Lifestyle

How to Prepare Meals (and Stick with It) as a Working Professional

Guest blog by Tal Woliner

If you’re anything like me, you’ve struggled for years to figure out how to juggle eating well with a hectic work schedule and constant food temptations at business meetings, events and happy hours. It might even be a source of anxiety and frustration. I’ve figured out a way to work around it and you can too!

Almost three years ago, I decided to take control of how I eat and work out and apply the same rigor and planning I employed in the rest of my life. That’s when I first started working out with Sonja. On top of being an incredibly talented personal trainer, Sonja is a nutritionist. It was her advice about how to eat a healthier diet that started me on a journey that has evolved into preparing meal plans that I can actually stick with.

The key to changing the way you eat is planning, planning, planning. I used to try to prepare breakfasts and lunches every night to take with me the next morning to have at work. Even though I had the best intentions to stay on track, I realized it wouldn’t last and I’d inevitably go out to eat as the week progressed. That all changed when I started preparing my breakfast and lunch meals for the entire week on the weekends. While that sounds daunting, it’s actually easier than you think.

Here are some tips that will transform how you prepare meals for the work week:

1. Check your calendar before heading to the grocery store.

Doing so will help you figure out which days you’ll be in the office and will need meals. While my plans sometimes change in the middle of the week, I’m usually pretty good at estimating how many meals I’ll need. It helps keep me honest so I can make enough meals to last me for the week.

2. Search for inspiration for recipes from sites like Pinterest.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that there is a plethora of blogs, websites, and amateur and professional chefs posting their recipes online. Instead of brainstorming ideas from scratch, search for inspiration online. Pinterest is my go-to source for healthy and creative recipes for my meals. The key for me is not to get bored making the same thing every week or I’ll deviate from the plan.

3. Pick recipes that scale up to save time.

While I try to mix up what I make each week, I pick recipes that will yield multiple quantities so I can be efficient with my meal prep time. A good example of that is the egg muffins I make every other week that last for the entire week. Here’s a great recipe I reference often. I usually just mix up which vegetables I sauté to vary up the muffins. If you love everything pumpkin like I do during the fall, you can also try these pumpkin muffins that use old fashioned toasted oats instead of flour.

4. Set aside a block of time on the weekends to buy groceries and prepare meals.

Every weekend I head to the grocery store with a shopping list in hand so that I’m not forgetting the essential ingredients to make the meals I’ve chosen. That means I’ll be ready to go when it’s time to prepare meals.

Then, depending on what my weekend plans look like, I set aside 2-3 hours of mostly uninterrupted consecutive time to make the meals I’ll be eating during the work week. I found that making a commitment to set aside time on either Saturday or Sunday will save you hours of headache later on when you’re exhausted and would rather binge a show than make yet another meal at night.

5. Use shortcuts to make meal prep even easier.

Here are some tips that have helped me cut down on time and expand my recipe options:

  • Buy mason jars if you’re making salads. I bought a pack of 12 mason jars on Amazon for only $11.99 and it was one of the best purchases I’ve made. I make salads each week as I can’t always count on leftovers from dinner to serve as lunch meals the next day. The reason I love mason jars is you can ditch multiple pieces of Tupperware and put all of your salad ingredients, including the dressing, in one jar. The jars lock in the freshness and ingredients are layered in such a way that lettuce doesn’t get soggy. If you’ve never seen a tutorial on how to load a mason jar, check here and here. Also, see below for my go-to salad recipes.
  • Invest in condiments you’ll likely use every week. I make homemade salad dressings at home (overtime, you’ll likely prefer them over store-bought versions), so I have a variety of vinegars handy, which usually serve as a base for any dressing you’ll make. I have red wine, white wine, balsamic and apple cider vinegar ready to use (salad dressing recipes also below).
  • Upgrade your appliances (if needed) to enhance meal prep. I also have a crock pot, electric can opener and food processor to help me make slow cooked shredded chicken, use canned vegetables like chickpeas, and make herb salad dressings, respectively. These tools have helped me expand my repertoire of recipes.

If you follow these steps and make a habit of it, you’ll feel like you took back control of what you eat and how it’s prepared. I know I do. I’ve been following this process since the beginning of the year and I’ve found a way to make it fit into my schedule because it’s a priority. I find myself less excited to eat out during lunch when I know I can make food better and healthier on my own. I hope you’ll consider this approach or find your own methods to make a plan and stick with it. You won’t regret it.

