Sunday, January 17, 2016

Successful Secrets: Part two

Yesterday I wrote about the two most important things I learned to help me lose weight and keep it off in this entry:  Secret to Success.  Today I want to share with you the next most helpful strategy I have in both losing weight and keeping it off.  In two simple words:  Meal Prep!



What is meal prep?  Have you ever heard of the 21 Day Fix? It's a program you invest in that promotes meal prep, portion control and 30 minutes / day exercise. I know several people who follow their program and it works for them.  I don't do the 21 Day Fix, but I do plan my meals in advance and adhere strictly to portion control.  (If you read my blog, you know I workout all the time.)

So, why meal prep?
I am busy.  I don't like to cook. I mean, I have to, but I really don't like it.
I do like to try new recipes that are easy and healthy. If they taste good and my family likes them, they are a sure win for future use.  On the weekends, when I do my grocery shopping, I go with meal prep in mind.

Do I have enough cooked chicken breasts in the freezer? 
What will we eat with them? 
What did we have for dinner last week (so I don't repeat)?  
Do I have enough steam fresh veggies? 
How much Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and eggs do I have on hand?

I always stock up on salad greens or baby spinach, tomatoes and some fresh vegetables for earlier in the week.  I keep steam fresh veggies in the freezer for when the fresh are gone.  I buy any protein we might need: lean ground beef, chicken or ground turkey (if I'm running low), fish and occasionally pork chops or steak.
I wish my fridge was always this clean.  I try to keep it stocked with as much fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy products as I think I need for the week.  
My thought process is to think out dinners for Sunday - Thursday.  This week, it's:

Sunday:  rotisserie chicken with quinoa and brown rice, salad and vegetables
Monday:  taco salad (with ground turkey)
Tuesday: a crockpot meal - I'm eyeing this recipe from SlenderKitchen.com:  Slow Cooker Sweet & Spicy Chicken, to be served with brown rice, salad and vegetables
Wednesday:  Salmon with sweet potatoes, salad and vegetables
Thursday:  Burgers & Fries (I will have a turkey burger (no bun) with sweet potato fries) with salad
Friday and Saturday are always up in the air.  We might have left overs, take-out or I might grab something when I do my shopping.

For lunches, I usually have salad with grilled chicken breasts (which I always keep on hand) or cottage cheese.  Since I'm having taco salad on Monday, I will definitely be eating that on Tuesday and Wednesday for lunch.  Sometimes I'll make a pot of vegetable soup and have that with the chicken.  This week I am making taco soup and will eat that with the chicken (or maybe with a side of cottage cheese and tomatoes).  The recipe is below.  I'll post a picture after I make it.

Taco Soup, makes 8 servings
1 (15.5 oz.) can black beans, rinsed & drained
1 (15.5 oz.) can white beans, rinsed & drained
1 (15.5 oz.) can red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes (I buy Southwest style)
1 (14.5 oz.) can low sodium chicken broth
1 onion
1 C frozen corn
cooking spray
1 package taco seasoning

Sauté the onion with the cooking spray.  Pour all ingredients into the pot.  Simmer until flavors blend.  Serve hot.  This is the easiest thing I have ever made.  Ever.  And it's delicious!

Nutritional Value:
216 calories, 1 g fat, 41 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein (and 10 grams fiber - that's a LOT!)

That's my meal planning for the week.

Actual meal prep takes place on Sundays.  Today I will make the Taco Soup, brown the meat for the taco salad, hard boil eggs for my husband, cut celery into sticks and anything else I might need to prep for meals for the week.  If I need to cook up more chicken breasts, I do that on Sunday.  I might make chicken salad with any left overs from the rotisserie chicken, to be eaten for lunch on Monday or Tuesday.  On Monday night, I will put together the ingredients for Tuesday's crock pot meal.
Last weekend I baked chicken breasts as part of my meal prep.  I put a jar of salsa over two of the breasts and served them with brown rice.  My son doesn't like the salsa with the chicken, so the other chicken breast (with no salsa) was for him.  I used the left over chicken for my dinner on Monday night and for my lunches.  Split chicken breasts are so moist and delicious!
I always make my lunch and breakfast the night before, so getting ready in the morning means eating and putting my snacks and lunch into my bag.  I typically eat the same thing for breakfast, snacks and lunch, with very little variety.  Sometimes I have leftovers from the previous night's dinner for lunch the next day.

Meal planning / prep takes all the stress out of meals during the week.  It also means I eat, which is something I used to not do.  I mean, obviously I ate.  I was obese, bordering on morbidly obese.  But I often would go most of the day without food, come home starving and gorge myself on whatever I could find.  It was not uncommon for me to eat 1/2 a container of ice cream and then cook up fish sticks and macaroni and cheese for dinner with no vegetables, followed by the rest of the ice cream for dessert.  If we had soft chocolate chip cookies or soft oatmeal raisin cookies in the house, I would eat six or seven of them at once.  Today, I don't buy them and if I have access to them, I steer clear of them entirely.  It's not that I can't eat a chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin cookie.  It's that I can't stop at one.  I want another and another.  It's a trap I choose to avoid.

In my post, Nutrition 101, I talk about meal prep and provided you with several recipes and meal suggestions to get you started.  Check it out!

Here are links to other posts where I have discussed nutrition.  They are worth a second view if you are serious about flexible dieting as an option.

Carbs:   The first in a two-part series dedicated to carbs.  What are they?  Why do we need them?

Carbs 2 Part two.  WHY are carbs such a struggle?  What's good?  What's better?  What's best when consumed sparingly?

Flexible Dieting Basics:  A basic explanation of flexible dieting...how tracking calories and macronutrients has been the most successful way for me to lose weight and keep it off.

Tracking Calories with MFP:  Some features of MyFitnessPal (MFP) explained.  This post has some tricks of the trade.

Foods to Try:  These are foods I try to always keep on hand and a couple recipes too.

Cravings:  Some tips on how to stave off and handle cravings when they hit.  

Wonder Woman:  I explain how I got the nickname "Wonder Woman" by tracking all my calories and macronutrients.  I give a brief explanation of macros here.

A Calorie is Not a Calorie:  This post talks about the different effect foods have on you.

Questions for you: 
(Answer in the comment section below.)
What's your favorite crock pot meal?  Do you practice meal prep?  How successful is it for you?

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