8 Tips For Meal Planning & Packing

Sometimes the easiest way to stay on top of your game is to plan and pack your meals. Bringing a lunch, making overnight oats the night before, these are all great ways to look forward to food and what you’re going to eat. It keeps you from getting super ravenous and hungry that you want to give up or cheat and put everything in your face.

I know it can take a little effort and is something to adjust to, especially if you’re used to going out to eat all the time or just grabbing whatever before you head out the door.

Here’s a breakdown of what I’m eating today at roughly 1200 calories.

  • Overnight Oats for breakfast – recipe coming soon!
  • Fiber filled snacks for mid-morning and afternoon: apple slices with peanut butter, blueberries, and raw almonds
  • Mesquite turkey breast sandwich on Dave’s Killer Bread thin slices (I LOVE this stuff) with 1 TBSP mayo and some horseradish
  • Lean turkey burger with a lettuce wrap instead of a bun, onions, and either mayo or avocado

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Here’s some great tips for packing and planning meals to make it easier and less stressful. Soon you’ll be in the habit and it won’t feel like effort at all ūüôā

  1. Portion out your snacks ahead of time. When I buy raw almonds or any of my favorite snack, I like to take time to make snack packs for either the week or with the entire package. With almonds, I portion out 15 or so (100 calories) into snack-sized ziplock bags. Then when I’m making lunch I can just throw them in or grab a bag on my way out the door for a snack later.
  2. Find ways to make healthy versions of meals you love.¬†Just because you’re trying to eat healthier and change your lifestyle habits, doesn’t mean you can never think about cheese ever again! Find ways to make a healthier lasagna with whole wheat noodles or squash instead. Substitute lean ground turkey for ground beef. Use lettuce instead of burger buns. I recently found a great recipe for buffalo chicken wraps that I’m going to make with my Mom this weekend. They look delicious and will be healthy!
  3. Find creative ways to transport food. Mason jars are all the rage lately for storing salads (with all of the wet ingredients at the bottom and the lettuce sitting on top). They are also great for making overnight oats and smoothies and then you can just take them with you on your way to work or where ever you may go!
  4. Don’t make rules for what can be eaten when. I am guilty of this all the time. it doesn’t have to be breakfast time for you to eat eggs. Healthy food can be eaten at any time of the day. As long as you are getting great nutrients and feeling full you can eat cereal for dinner and a sandwich for breakfast. Don’t put limits on yourself. Make things easier.
  5. Buy a water bottle and use it. Keeping yourself hydrated is one of the most important things for maintaining energy, staying healthy, and fueling your body. Buy a quality water bottle for your home and office so you are always an arms reach away from drinking those 64+ ounces!
  6. Plan meals and pack snacks that you’ll look forward to! Sometimes the hardest part about making healthy habits is feeling like you’ll never have good food to look forward to ever again – not true! Plan times for special meals and moments of indulgence to help keep you on track during the week. Knowing you get to have a glass of wine or a piece of pizza on Friday can help keep you focused and truly appreciate these foods and drinks when you do get to have them.
  7. Food doesn’t have to be an event.¬†I’ve always felt like I needed to plan some elaborate dinner when I got home but the truth is, food is fuel and it doesn’t have to be the main event surrounding everything we do. It’s okay to get home and have a hodgepodge dinner of whatever you have around the house.
  8. Choose foods that come in¬†their own container.¬†Foods you can throw into your lunch bag without worrying about more bags or containers are great. Make hardboiled eggs for the week and keep the shell on and then take them to work for an easy, protein filled snack. Apples, pears, oranges, avocados, yams, and other fruits are great for this, too! Ready to go foods like low-fat string cheese and greek yogurt are also easy to throw into your lunch (they can just become a little expensive if you’re always buying ready-made snacks).
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Guest Post: Enjoy a Healthy Vacation by Remaining Nutrition-Minded

Cole Millen is an avid traveler and foodie who never forgets that life’s best memories are made through real life apprehension of legitimate “experiences.”

appleWorking hard all year long to prepare your body to look great during vacation is a big effort that will reward you with looking and feeling terrific.  When many people go on vacation, they are surrounded by amazing foods that can quickly begin putting the calories back on.  To avoid this happening, consider trying out new things when it comes to your snacking and dining out options during your vacation.  You’ll discover you can maintain your current weight while also still being able to experience great foods that are healthy and satisfying.

