12/18/15

Meal planning - a non-negotiable for athletes


Meal planning is a genius idea. Prepare your meals and snacks on Sunday and you have every meal ready for the entire week. What a time savor! No chopping, shopping, prepping or cooking needed each day to give you so much "free" time to do what you want/need to do and still come home to a healthy meal.

As great as this looks, this wouldn't work for me.
I need a lot of variety in my diet or else my taste buds get bored. 
Plus, my workout routine is constantly changing, with different workouts putting a different stress on my body every day.
And lastly, I love to cook, I work from home, I know how to match my metabolic/health needs with my diet and I have the time to cook every day. 

But that's me. 

What about you? 

When it comes to healthy eating and feeling control over what you put inside your body, planning your meals and snacks is a key to success. 

Anytime you go too long without eating, let your blood sugar drop, work out or feel stressed, there is a good chance that your food choices are not what you should be eating but instead, what you can eat quickly and easily.

There is a huge difference between the two. 

Without a doubt, if your meals were prepared ahead of time and you didn't have to think about what you were going to eat, there is a great chance that you would put the food inside your body that you need and ultimately, you would experience less cravings for the foods that are quick, easy and convenient.

Plus, when the body and brain is depleted, it is a physiological (not willpower) situation that you put yourself in that you will crave sugars and carbs. 


By setting aside some time to prep, cook and prepare meals ahead of time, you save a lot of time and money. Plus, you never have to put yourself into the situation of "what should I eat?" or "I'm too hungry to cook."

Try it out for next week. Plan a few meals and see if this is a game changer for you.
Think about your life, workout routine, energy and biological hunger when planning your meals and snacks.

Don't plan to be "good" or "perfect".
Plan to nourish and to fuel.
(and don't forget to plan for the occasional indulgences too!)

12/16/15

3 super easy appetizers


Getting together with friends and making new friends is so much fun, especially when food is involved.
I love being inspired by new creations, flavors and recipes when I eat outside my home and I saw my past "Girls night, appetizer night" as a great opportunity to yum over new creations. 

I brought cucumber bites (pic above) with fresh sliced tomato and part-skim mozzarella cheese (and a sprinkle of salt) on top. I absolutely love the crunch of cucumber with the savory taste of mozarella. It's been a go-to pre-meal snack for me lately. 


Here are two other appetizers from the evening: 

How cute are these Santa kabobs?? Perfect for kiddos - and adults who love to say "awww" when they eat.
Grapes, banana, strawberries and a marshmallow on top. 


And these apricot, feta cheese and pistachio bites excited my taste buds.
I just love dried apricots and the added crunch of pistachios along with the salty punch of feta was amazing. 



Not pictured was a delicious banana, cinnamon, almond butter, oat and egg baked "cookie". I guess I forgot to take a picture when I was yumming!


12/15/15

Me time: Nutrition


You work hard. You take care of other people. You are always busy.

What about yourself?
Where's your ME time?

Sometimes it is not even about making or finding time.
It can be hard to even think about yourself when you are exhausted from everyday, life to-do's.

Are you still carrying along the same excuses that you have been telling yourself week after week, month after month, year after year.
Too busy to shop, too busy to cook, too busy to meal prep, too busy to eat. 

I bet if you had more time, you would find a way to fill that time in with more stuff that would keep you "too busy".

When it comes to your health, nothing could be more important than making time to nourish your body throughout the day. From the moment you get up to when you lay down to sleep, you should not find yourself pushing your meals and snacks to the side just because you are too busy, too tired, too exhausted or too ______ (insert your typical reason to not make your nutrition/diet a priority).

Although there are times when a call runs over, a meeting gets postponed and something comes up and I find myself with no or little time to eat lunch or a planned snack, I don't like how this makes me feel. Not only have I not made time for myself but I can't do my work properly because I am hungry and I need nourishment and energy. 

Meal time is a special time for me.
I like to step away from what I am doing (work) and think about nothing more than what is going inside my body. I like to yum when I eat.
Meal time is my reboot.
No matter what time of the day, I feel even better after I eat, than before because the food that I put into my body serves a greater purpose than just being calories, fat, carbs and protein. 
Meal time is so important to me that I plan it into my day. Just like a phone call with an athlete, my workout or the time needed to write a training plan or an article....there is time to eat. 

Here are a few tips to make sure you are making time to nourish and fuel your body:

1. Set aside time in your day when you will eat. Allow as much time as possible so that you are not rushed. Try to make this time behind a table with minimal distractions, rather than behind a wheel or computer screen.

