things.

Slow-cooker: Perhaps I should have put the chili comments down here, but REALLY, befriend a slow-cooker and/or an Instapot. The saved time will be worth your money. Shoot, you can even use Kohl’s cash on these kitchen tools. Tis the season.

  • I work from my freezer (A LOT) and my family really enjoys when I do slow-cooker tacos/Mexican. I pull out a bag of frozen diced peppers and onions (Trader Joe’s), a pound of ground meat and spices. Sometimes, I will get a little frisky and add in some salsa. If I don’t do the salsa, I just add a little broth. Thanks to Costco for conveniently offering bone broth at an awesome price, I often have a carton opened in my fridge at all times. The broth is great for bumping up the nutrition of a meal and reducing the need for adding fat to saturate ingredients.
  • Chicken Artichoke (hello fiber) Stew: I get the frozen artichoke from Trader Joe’s, I use 2-3 chicken breast, enough broth to just cover, a carton of sliced mushrooms and enough peas to add good color. Salt and pepper to taste, cook on high for 6 hours. This is awesome when paired with some cauli-mash.  

Breakfast:

  • Meal prep paleo pancakes. Pancakes were my go-to before I knew I was sensitive to eggs (KBMO Fit Test). Overall they are healthy, filling, high in protein and good fat and easy to take when wrapped in foil. I like the recipe of just mixing a small banana with 3 eggs – or – adding 1 scoop of protein powder (like my favorite one from Standard Process) + 2-3 eggs. Mix the 2 ingredients together until you get a batter-like consistency and make 1-2 pancakes out of it.
  • Overnight oats (gluten free) with collagen protein powder and some nuts/chia seeds in mason jars. 
  • Combine smoothie ingredients in a blender, the night before, and store in the fridge. Come morning, you can blend and go.

Lunch:

  • Carton/canned real food soups. I like Amy’s brand among many of the cartons offered at Whole Foods, Mariano’s Fresh Thyme, etc. Be sure to add collagen (I buy mine from Vital proteins or Thrive Market) to help keep blood sugars stable and assist with keeping you full until the next meal. Also consider adding a fat to round out the meal (olives, avocado, olive oil packet, nuts, seeds, etc)
  • Chicken sausages – and I am picturing the various flavors from AmyLu. Throw 2 of these in the microwave or skillet, slice and have with some fermented saurkraut. Pair with some leftover roasted veg or gluten-free grain like wild rice.
  • Mason jars salads
  • Leftovers

Dinner: always double recipes and use leftovers for following lunches and dinners.

  • Regardless of what you put together – keep the ingredients simple.
  • Breakfast for dinner! Pleases everyone.
  • Buy an organic rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods (or from somewhere like Boston Market, but when the quality of the chicken is lower, avoid eating the skin) and have it with a salad kit or leftovers.
  • Cook fish from frozen. My fam loves the salmon burgers from Costco. Heat oven to 400F, cook for 12-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. 
  • Have a smoothie for dinner. Mix frozen greens, vegetables, ice/water, spices (cinnamon, ginger, or cocoa) with some frozen fruit, high-quality protein powder. I always top my smoothies with something crunchy to help enjoy “eating” my meal. I like baked coconut flakes, sunflower seeds or cocoa nibs.

Above all:

  • Be organized – have the right tools in your kitchen: a good knife, cutting boards, blender, food processor, slow-cooker, ceramic skillet, and a white/board.
  • The whiteboard or menu board can help make the meal ideas easy – and assist in building a grocery list. Try to only grocery shopping 1-2x a week to save time, and download an app like AnyList to have a handy list at all times.
  • Pack your lunch – and be sure to have good containers, thermos, shaker bottles, water bottles and lunch boxes. I have way too many water bottles and bento boxes, but you know what? I am always hydrated and have a packed meal when need be.
  • Buy as many things you can online. I use Amazon Prime (also for Whole Foods produce) and Thrive Market.

What tips and tricks do you use/do? I want to hear, selfishly to make the mealtime even easier!

Summer Meal/Salad Ideas

I am craving more variety in my meals with loads of produce to help nourish my body and soon-to-be daughter. I was playing with Yummly and selected the following for inspiration. Perhaps you can enjoy too and you will likely need a Yummly login to access some of the recipes.

A salad with cinnamon? Why not?

What a fun idea for a summer BBQ right? Or perhaps if you are short on time, like I will be with 2 little ones, I may toss all the above in a bowl and call it a day. Fun idea, nonetheless.