Pack Snacks to Ward off Hunger Cravings

Packing nutritious snacks is one of the best things you can do to keep from splurging on fatty foods such as potato chips, candy bars and ice cream.  If you are going out shopping for an afternoon, consider packing dried fruit, homemade granola bars, nuts and fresh fruit.  A bag of grapes or apples will be a great thing to take along with you to the pool or the beach to get you through the afternoon until suppertime.  These are also great items to feed your family during the day without giving them foods that are loaded in sugar.

Picking the Right Hotel

Often times picking the right hotel is overlooked in your plans for staying healthy. This can be a big mistake considering it is one of the most important aspects of a healthy vacation. It is pivotal to ensure that your hotel selection can accommodate to the healthy lifestyle that you are trying to embody while you are away from home. Make sure that the hotel offers the amenities that are most important to you in helping. On a recent trip of mine I went to Sin City and found a great site that listed reviews for Las Vegas hotels regarding both their amenities and offerings as well as the restaurants in the area. This allowed me to plan out which restaurants I would be able to visit as well to eat both nutritiously and deliciously.

Pack Your Crock Pot and BBQ Grill

You may have never thought about packing your crock-pot to take with you on vacation.¬† If you can make a humorous adaptation to the motto, ‚ÄúHave crock pot, will travel,‚ÄĚ you might be surprised to discover how creative you can get with your meals during vacation.¬† Traveling with a crock-pot is especially handy if you are traveling with your entire family.

Feeding a whole family at a restaurant for every meal can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars a day.  By taking your own basic cooking staple, you can choose to prepare healthy meals that simmer all day while you are out enjoying your vice.  When you get to the hotel in the evening, your meal will be ready!  If you are going on a more rugged type of vacation, leave the crock-pot at home and bring a miniature BBQ grill so you can roast vegetables and fish for you meals.

Watch Out for Food and Menu Labels

For the times you do choose to dine out or stop at a store to pick up some groceries, be sure to check the food labels.  If you consider purchasing a fat-free salad dressing, make sure you pay attention to the sugar content on the label.  Fat free items are often still packed with a lot of sugar and this can add on extra pounds without you even knowing it.  One salad dressing option you might consider is using a homemade salad dressing consisting of a combination of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and seasonings.  Greek yogurt is another healthy topping to add to a salad to give it a delicious flavor without all the unnecessary calories.

If you would like to write a guest post or have a topic you’d like me to write about please email me at sarah.rose.scott@gmail.com

18 Health Rules that Won’t Fail You

Here are 18 health rules that have helped me out¬†IMMENSELY and that I need to be reminded of. Many of them I’ve always lived by, but some were also adapted from 25 Lazy Ways to Stay Skinny.

1. Stay active even when you’re eating poorly. Making the effort to stay active and keep up with your fitness level will make you feel better, improve your mood and lower your stress levels.

family-walking-in-park2. Keep a water bottle in your sights at all times. If it’s in front of you, you’re going to remember to drink it. You should be drinking water all day, every day. I am trying to get 80-100 oz down every day but realize it can take a while to work up to it without having to bathroom every 5 minutes. Most of the time when you think you’re hungry, you’re probably just thirsty.

3. Make sure you eat enough throughout the day instead of saving all your calories or caving at night. Night time cravings will be less so as you get used to eating more during the day.

4. Stay away from mindless eating. Avoid eating in front of the TV or getting snacks at the movies. Take time to enjoy your food and let your brain process when you are satisfied.eating-in-front-of-tv-329

5. Keep snacks on hand, in your purse, and in your car. Having a protein bar or almonds on hand lets you feel in control of your cravings and can help prevent you from making that stop at the drive thru.

