Meal Plan for the Win {Week of 4/19/16}

Hi! How was your weekend? Ours was a nice mixture of being busy and relaxing.  We celebrated my brother-in-law’s birthday, went on a few walks (the weather in NJ was beautiful!), did some shopping for an upcoming trip, and cooked a lot of food for the week.    Speaking of food prep, I thought I would share what I did this weekend to prepare for a really busy week ahead.  Besides being really busy at work, I also have several client meetings, Bar Association events, networking events and a family get together.  I was also hoping to be able to sleep, eat, exercise and most of all, spend time with my husband.  What’s a working girl to do?  PLAN!meal plan food prep

Thanks to my Sunday food prep, my meals this week will look something like this —>

Breakfast: Egg bake with spinach, shredded potato, onion, maple turkey breakfast sausage, garlic and spices. For days that I hit the gym, I also have 1 scoop of Sunwarrior protein powder with water or a protein smoothie.

Lunches: I packed 3 containers of quinoa, shredded rotisserie chicken and 1 cup of roasted  chickpeas, broccoli, onion and carrot based off of this Chickpea Broccoli Buddha bowl from Hummusapien  (I have meetings the other 2 days).  I topped each bowl with 1 large spoonful of the peanut sauce from Hummusapien’s recipe.  It’s one of the best sauces I’ve ever had!  Perfectly sweet, salty, spicy and savory – the Thai would be very proud that you hit all 4 “S”s!

Dinners:  Trader Joe’s quinoa/brown rice pasta with “creamy” sauce (almond-milk based roux) w/ sundried tomatoes, basil, onion and rotisserie chicken based on this recipe; OR vegetarian re-fried bean & chicken enchiladas; OR leftover chickpea broccoli buddha bowls with a salad.

Snacks: roasted Indian chickpeas; cucumber and carrots with hummus; Boom Chicka Pop; Lara or KIND bars.

In order to have these meals (and others) all week, I had to prep the following today (Sunday):

  • Slice organic strawberries for smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt parfaits;
  • Cook 3 cups quinoa in chicken broth;
  • Shred chicken of 2 rotisserie chickens from Wegmans;
  • Roast broccoli, carrots, onion and chickpeas;
  • Prepare Trader Joe’s Brown Rice & Quinoa pasta & non-dairy sauce w/ chicken and sundried tomatoes;
  • Slice 2 lemons to use for water and tea all week;
  • Slice carrots & cucumbers for snacking;
  • Prep ingredients & cook egg bake.

Did you do any meal prep over the weekend?  How do you manage eating well during the week when you’re really busy? 

The Healthiest Food Shortcuts

 

If you’re anything like me, you have plenty of weeks where you have little to no time to prepare healthy meals/snacks.  Some people just throw in the towel and figure if they have no time, they will just grab take-out, go to the drive-thru, or grab something from their freezer.  I like to think that I’ve come up with a happy medium for those weeks.  I’m going to share some of the shortcuts that have helped me reach that balance.

healthy time savers

The key: healthy food shortcuts from some of my favorite grocery stores.  Healthy shortcuts = food items that are either already prepared, or have done all of the “heavy lifting” for you (i.e., chopping, peeling, steaming, etc.), so that you can easily incorporate them into a simple meal or snack.  Healthy shortcuts are one of the biggest reasons I’ve been able to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite working so much.  Even though this may mean paying a little more for convenience items, I think it’s worth it in the end.

I’m on a budget – don’t get me wrong.  But I also work a lot, and my husband works a lot, and we don’t always time to do everything we want to do throughout the week.  I allocate a part of my budget to convenience items at the grocery store if I want to eat well but don’t have the time to prepare everything from scratch.  Remember: You can’t do it all!  Work, kids, school, healthy eating, exercise, relationships, family, friends…. the list goes on and on.   The key is being able to recognize what areas you’re willing to pay a little more for.  For me, healthy shortcuts are a big convenience factor that I’m willing to pay for.