Salad Recipes

Salad Dressings

  • Balsamic Vinaigrette – Whisk these ingredients:
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
    • ½ cup olive oil
  • Apple Cider Vinaigrette – Whisk these ingredients:
    • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • ½ cup olive oil
    • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Tomato Basil Dressing – Blend in food processor:
    • 1 medium tomato, chopped
    • 2-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • ½ cup olive oil
    • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
    • 1 clove garlic, chopped
    • Pinch of sea salt and pepper
  • Herb Salad Dressings (including Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette)
  • Other dressing ideas:

Moderation

I recently broke up with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I’m still pretty sad, listening to Taylor Swift break-up anthems on repeat, but I know it’s for the best. The relationship crossroads came about on Halloween when I literally wrestled a Reese’s out of Spiderman’s tiny little hand because I realized it was the last one and I had to have it (and because the six I had before weren’t going to cut it).

So, yeah – it needed to end.

I’m not usually a proponent of cutting out entire food groups from one’s diet (Um, yes – Reese’s PB cups are totally their own food group, don’t argue with me – I’m going through a tough break-up, see above). However, if I can’t exercise moderation with a food/food group, it’s best to just walk. Away. From. The. Candy.

And now, to the point of this month’s blog post: Moderation.

The cute red cups have made their annual debut at Starbucks this week, which means that holiday season is officially upon us. Christmas parties, finger foods and booze become weekly staples…and I bust out my sizeable collection of stretchy waistband clothes. NO MORE. This year, I pledge to indulge in moderation. I pledge to bring healthy options to a holiday dinner party so that I have no excuse to eat 15 pigs-in-a-blanket. I pledge to get physical activity every day, even if I only have 20 minutes. I pledge to drink a ton of water every day. I pledge to listen to my body and stop eating when before I am ridiculously full. And, I pledge not to have one, single, solitary Reese’s. Ok, well time to go pour myself a glass of Pinot Noir and do a bad-ass abs/booty workout while I catch up on Homeland season three. Because everything in moderation, right? Happy hols, y’all!

Annie M (guest blogger)

Sunday Evening Plan of Excellence

Weekends are my JAM.  I mean, what’s there not to love about sleeping in, having breakfast in bed, (a girl can dream…), and getting in some leisurely sweat sessions?  Exactly. Unfortunately, my blissful weekend existence comes crashing down around 3pm on Sunday afternoon, when I start getting pre-work week depression.  Over the years, I’ve tried hundreds of tactics to avoid this sinking feeling:

Making my brunch reservations for 2pm, drinking bottomless mimosas until dinnertime and going to bed (err, passing out) at 8pm to get a “full night’s sleep” before Monday morning.  Result?  Not feeling human until Tuesday, not grocery shopping until Wednesday, and eating out (read: unhealthy AND expensive) almost all week.  #FAIL.

Going out of town until late Sunday evening to “make the most of my weekend.”  Result?  See above.

Pretending it’s not actually Sunday and shopping/eating/drinking/napping/watching Breaking Bad/insert-unproductive-activity-here until it’s time for bed.  Result?  You guessed it.  Being TOTALLY unprepared for the week ahead.

At some point (probably when the guy at Potbelly’s asked if I wanted “the usual”), I realized that getting myself organized on Sunday night was critical to eating healthy throughout the week, saving some serious $$$ and actually feeling on top of my s*%& going into the week. So, without further ado, my new, massively improved, Sunday night ritual:

Step 1: Plan out meals for the week.

Step 2: Make a shopping list based on the meal plan above

Step 3: Go shopping!  Duh.  My favorite places in the DC/NoVA area are: MOM’s Organic Market in Alexandria, Whole Foods,

Yes! Organic Markets, and – if you’re feeling SUPER motivated  -- farmers markets in Falls Church and Dupont Circle are amazing for farm fresh produce!

Step 4: Prepare Foods.  I usually get salmon fillets (2 6oz. portions, enough for 4 lunches) and put those on the broiler for 10-12 minutes with salt, pepper and squeeze of lemon.  Then, I wash and cut up veggies for my lunch salad: kale, cucumbers, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes – whatever’s in season and most fresh!  In the mornings, I’ll throw ¼ an avocado on top of my salad so it doesn’t get brown.  I also rinse and cut up fruit so it’s easy to grab on-the-go. (Insert other ideas or options here). Step 5: Go watch Breaking Bad!  Relax, and enjoy a square (or two, let’s be honest) of dark chocolate and mint tea, knowing that you’re about to be #winning all week!