6. You don’t need calories to help you sleep. Stop eating after dinner.

7. You don’t have to be perfect when it comes to food. Let yourself indulge when you have a super crazy craving, just watch your portions. No one food makes you gain weight, it’s about portion control and moderation.health-091212-002-617x416

8. Portion out pickable foods such as crackers, chips, grapes, etc. Ever reach the bottom of a bag of chips and think “how the hell did that happen!?” Mindless eating is easy to do. When you are going to have a snack, portion it out onto a small plate or bowl. The other day I made my boyfriend and I cheese and crackers but took a minute to slice the cheese into portions and put the crackers on a plate. Not only was he impressed with the presentation, but then we both had a good idea of how much we were eating.

9. Order small, stay small. Always order a small (or a tall). There’s no need to grab a venti coffee when¬†a tall is just as good. Going to get froyo? Grab the smallest container. You’ll be surprised at how satisfied you are on less. Keep your wallet bigger and your tummy smaller.

10. Say no to artificial sweetners. Fake sugars only increase your sugar cravings and lead to bloating and fatigue. Remember that article I wrote about sugar-free candy?

11. Stick to the 2 day rule. Never go more than 2 days without working out or doing some sort of activity. It’s important to take a break and let your body rest at least once a week but the longer you go without working out, the harder it can be to start back up and stay motivated.

12. Stop going back for seconds. It takes 20-30 minutes for that fullness feeling to kick in. Instead of hurrying back for a second plate, let your brain catch up with your stomach.brain_junk_food_090727_mn

13. Always choose whole grains – they keep you fuller longer and help stabilize your blood sugar. Say YES to brown rice, whole wheat pastas, and breads instead of white flour.

14. Eat until you’re satisfied, not full or stuffed. Often times we think we¬†have to keep eating until we feel uncomfortable to know that we got enough food, not true. Take your time when you eat, put your fork down between bites and get in tune with how you feel instead of waiting for stomach pains.

15. Don’t let yourself get ravenous. Have a small snack before going out or hitting up a party instead of showing up super hungry and filling up on beer and chips.

16. Don’t drink your calories. Your body needs water, stick to it. Empty soda, alcohol, and juice calories are full of sugar, slow your metabolism, and won’t help you feel full.

17. Use smaller plates. A bowl of cereal can be a whole different event depending on the size of your dishes. 1 cup of cereal is all you really need and it will be a lot more appealing if it comes to the brim of a small bowl instead of barely resting at the bottom of a large one.

18. Eat more color and keep your plate full of veggies! It’s nice to sit down to dinner and see a lot of food in front of you. Fill up half your plate with steamed and seasoned veggies and dig in!portions_1

Taco Salad Under 400 Calories

I’ve really been inspired lately to find yummy healthy foods to eat while losing weight. Sure, you could eat baked chicken and veggies every night but the key to sticking with anything is incorporating variety!

Here’s my¬†393 calorie taco salad recipe! It was so delicious, inexpensive, and filling, I didn’t even think about dessert or crave anything more after dinner.

Buy the leanest ground turkey you can find, cook, drain, and add taco seasoning (I used a store brand $0.47 packet and it was amazing!) Then top with all chopped ingredients, 5 crumbled tortilla chips, salsa, and low-fat sour cream.

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The whole meal was 453 calories and I didn’t even MISS not having cheese! When you add tons of healthy flavors, you’ll be amazed at how satisfied you are. To cut out 80 calories, take out the avocado – this was delicious but I don’t think I would have noticed if it was gone.

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Portions: Eating for the size you want to be and 8 ways to do it

This may be the hardest part of losing weight. It doesn’t matter how healthy something you’re eating is, you still can only eat in portions if you are going to lose weight and reach your goals. The key is not eating less of what you’re already eating, but eating smart and eating MORE of what you should be.