TRADER JOE’S

Cauliflower Rice – although you can buy a head of cauliflower, chop and pulse it in a food processor, doesn’t it sound a lot easier to buy a bag of it already done for you?  It’s SO much easier to toss this cauliflower rice into a pan with 1 Tb. EVOO and saute for a few minutes until cooked through.  Plus, TJ’s version only has cauliflower and a little salt as the ingredients.  Just the way it should be.  Delicious! And so much easier.

Lentils – I love lentils, but I don’t love the amount of time it takes to cook them.  Sometimes I just want to throw lentils in some soup or on top of a salad to add more protein but I don’t have the time (read: several hours) to cook dry lentils.  Enter TJ’s Steamed Lentils, which are less than $3 and already cooked for you!

trader joe's

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Brown Rice packets – when I food prep, I try to cook rice on the weekends if I know I’m going to use it for a stir fry or to add to taco bowls.  When I don’t have the time, these brown rice packets from TJ’s save the day.  Although you can heat the rice in the microwave in the packet, I like to remove it from the plastic and heat it on the stove (you can toss it in soup or in a skillet with veggies) to heat it up in a healthier way.

Hard Boiled Eggs – Another great, go-to protein source in our family is hard boiled eggs.  I try to make my own most of the time, but the whole point of this article is for those weeks when you just can’t get it done. For less than $2.50, you can buy this bag of 6 hard-boiled eggs.  They make it so much easier to get your daily dose of protein.  Just chop them up and put them in a salad or eat along with a smoothie or oatmeal for breakfast.  Remember, though, 1 egg only has about 6 grams of protein.

Organic Apple Slices – even I will admit this is a true lazy girl trick, but hey – I do what I can.  I find that I’ll snack more on apple slices in they’re pre-cut and ready to go on my busiest days.  This bag of apple slices is great to have on hand as a healthy go-to snack.  They make for an easy and convenient travel snack, too!   I have to have mine with some TJ’s Almond Butter :  )

WHOLE FOODS

Tasty Bite packets – I keep a few of these on hand in the house to make a quick and easy vegetarian Indian meal when hunger (hangry!) strikes.  Again – this is all about convenience and having back up options! Of course I’d rather make this from scratch.  But let’s get real – who has the time to make an Indian dish from scratch on a weeknight?  (If you do – I’m jealous!)  Toss a packet of Tasty Bite’s channa masala, lentils, punjab eggplant, etc. with some of Trader Joe’s brown or cauliflower rice for a simple vegetarian meal when you have little time.  I try to round out my meal with a big salad with tomatoes, cucumber and carrot to add some additional nutrients.

whole foods

 

Organic Frozen Fruit – one of the biggest ways I trimmed my grocery budget and made room for these convenience items was to stop wasting fresh fruit and start buying frozen fruit for oatmeal and smoothies.  I still buy plenty of fresh fruit (especially when it’s on sale over the summer), but I learned to buy the fruits we weren’t finishing throughout the week from the frozen section instead.

Whole Foods’ Guacamole – this is probably the hardest to stomach because although it’s delicious, it isn’t cheap.  I love making my own guacamole when I can, but this is a great option to have on hand to throw on top of a salad, tacos, chicken, etc. throughout the week if you don’t have time.  To keep it fresh – flatten it out in the container after using, put a very thin layer of water (enough to cover the guac), and store in the fridge.  I dump out the water before serving and repeat the process all week long.

Frozen Greens – I love Whole Foods’ frozen kale and spinach because they’re easy to toss in  a smoothie, steam for a side vegetable, or to de-thaw, sauté, and add to any dish.  You can always find organic, affordable bagged options.  Not only are they much easier to use, but you can ensure you have healthy greens on hand if you just keep some in the freezer all the time.

Are there any items I missed? I’m always looking to learn about healthy shortcut options! What are some of your favorites?