This extra serving of gluten free grains will be helpful in keeping my carbs up for breastfeeding. Looks tasty!

I’d make this recipe but omit the sugar. Perhaps swap in lemon juice instead? I’d have to play with it, but a great way to add detoxifying onions to my diet.

Easy Lunch Ideas

As you may know, I am a big fan of discussing ways to execute a healthy lifestyle, as it’s often the hardest puzzle piece to work. Along with keeping meals creative and satisfying, they also need to be well-rounded and easy to make. Here are some go-to lunch ideas.

  • Nom Nom Paleo hit the nail on the head with her hot-dog as the bun lunch box idea. Using a good hot dog (such as Applegate Organic and grass-fed beef dogs), split it down the middle and load in some sauerkraut and peppers. Pair w/ more veg and fruit.
  • An apple-sundwich (sliced apple w/ sunbutter in the middle) paired with roasted Brussels sprouts and grilled chicken tenders.
  • Salad of many sorts
  • Tuna salad or salmon salad wrapped in romaine lettuce or butter lettuce. Needing more carbs? Sweet potato chips on the side.
  • Make meatballs on the weekend, and come the work week, pair some of the meatballs with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.
  • Soup galore. The slow-cooker is a miracle kitchen tool.
  • Shrimp cocktail with acorn squash (I roast mine on 400F for about an hour and when it’s done I drizzle it w/ cinnamon and coconut mana).
  • Smoothie – so easy and nutritious for an on-the-go lunch.
  • Mini meatloaf muffins
  • Nine times out of 10, my lunch is a derivative of dinner. For example I made a whole chicken in a slow-cooker yesterday and I am using that meat for lunch, combining it some roasted cinnamon, ginger carrots and a spinach salad.

If your lunch is looking limp, dress it up with some guacamole, homemade chunky apple sauce, a piece of dark chocolate or some kombucha. There are many real food lunch ideas, just step back and try to think outside of the box.

 

What I’ve Eaten So Far Today

It’s been too long since I have captured what I have eaten on my blog, and when asked by a client today, I thought I’d share with all. Thirty-three weeks pregnant, with few to no cravings, yet, anything too flavorful or sweet upsets my stomach.

8AM – Breakfast – (Blood sugar 86 mg/dl)

Beet Protein Smoothie

– 1 large cooked beet (picked up some from Costco)

– 5 large celery stalks

– 1 tablespoon of soaked chia seeds

– 1/2 tsp of maca powder

– 4 ounces of almond milk

– 4 ounces of water

– 1 scoop raw protein powder

While making smoothie I had a spoonful of almond butter (I was starving)

 

10:30 – AM Snack – (Blood sugar 96 mg/dl)

Kind mini bar

1 oz of Kerrygold grass-fed cheese

 

12:15 – Lunch – (Blood sugar 111 mg/dl)

Romaine lettuce sandwich

– 2 large romaine lettuce leaves

– 3 ounces of Chicken Columbus brand deli meat

– 2 large green garlic stuffed olives, sliced for “sandwich”

– Yellow mustard

5-8 baby carrots w/ tahini dip

1/2 large organic apple

1 square of dark chocolate

 

3:30 – PM Snack – (Blood sugar 81 mg/dl)

Second half of organic large apple

1 hard boiled egg

2 strawberries

 

Overall, I have found that having set meal and snack times is important to control my blood sugar, portions and hunger. Overall, I am eating more carbohydrates during pregnancy, and focusing heavily on eating intuitively. One thing is for sure, I can’t eat spicy food like I used to!

Sunday Session: Frittata, Ice-cream, Muffins, Bigos

Prepping some meals for the week! Enjoy!

Veggie Frittata

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • minced garlic, or 1 garlic clove
  • 1 package (4 ounce) prosciutto
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 15 asparagus spears, chopped in 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup grated sweet potato
  • fresh basal, chopped, 1 handful
  • 8 eggs
  • salt/pepper

Method: Preheat oven to 350. In a large saute pan, saute the onions in the coconut oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent.  Add the meat, asparagus, green pepper, grated sweet potato and garlic.  Cook until the the sweet potato is soft.

Add the chopped basil and season with a little sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Transfer the mixture to a 8×6 glass (square) baking dish and spread the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs add pour over the veggie mixture in the baking dish.

Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 22 minutes.

Uncover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the eggs are set in the middle when you jiggle the pan.