2. Plan ahead. If healthy options are not available, you can't eat healthy. And if you are starved, rushed or hangry, you are not going to plan, cook or eat what you know you should be eating. Planning and food prep may take time but in the big picture, it really does save you time. Waiting for food, driving somewhere to eat (or pick up food) or cooking/chopping one or two items at a time, is time consuming (and sometimes costly).  Plan your meals and your snacks ahead of time and know that things will come up, so try to plan for those oh-no moments too.

3. Create an eating schedule that works for you. We all know that life changes and it is nearly impossible to eat at the same time every day. But if you find yourself getting biologically hungry at certain times of the day, do something about it - EAT. Figure out the best times in your day that work for you to eat your meal(s) and snacks. Don't be a clock watcher when it comes to eating. Odds are if you skip a snack or push back a meal, you will likely overeat later in the day.

4. Give yourself a little extra time in your day to plan for a better tomorrow. Any time you make a change, you need time to adjust to the change. It may seem like packing your lunch the night before work may seem tedious and time consuming but overtime, you will knock it out in less than 5 minutes. Create a good food environment to help you out and consider a few life hacks to make meal prep less overwhelming. 

5. Inspire others. It's very common that people feel guilty or embarrassed when they have ME time. As if it is selfish to take care of yourself. I'm not sure why people feel this way because you can't be good at taking care of others (or doing your job well at work or at home) if you let your own health decline. Be a role model for others. If anything, impress yourself. Without being pushy or lecturing, use your actions to show others that making time for yourself is actually making yourself a better person. 


12/14/15

Me time: Exercise

I saw this quote and it instantly took me back to the two busiest times in my adult life:
Graduate school (2004-2006)
Dietetic internship (2011)

When I was in graduate school, I was dipping my toes into the sport of triathlon but mostly because I was fresh out of college and missed competitive swimming. I thought of myself more of a runner during graduate school as it made the most sense as I didn't have a lot of time or money (and didn't know much about the sport of triathlons). 

Throughout my 10-month dietetic internship, I found myself in the middle of two Ironmans - IMWI and Kona. Talk about time and stress management! Sometimes I failed miserably at both of these, often at the same time. 

Thinking back to these two very busy, expensive, stressful and emotionally draining times in my life, I certainly had to make some extreme sacrifices with my lifestyle.

It wasn't just that I didn't have flexible time to train due to 10+ hour school/interning days but sleep was also a big issue (or lack thereof). And, my priorities were in my education.

However, even through those two busy times, I managed to still exercise. Grad school and my internship both required a major adjustment as my life revolved around school. My teachers did not care that I was training for a marathon or an Ironman so I never put more energy into my training than school. School was temporary and a great investment to my future.

But, I never let my schooling interfere with my health. This one was a non negotiable. Healthy eating, good sleep (as best as I could) and exercise were part of my routine...I just had to define a new "normal" routine.
Sure, training goals were modified but I made sure I didn't compromise on my health. 

'Tis the season of being busy.
Between work, family and travel, it's likely that you aren't going to be able to stick to a normal routine of training or working out over the next few weeks. Maybe that has been going on since October.

Don't let a busy time in your life keep you from making time for you.

Perhaps some days you just don't have the time and it's not possible to workout. So be it. Move your body however you can and focus on a new day tomorrow.

But there are likely days when you can find the time, you just need some creativity, motivation and focus to get it done when there are distractions everywhere.

As athletes, one of the hardest things that we often struggle with is adjusting to life. We strive for consistency and hate being thrown off a routine. Many times, we do whatever we can, even at the expense of a short night of sleep, to get in a workout.
But this isn't always a healthy approach.
When life isn't allowing us to be consistent, don't take an all or nothing approach.

Certainly, consistency will help you in your development as an athlete but there are times when you will have to settle for less and be OK with it.

During this holiday season, identify your priorities.
I believe this starts with you before anything else.
This isn't a hall pass that nothing else matters and you should prioritize your 3 hour bike ride when you have family in town, not finishing work assignments because you want to get to master swim practice or skipping a holiday party because you want to get in a run workout.
Life, in general, is making time for what's important.

Diet, sleep, exercise.
I don't think you would argue that these three things are extremely important to making you a better, healthier person. It's not about being extreme or feeling guilty.

It's all about doing the best you can with the time that you have so that you put yourself on a priority list.

There are seven days in the week.
Thinking ahead to determine what your exercise priorities are every day.
Don't try to be perfect. Do the best you can with the time you have.
(remember - walking counts as exercise!)

Write down your daily workouts so you make sure you that you have your me-time this week.

                                  DAY          WORKOUT
1.

2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.