 

How to Use a Standing Desk (Properly)

Good morning! I hope you all had a nice weekend.  If you had off on Friday, I hope you got to enjoy some extra time doing something fun for yourself or with family and friends.   Today’s topic: how to use a standing desk.

Since Monday morning means back to work for a lot of people, I figured I would share some tips on how to properly use a standing desk.  If you don’t have one, read on to consider some of the things you may need if you purchase one.  I never really thought about any of these things until I got a standing desk at work.  I learned the hard way that just standing and typing is not enough – you have to take some precautions to protect your joints and get the most out of your new office toy.  Now that I have one, I love it! Sine mine is electric, I put it up and down throughout the day.  I find that I’m really focused when I’m standing!

Thinking of getting a standing desk? Try Beyond the Office Door.  They’re a Wisconsin company who makes their desks in the U.S.  They have electric and adjustable stand up desks.  If you like to buy things off Amazon, try this Varidesk for another adjustable option.

Pin this —->

how to use a standing desk

Gather Your Tools:

  • Make sure you have comfortable shoes in the office and wear them any time you use your stand-up desk.  You should not stand in heels or anything that lacks support for your feet.  You will definitely regret it later…

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Healthy Breakfast Choices at Panera

No matter how much preparation you put into your meals, fitness, and overall health, there are always going to be times when you need food on the run.  Panera is one of those places that I stop by for breakfast on my way to work when I don’t have time to prepare anything, and it’s also a place I like to grab coffee and a healthy snack to write these blog posts ;  )

Before recently, the general thought about Panera in the healthy eating community was that they disguised themselves as a healthy restaurant when really their food was made with chemicals, additives and lots and lots of unhealthy carbs… until recently.  Have you guys heard about all of the changes Panera has made?  Of course, they’re not perfect and there are still improvements to be made, but this is an awesome start.

So what are some things you can order if you’re trying to eat well and you need to grab something on the run?

healthy breakfast panera

One of the best things on Panera’s breakfast menu is the Steel Cut Oatmeal with strawberries and pecans. It comes with a sugar and cinnamon topping, but you can ask for that on the side (like I did in the above photo).. 

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Prepare for Your Workweek Throughout the Week

Morning everyone!  I hope you enjoyed the first post I wrote in this 2-part series on preparing for your workweek.  Although some people don’t want to spend a few hours each weekend preparing for the week ahead, I think it’s important to focus on what you can do and realize that every little bit counts.  I’ve gotten the best bang-for-my-buck for those practices I’ve implemented at night.  I thought I would share a few of those things with you here to help you prepare for healthier workdays.

Today’s focus: tips & tricks for the workweek that you can implement during the week.

Here are a few things you should give a try the night before a busy workday to ensure healthy success…

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Preparing for Workdays on the Weekend

Did Daylight Savings hit everybody else as hard as it hit me?  Phew!  It’s so funny that 1 hour can throw things off so much.

I’m going to give you guys a couple of posts this week on preparing for your workweek on both the weekend and during the week.  Through this series of posts, I’m going to break down some simple tips and tricks that you can use to make your workday healthier, one step at a time.  Some people like to get everything done on the weekend, and some like to spread it out over the week.  Other times, the choice is out of your control and you just need to do what you can.  The point is that really any amount of preparation or energy you put forward will make you healthier (than if you did nothing) in the long run.

Today’s focus: preparing for your workday on the weekend.

My workday preparation is constantly evolving, but I like to think that I have a decent system down nowadays.  If I don’t do a little bit of preparation either on the weekend, the night before, or early on the morning during the week, I look something like this —>

ThanksgivingMeltdown03-e-1117.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smart

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Here a few tips that you can try over the weekend that will make your whole week much easier.  If you only have 1 hour, 30 minutes or just 15 minutes, there should be a few tips that you can give a try:

Food Prep – Bulk: I’m going to talk about “bulk” food prep in much more detail in future blog posts, but I’m sure you’ve heard all about the trend of cooking a number of recipes or bulk basics on the weekend that will last you all week.  It’s certainly not for everyone.  I have weekends where I don’t want to spend 1, 2 or 3+ hours in the kitchen cooking and cleaning up (isn’t that the worst part!?) instead of being outside or with loved ones.  The basic idea behind bulk cooking is to set aside a block of time over the weekend to wash, chop, dice and cook up most, if not all, of the food you need for the week.