Paleo Ice-cream

  • 1/2 can organic coconut cream
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 2 Tablespoons hemp seed
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 4 squares of 85% Lindt dark chocolate

Method: In a food processor blend the coconut cream, bananas, vanilla extract, hemp seed. Once the mixture is well-blended, break up the chocolate squares and mix into the blend. Freeze for a minimum of 3 hours. Optional is the addition of honey if you want a sweeter taste.

Paleo Infused Breakfast Muffins

  • Prosciutto (make sure you look at the ingredients, sugar is NOT needed)
  • Framer’s market eggs, or I like Trader Joe’s free range
  • Spices – either fresh cilantro or basil

Method: Heat oven to 375F, using a cupcake baking pan, line the cups with prosciutto, crack open an egg in each cup and add spices. Cook for about 20-25 minutes, pull out of the oven, allow it to cool, and store for the week.

Bigos – Sauerkraut and Sausage Stew

  • 16 ounces of fresh sauerkraut (or homemade)
  • 8 sausages (does not matter on flavor. Ingredients are what to focus on. Look for beef, pork or chicken with no added corn syrup, sugar or other unnatural/chemical substance)
  • Small head of cabbage
  • Salt/pepper
  • Oregano
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 4 organic carrot stalks (optional)

Method: Brown the sausage in a skillet. Chop into small bite-size pieces. In a slow cooker, add the onions, sausage, kraut, cabbage, salt/pepper, oregano. Allow the stew to cook up to 12 hours on low. Towards the end, add carrot for color and texture variety.

Nutrient Dense: Slow-Cooker Chicken Vegetable Soup

This soup, by far, has been  the best chicken soup I have ever HAD and made. Pure deliciousness.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 T of coconut oil, or grassfed butter
  • 1 chicken breast, free range, skin and bones
  • 2 drum sticks, free range, skin on, bones in
  • 4 cups, gluten free chicken broth, enough to cover the soup ingredients
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced, add more if your prefer
  • 1/2 yellow onion, add more if you want the soup to be sweeter
  • 7 carrots stalks, chopped
  • 1 celery heart, ~10 stalks,  chopped
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 T rosemary
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • sea salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  • Turn slow-cooker on to high. Add coconut oil or butter.
  • Add in the garlic and onion and let it heat up and the flavors marry before adding the chicken (5-8 minutes). Place in the chicken.
  • Begin chopping and prepping all other ingredients. Add all ingredients, including broth and spcies.
  • Change temperature to Low, and cook for 8-10 hours. Remove chicken and once cool enough to touch, remove the bones and shred the meat. Place the meat back into soup mix.
  • Stir and then enjoy.

What may be different with this soup than ones you may find on Recipe.com or other quick-and-easy recipe sites? I have included chicken that is organic, free range, in the bone, skin on. Why? The nutrient density goes up substantially with these components.

Sunday Session – Paleo Infused Bites, Pumpkin Soup +

In one way or another we all know that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Relating to health and healthy eating, this is so true. It’s hard to eat the right things if you do not have food in your kitchen. If you have nothing on hand, take-out usually falls into place. And even when you have plenty of food stocked in your refrigerator, if you don’t think about when you are going to eat what, food may spoil, you may not get as much satisfaction out of your meals and more.

One solution is to carve out some time during the week to make some meals and snacks for the following 5-7 days. A few items I did this Sunday included:

Pumpkin Ginger Soup

Ingredients: Japanese pumpkin, vegetable stock, coconut milk, onion, ginger, garlic, pepper, salt

Method: First heat the pumpkin in the oven for about 15 minutes on 400F. Take out, let cool to the touch. Slice off peel with a good knife  Cube and place in a slow-cooker. Add in a gluten free stock, coconut cream and remaining spices. Let cook for ~6 hours and then puree with a hand blender.
Usage: Easy compliment to lunch/dinner. Exploding with nutrients, and making me feel healthy going about the week.

 

 

Paleo Infused Bites (very similar to what you see in the store as Lara Bars)

Ingredients: Almonds, cocoa nibs, dates, prunes.
Method: Mix the nuts and cocoa nibs first, until it becomes close to a paste/butter. Mix in the dates and once it is finely blended, add in prunes to make it all stick together better. Portion the ingredients into balls and let sit for a few hours to dry-out.
Usage: Easy, satisfying snack for when time is short. Lately I have been eating these before a 6:30pm yoga session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salad – this is as easy as it sounds.