B

Getting into Your Workout Groove

Whether it’s summer, or really any other time of the year, the number one excuse for not exercising is “I don’t have any time”. This is most likely because it hasn’t become priority, it’s not set aside in your schedule, or you’re not sure what to do to make it effective. Maybe right now winding down after work and watching your favorite show is a priority, and you make time for it. Exercise becomes a priority when you notice how good you feel inside and out, how it can alleviate stress, and how you have more energy throughout the day. If you have a few exercises down, you can burn some major calories and work muscles in 10 minutes with little space and no equipment. Here are a few tips:

  1. Schedule exercise in your calendar: Whether It’ going for a run, joining in a class, working with a trainer, or working out 10 minutes on your living room floor, write it down just as you would an appointment or another priority in your day.
  2. Mix up your routines: You don’t want to get bored with the same workout. Mix up your routines, intensity levels, types of exercise. You will also see more effective results this way.
  3. Don’t over think it, just do it: I know personally if I’m tired after work, go home and settle in, I’m not going to exercise. If you’re exercising at home, do it first thing in the morning or right when you walk in the door. If it’s a class or outdoors, have your workout clothes with you. Throw them on and go. If you think about not wanting to workout for 10 minutes, that’s 10 minutes you could have gotten your workout in!
  4. Have fun with it!: Exercising shouldn’t be looked at as a chore. It’s YOU time. Time to take care of your body, mind, health, and sanity. Whether it’s personal training, Pilates, yoga, dance, group exercise, or just you and your music. Find what works for you, and I guarantee, you will suddenly have time for it.

Create a 10 minute Full Body workout with no equipment that will get your heart pumping and work multi-muscles. You can do this by picking 4 to 6 different exercises and going through them back to back for one minute each. Repeat the circuit twice. Example: Pushups, Squats, Mountain Climbers, Burpees, and Crunches.

10 Minute Workout (No equipment):

1. Basic Squat

Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, hips stacked over knees, knees over ankles. Retract your shoulders down away from your ears and extend your arms out straight so they are parallel with the ground, palms facing down. Begin by descending into a squat, making sure you can see your toes. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause for a second before pressing back up to the starting position.

2. Pushup (to regress, place your knees on the floor or do pushup in an incline position against a wall or countertop).

Support your body with the balls of your feet and with your hands, positioning the hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, palms flat on the floor. Straighten your arms without locking your elbows. Lower your torso until your chest is just a fraction of an inch off the floor. Push yourself back to the starting position.

3. 180 degree Squat Jumps:

Start in squat position. Jump into the air landing back in your squat. Immediately jump rotating 90 degrees to the left, then back to center, then to the right. Repeat this explosive movement for 20 reps. (If you are having trouble landing in a squat position practice regular in place squat jumps, only lightly lifting your feet off the floor).

4. Plank hold

Come into plank position with your forearms resting on the floor directly under your shoulders. Keep your back flat like a tree trunk, engage your abdominal muscles and hold

5. Burpee

Begin in a squat position with hands on the floor in front of you. Kick or step your feet back to a pushup position, making sure your shoulders are stabilized over your wrists, back is flat, and abs are engaged. Immediately return your feet to the squat position. Leap up as high as possible from the squat position. Repeat.

5. Russian twist

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat. Hold arms in front of your chest with your palms facing each other as if you’re holding a ball or weight. Lean back so your torso is at a 45-degree angle from the floor. Twist to the left while tightening your belly button back to your spine pause, then reverse the movement and twist all the way back to the right, and pause. Return to the starting position.

Staying Cool in the Summer Heat

August is upon us, and that means that by 8 am, the sun is up and the heat index is reaching 90 degrees. Exercising in the hot, humid environment requires planning and listening to your body in order to reduce your chance of heat related illnesses. Acclimation, hydration, and clothing are key components to making sure your summer workouts are enjoyable and safe. 1. Acclimation – To meet the demands of exercising in heat, it is important to slowly introduce your body to the environment over a 10-14 day period. Start with shorter sessions and gradually increase intensity and duration. If you can, work out early in the morning. I find that if I work out between 6am and 9am the heat is bearable and the there are still areas of shade available.