There’s a great article¬†that shows the difference between eating a piece of pizza for example vs. a low-fat¬†version¬†with salad. It’s amazing how much you can actually eat when you are making smarter choices. An example below.

portionNot only will you feel fuller longer and more satisfied from eating the bagel with oranges to the left, but you’ll also be staying within your calorie goals. So how do we go about eating less and not feeling so sad about it? We can even indulge in pizza and bad things on the weekend but in order to maintain our goals, it means less of it, drastically less. It can be tough to go from eating 4 slices of your favorite pizza to just one with a smaller side salad.

Here are 8 ways to get your portions under control:

  1. Focus on what you CAN eat and SHOULD eat rather than what you can’t. If you spend all day thinking about the cake you can’t have, what do you think you’ll end up wanting? Just like we have to be thankful for what we already have in life, we have to work with what we should eat and what will make us feel better in the long run and keep us healthy. Try this: the next time you start¬†fantasizing about eating an entire bag/box/carton of your favorite treat, start thinking about what you’re going to have for your next meal, how satisfying it’s going to be, and how great you’re going to feel afterwards aka not guilty and closer to your goal. Tell your brain to focus on something else for 5-10 minutes, before you know it, you’ll probably forget about your craving. If all else fails, make some tea.
  2. Spend a little time thinking about what you love to eat and how you can make substitutions. Tonight I’m making a taco salad and I didn’t buy cheese for it, why? Because with avocado¬†and low-fat¬†sour cream, I won’t even miss it. There are many ingredients we use out of habit when really, if we use other healthy ingredients, we’ll be satisfied without the extra calories and fat. Think about meals you can make for 400-500 calories or less. Some of my past recipes and meal/snack ideas can be found here.¬†¬†Once you start getting creative, you’ll realize that there are TONS of low-cal recipes out there that are easy to make, even in your crock pot!
  3. Don’t let friends or events pressure you into eating more (or not going at all).¬†It can be easy to eat more when you’re out on the town, at a friend’s birthday part, or enjoying a work gathering, but you don’t have to slide off your meal plan. If everyone is having nachos, have some, just less, and make sure to stop eating when you’re full. Also – you don’t have to be¬†a recluse in order to lose weight, express to your friends your goals and how much their support means to you. That way you won’t have to say “no” anytime they all want to order pizza, suggest making a healthy meal together instead.
  4. Close the kitchen. When you were little you’d get in trouble for sneaking snacks after dinner, what makes it any different now? Establish a strict routine with yourself and close the kitchen after dinner. Limitless tea and water but no more foods! After a week of getting used to the feeling of going to bed without feeling stuffed and waking up feeling lighter and more refreshed, it will become a habit in no time!
  5. Drink that water!¬†I’m pretty sure I say this in 90% of my posts but it’s SO important. Today I’m already through 50oz¬†(my goal is 90) and I can tell you that I feel so much fuller! Normally around 2-3pm¬†I get my afternoon donut craving, but today, I’m feeling great! There are some great apps out there to help you log and track your water intake and get you on the right path (try WaterLogged or iDrated). Most people should be drinking at LEAST 64oz a day but depending on your height and weight you’ll probably require more.
  6. Get portion smart!¬†We’ve all heard that a serving of steak is about the size of¬†a deck of cards. Get familiar with other foods and portions so that when you are at a restaurant, your mind will already have the right idea. WebMD has a great portion guide here.
  7. Order small, be small. I went to FatBurger over the weekend (mother of god it was good) but I should have ordered the small because 1) I was only able to eat half of the medium anyway and 2) even if it wasn’t a healthy meal, I could have been eating better portions. We often think that a small size won’t be enough food, but usually it is and is most likely still more than what a healthy portion should be anyway.
  8. Split food.¬†Not only will your restaurant bill be less expensive but you’ll also be able to indulge in the foods you love more often. Next time you’re out with a friend or your cute significant other, share a burger and get a side salad!

398 Calorie Apple and Tuna Salad

There’s nothing more motivating for your health than knowing you packed a lunch you can’t wait to eat!