Ingredients: Spinach, carrot, scallion, basil, green bell pepper
Method: Use some sort of leafy greens for the base and add in whatever other raw vegetables you have on hand.
Usage: A colorful and premade salad is more tempting than a bag of spinach sitting in the back corner of my refrigerator. This preparation makes it uber easy to throw together a meal for lunch during the week.

 

Hard Boiled Eggs

Ingredients: Free range eggs
Method: Boil eggs on a stovetop. Trick to make them easier to peel is to add teh eggs after the water is brought to a boil.
Usage: Protein rich food to have as a snack or to add to a meal/salad.

Corn Syrup in Soy Sauce?!

Getting comfortable upon our return to the US, post living in Australia for two years, I cannot help but find myself feeling “culture shock.” Maybe, “food shock” is a better term.

No doubt, I love America and the lifestyle it offers, yet, since being accustomed to daily food markets, butchers with fresh, free range meat and eggs, it is overwhelming walking into a Giant Eagle, let alone Costco these last few days.

Goodness, I bet my bank account I found a kiwi in Costco the size of a mango. How is this natural? And wow, I could literally get any cuisine I wanted in one store, regardless of the season. They had seaweed salad in Ohio! I mean this is great, but is it that great? The salad was delish but after reading the food ingredients, it lost it’s appeal seeing there were at least 3 food coloring’s in it. Why would my seaweed need to be more green? I wish we had an option.

And whereas it’s lovely to get any ingredient you want, it makes it tough to know what is truly in season. In Australia I literally bought produce by the season and made recipes accordingly. I remember one day I wanted red grapes (out of season) and the supermarket clerk looked at me like I had two heads.

Also, whilst visiting with family, my mom asked I help point out some healthier choices for her to eat/prepare for meals and I was/am more than keen to do so. This morning I began helping her by proofing her cabinet and found science experiments of ingredients. What do I mean? Some of the items in the pantry would never pass as food if it weren’t for the label or food container. I nearly fell over when I saw corn syrup in soy sauce! Why? I mean really, why? I know corn is cheap and before you know it, it is going to be found in our chewing gum. Oh wait…

I am probably coming off in this post as harsh, but the point I want to make is it’s not anyone’s fault for not knowing what is best for them to eat or feed their family with. There are so so so many mixed messages in the media and heaps of information to sort through. Most recently I had forgotten how hard marketing makes it on the regular consumer in knowing what foods to choose for health.  If you need some clarifying, I am happy to help. Send me an email and I will do my best to reply within 48 hours.

A pointer to start you off with is a line by Michael Pollan, “Eat food. Not too much. Most plants.” And sure as heck eat real butter!

Cheers to you and good health,

Kel

5 Ways to Enjoy Pumpkin

If you have been following my tweets you may well know my recent love for pumpkin. It. Is.Amazing. Certainly satisfies any taste and easy on the blood sugars. A few ideas for pumpkin include:

1.Pumpkin Soup  – First peel an pumpkin, cube and then roast in the oven. Once tender blend together ingredients such as cinnamon, nutmeg, coconut milk, onion, pepper, sea salt and a touch of honey.

2. Pumpkin Porridge – On a Sunday I will roast a whole pumpkin or throw a diced pumpkin in the slow cooker to have on hand during the week. This comes in handy, especially early mornings when I am pinched for time. My pumpkin porridge includes 2 eggs, 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of pumpkin, cinnamon, sea salt pecans/macadamia nuts all mixed together and microwaved in a coffee mug. Viola.

3. Roasted Pumpkin – As simple as it sounds, I reheat pumpkin and add some spice to my liking. Paprika and pumpkin marry well and go nicely with 2 poached eggs or grilled fish.

4. Pumpkin Dessert – I reheat pumpkin again with a concoction of coconut milk or flakes, cocoa nibs and cinnamon. If I have a really bog sweet tooth, I will drizzle some honey on-top.

5. Pumpkin Salad – Pumpkin over some fresh greens, pine nuts and homemade balsamic dressing is an easy and go-to dinner for me this season. The fiber keeps me full and the pine nuts have the perfect taste. If I want a little sweetness to my salad, I will also throw in some raisins.

As you can see pumpkin is so versatile. Do you have a favorite way to eat it? One thing is for sure – while it’s easy to buy pumpkin in a can (especially in the US), it is much better to buy and roast one, eliminating the preservatives and package contamination. Good health, often takes an extra step but is always worth it.

Cheers to you and good health,
Kel