2. Hydration – Make sure you’re hydrated before you go out. If you plan on going for a run right after you wake up, drink 6-8 ounces before you go out. Depending on the duration of your workout, drinking water during can help. There’s a lot of research on specific amounts to drink according to sweat loss and body weight, but recommendations are changing so often it’s hard to say exactly what is most beneficial. My rule of thumb is to listen to your body. Sipping on water throughout an hour-long workout keeps my energy levels steady without filling up my stomach or making me want to gulp an entire bottle at once. The same goes for drinking after a workout. Again, research varies as to how much water to drink in order to “replenish sweat loss.”  Make sure you replenish with water and sodium. I love coconut water post workout, or even ice cold water with a little salt.

3. Clothing – The key to staying cool is evaporation of sweat. This is the body’s main mechanism of heat loss, and the sooner it starts the better. The more humid it is outside, the more difficult it is for sweat to evaporate off of the skin. Wear light, minimal clothing to maximize skin exposure and select moisture wicking fabrics. One of my favorite things to do after a run or sweaty workout is cool off with an ice-cold towel. Before I leave the house, I put a wet hand towel in a zip lock bag and put it in the freezer. By the time I get back, it’s super refreshing and cools my body down within minutes.

Improving Skin with Nutrition

The health benefits of eating a whole foods diet are endless. Some will find improvement in body composition, energy levels, or even just mood and quality of life. Another motivator for adopting a healthy diet is seeing an improvement in skin. Supplying your body with the proper vitamins and nutrients can nourish your body inside and out. If you’re looking for better skin – free of acne, bumps, or dryness – focus on getting an adequate amount of these key vitamins and minerals from your food. Vitamin A is one of the most recognized fat-soluble vitamins for promoting healthy skin. It promotes cell growth and differentiation in the skin, and is effective in preventing the formation of certain forms of acne.  If you experien

Whole eggs are a good source of Vitamin A

ce rough, dry skin or scaly bumps on the back of your legs and arms, this could be a sign of Vitamin A deficiency. Many physicians prescribe their patients with synthetic forms of vitamin A to relieve conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne, which can also be treate

d by consuming natural sources of pre-formed vitamin A. Preformed vitamin A, which is optimally absorbed by the body, can be found in traditional food sources such as liver, cod liver oil, and whole eggs. I recommend Green Pasture’s Fermented Cod Liver Oil for supplementation. Vitamin A can also be found in leafy greens and red/orange fruits.

Zinc is a mineral that serves many physiological functions, including gene expression, immune function, and protein synthesis. For the skin, it has anti-inflammatory effects and protects against UV radiation. Zinc is best absorbed from animal sources, which are not bound to phytates (an anti-nutrient found in plants and nuts). Red meat such as beef and lamb, seafood like oysters, scallops, and shellfish are all great whole food sources.Oysters are a good source of zinc.

Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant and is important for growth and repair of tissues, providing benefits to the body beyond just skin health. It is responsible for the formation of collagen, which is a protein needed for healthy skin, bones, and teeth. Lack of vitamin C can contribute to a condition known has hyperkeratosis pilaris (scaly bumps on arms and legs) when collagen formation is impaired and the follicles are damaged. Observational studies have shown that higher intake of vitamin C in one’s diet is associated with better skin appearance, less dry skin, and less wrinkles. The highest sources of Vitamin C can be found in bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kiwi, and citrus fruits. It is best to eat these foods raw or slightly cooked since vitamin C is sensitive to heat.

Kale

These are just a few among many of the nutrients that can help improve skin, but focusing on getting these 3 in your diet is a good place to start. You might be asking: what can I do right now to start? I would say start with these 3 things:

1. Eat liver 2x a week. If you can't stand the thought of stomaching this nutrient dense superfood, find a good cod liver oil supplement, such as Green Pasture's Fermented CLO.

2. Make a green smoothie. Stuff your blender with kale, juice from a lemon or orange, and some frozen berries. (Vitamin C and Vitamin A)1. Eat liver 2 times a week. If you can't stand the thought of stomaching this nutrient dense superfood, find a good cod liver oil supplement, such as Green Pasture's Fermented CLO. (Vitamin A)

3. Find a good source of red meat from a farmer or Whole Foods. Try to stay away from conventional meat, but if it's all you can find, choose the leanest cuts. (Vitamin A and Zinc)

Stay tuned for more skin care tips and ways to care for your body, both inside and out.

 

 

Effects of Sleep Deprivation and Stress on Weight Loss

The generalized magic equation for weight loss is daily energy expenditure being greater than caloric intake. However, if you are living off of veggies and lean protein, exercising 4 hours a day, and still not dropping pounds, you may want to consider your sleep patterns and stress levels. Stress, especially emotional, and lack of sleep slows down the metabolism and digestion process. It also effects hormone levels to where the body holds on to extra calories and fat. Figuring out ways to find balance in your life  where you can achieve restful sleep and control heightened cortisol levels due to stress can be the key to losing those extra pounds.