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Healthify Your Office

I spend the majority of my Monday-Fridays in the office sitting, typing, on the phone, etc.  That’s a lot of time out of an entire week or even a year.  After graduating from law school and starting my first “real” job, I realized pretty quickly that I could maintain healthy habits all I wanted to outside of the office, but if I didn’t figure out a way to carry them over to work, I was not going to succeed in the long-run.

{a typical day's eats to take to the office}

{a typical day’s eats to take to the office}

I have learned a few tricks along the way, and picked up a few from others who share my passion for wellness.  I’m hoping you are inspired to try 1 or 2 of them in your office, too!

Stand

If you have the resources or ability to request a stand-up desk, do it! I have an electric stand-up desk at work, which enables me to put the desk in a stand up position and easily transition it back down to a sitting position desk.  If you do get a stand up desk, here’s an article on proper posture techniques that you should check out: Perfect Posture at Standing Desk

MOVE!

Simply put, you have to find ways to move more at work, while maintaining your efficiency and work product.  For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible, walk to the furthest bathroom, take a walk with a co-worker at lunch for a few minutes instead of chatting in your office, etc.  I’ve also come up with a few strategies that ensure I move more.  For example, I keep a 22-oz glass water bottle (this one is the BEST! Life Factory) on my desk and fill it as soon as I get to work in the morning.  I have to get up and go to the bathroom so often that I’m moving without even thinking ; )

Snack Drawer

I know there are going to be moments when I’m hungry (aka. hangry) and need a snack, a meal, a drink, chocolate.. anything!  Instead of relying on the less-than-ideal option of a vending machine, be prepared.  Create your own vending machine in your desk!  I have a drawer in my desk dedicated to healthy tea bags, organic dark chocolate, raw nuts, rice cakes, air popped popcorn (this one is the best and healthy, too! BoomChickaPop), and cans of healthy soups or items I can heat up as a ‘meal’.

Talk to Your Employer:

Does your employer have a wellness program?  Are they interested in starting one? Corporate wellness programs are on the rise.  It may be that your employer is interested in starting one, but doesn’t know or think that the employees are interested.  You can make your interest known and offer to act as an employee leader.  If they are unwilling to commit  to a full-time wellness program, ask if your employer would mind if a group of health-conscious employees starting a Wellness Group.  I helped to organize one at my previous employer, and we met once a month or so to have lunch together and discuss ways we could improve health and wellness in the office.  All of our ideas and programs were voluntary, of course, but they actually were much better received and accepted then we anticipated at first.  So many people got involved! I’m planning a whole post dedicated to the types of employee initiatives and programs that employers can offer, but for now – gauge your company’s interest.

Make Friends:

It is easier to stick with your healthy goals when you have people around you holding you accountable and supporting you.  Are there others in your office trying to make a change?  Offer to start a lunch group that eats together and supports each other in your goal to become healthier.  Instead of taking a 1-hour lunch and sitting in the office kitchen, take a 30-minute walk with your co-workers and eat for 30 minutes.

BYO (Bring Your Own):

If I have a meeting at the office, and I know that the only meal available is going to be pizza, I quietly bring my own lunch. 

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You shouldn’t feel sorry for taking care of yourself and brining your healthy meal from home.   There’s nothing wrong with pizza now and then, but if you have a few lunch meetings per week/month, plus work happy hours, work birthday celebrations with cake — it really adds up!  So I don’t bring my own every time I go to a meeting, but now and again I plan ahead and do.

What do you do at work to stay healthy? Let me know!