On today’s menu – Apple Tuna & Balsamic vinaigrette Salad

  • 2-3 cups fresh spinach (21 calories)
  • I chopped 1/2 apple -braeburn for extra sweet and crispy-ness (47 calories)
  • 1 5oz can of tuna in water, drained (133 calories)
  • 1 tablespoon mayo (97 calories)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette (100 calories)

Line your favorite to-go dish with a bed of spinach, mix up tun and mayo, toss balsamic vinaigrette over spinach, pour tuna and chopped apple over and enjoy!

Seriously one of the best salads I’ve made in a long time!

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Gluten Free: Why it Won’t Benefit You if You’re Not Allergic

The gluten free craze has hit America hard. Just a few years ago it was difficult for individuals with gluten intolerance and celiac disease to find many foods that most people enjoy on a daily basis. The first time I remember hearing about a wheat allergy was my freshman year in college where I watched one of my guy friends chow down on a pile of lunch meat and I jokingly asked him what he had against bread. He explained how sick he’d get if he had wheat or gluten of any kind and I patted him on the back as I realized how much beer he’d have to give up.

In all seriousness though, gluten allergies are serious. Celiac disease is a condition where the body reacts negatively to gluten and damages villi, which are what line the intestines and help absorb nutrients. When people with this allergy eat gluten (found in wheat, rye, barely, and even oats) their body attacks these villi and can make them extremely malnourished over time. Gluten allergies can also cause extreme bloating and uncomfortable stomach problems. So make no mistake, a gluten-free diet is important for people with the allergy.

But what about the rest of us? Is eating gluten-free actually healthier? Can it benefit us, too? Actually no. Going gluten-free and eating more gluten-free products can actually cause you to gain weight since most products contain added fats and sugars. Currently, there is not any scientific research showing that eating gluten-free when you aren’t allergic will create any real benefit.

Also – look at the current market for food products. Upwards of 7 billion dollars in sales are estimated to be made in 2012 alone due to the popularity of eating gluten-free. While more cases of celiac disease are being diagnosed, doctors are now more aware of the condition than ever before. A lot of people are diagnosing themselves with an allergy they probably don’t have and don’t know much about. And with celebrity endorsements and people claiming that eating gluten-free is a great way to lose weight, many American’s are jumping on board without doing much research. Just because your local supermarket is selling more of a product (and at higher prices) doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest option for you.

Going gluten-free can also back fire on individuals trying to lose weight who aren’t allergic. Not only is it expensive to eat gluten-free but as stated earlier, most of these products add in excess sugar, fat, and salt. Eating a gluten-free diet also drastically limits your food options and can make dieting harder and people more likely to overeat in the long run.The key to losing weight isn’t found in any “miracle” diet. Just because you eat gluten-free pizza doesn’t make you any healthier – you’re still eating pizza. Losing weight is about eating less calories, getting enough fiber, and not drastically eliminating anything from your diet in an attempt to lose weight faster. This goes back to my post about carbs and how they are still important. Whole wheat grains provide many nutrients. Without these it can be harder for individuals to sustain blood sugar levels which can induce headaches, make you moody, and extremely lethargic.

Gluten-free foods aren’t a solution to eating the same foods you love without the guilt. In most cases, you’re not only eating the same calories but they are also packed with less nutrients (and more fat calories). In comparing gluten free bread to regular – regular bread continually has more fiber, less sodium, and more protein. Proponents may argue that gluten-free has less calories, which may be true, but those calories are “empty” and lack important nutrients. If you are going to eat a piece of bread, you might as well eat one that’s 110 calories and chalked full of the fuel your body needs instead of eating a 70 calorie piece that will leave you feeling hungry and more likely to overeat or grab something sugary.

So what’s my ultimate message here? It won’t seriously hurt you to eat a gluten-free product, but if you don’t HAVE to, there isn’t a real benefit to buying and eating these products. The only thing that will get smaller from eating gluten-free if you’re not allergic is your wallet.