Recently I worked with a couple clients who were becoming frustrated that they were eating right ,and constantly challenging their bodies through exercise while training with me 5 days a week.  I was frustrated for them and knew there must be another factor playing into their lack or results. After learning both stress and lack of sleep were key issues, I recommended an  anti stress supplement from the health food store, and guided breathing meditation as a before bedtime ritual. After two months both clients lost up to 20lbs!

Finding balance is key to reducing stress and in turn increasing weight loss success. To do this it's important to look at many factors of your life including diet, exercise, career, and relationships. If you need help with any of these issues please contact me.

Have a lovely day!

Finding Time for Exercise

The number one excuse I hear for not exercising is “I don’t have any time”. This is usually due to the fact that it hasn’t become priority, it’s not set aside in your schedule, or you’re not sure what to do to make it effective. Maybe right now winding down after work and watching your favorite show is a priority, and you make time for it. Exercise becomes a priority when you notice how good you feel inside and out, how it can alleviate stress, and how you have more energy throughout the day. If you have a few exercises down you, you can burn some major calories and tone muscles in 10 minutes, with little space and no equipment. Here are a few tips: 1.Schedule exercise in your calender: Whether It’ going for a run, joining in a class, working with a trainer, or working out 10 minutes on your living room floor, write it down just as you would an appointment or another priority in your day.

2. Mix up your routines: You don’t want to get bored with the same workout. Mix up your routines, intensity levels, types of exercise. You will also see more effective results this way.

3.Don’t over think it, just do it: I know personally if I’m tired after work, go home and settle in, I’m not going to exercise. If you’re exercising at home, do it first thing in the morning or right when you walk in the door. If it’s a class or outdoor exercise, have your workout clothes with you. Throw them on and go. If you think about not wanting to workout for 10 minutes, that’s 10 minutes you could have gotten your workout in!

4. Have fun with it!: Exercising shouldn’t be looked at as a chore. It’s YOU time. time to take care of your body, mind, health, and sanity. Whether it’s personal training, Pilates, yoga, dance, group exercise, or just you and your music, find what works for you, and I guarantee, you will suddenly have time for it.

5.10 minute Full Body workout (no equipment): Pushups, Squats, Mountain Climbers, Burpees, and Crunches. Do these exercises back to back, one minute of each. Repeat circuit twice.

Tips from a Dedicated Client

This was written by one of my dedicated clients, Alice . She has achieved amazing results in the time I've been working with her, and I am so proud that she is sharing her inspiration with others: Personal Trainer TIps Revealed!

Don't you all wish that you had a personally trainer with you at all times to tell you tips to get healthier and more in shape, well now you do…sort of. I asked my trainer to reveal some secrets to me about getting fit and she shared some very useful information. There are four main rules to follow. 1) Keep a Food Log- alright, this isn't a big secret, but it's definitely important to do. The key to eating healthy is to incorporate all of the important nutrients to your diet. So make sure you have a little of everything, but portion control is key! Then write it all down or log it into an online log, that way you know how much you eat and you can stay on track. Also, sometimes the "fear" of writing down something you're not supposed to have will stop you from writing it all together. 2) Switch up your Routine- We are creatures of habit so you're body gets used to your workouts quite easily. To avoid hitting plateaus, you should constantly switch up your routine. If you like to run, run in intervals. If you're a gymmer, change the ways in which you work your muscles. Switch from cardio, to yoga, to Pilates. Don't make your body bored, try new things! 3)Rest, rest, rest- You might find this odd, but your rest is just as important as your workout days. You need to give your muscles a break and they will gladly thank you. Without rest, your body simply gets used to working out and will stop losing weight. By rest I also mean sleep. Try to get in at least 8 hours every night, but if that doesn't work, then there are other ways to rest, just find what works for you. Take a hot bath, get a massage, have "you-time", just remember to take a break sometimes! 4) HAVE FUN- If you're not having fun then you need to stop, have a talk with yourself and figure out how to. Working out and eating healthy don't have to be boring. Find new classes in your area, go hiking, workout with a friend, have competitions, whatever makes you enjoy your workout. You need to make your workout and your diet work for you. Not everyone is a runner and not everyone can eat salad all day. Look up recipes, create a blog, do something new! It'll be fun AND you're body will thank you.