Living a Healthy Lifestyle: Find Your Reasons Why
When we make decisions in our lives to get healthy, there is usually a reason or several reasons why. Sometimes those reasons are helpful and more long-term. Often times, those reasons are short-term and once we’ve accomplished or completed whatever we had set out to do – our healthy lifestyle gets forgotten or we “fall off the wagon”. I want to share with you my reasons for getting healthy and trying to stay that way so maybe you’ll find some inspiration and motivation you can apply to your life.
Your Reasons Why Should be Personal
If someone else is the reason you are attempting a lifestyle change – it’s not going to work. If your doctor, significant other, well-meaning friend, or other outsider is your motivating factor – that motivation is going to die out eventually and you’ll be back to square one. You need to be the source of your own motivation and your own reasons for wanting to make a healthy lifestyle change. Making your reasons why personal will help keep you motivated and on track long-term.
Your Reasons Why Need to be Flexible
Your reasons may need change and adapt to your life. You may initially plan to lose weight to look good in your wedding dress/bathing suit/or at your 10 year high school reunion. However, none of those things are permanent motivators. So every time your motivator ends you’ll need to find a new one. Consider reasons outside of the short-term such as: being present for when your children graduate high school, being physically able to teach a grandchild how to throw a ball, being healthy enough to travel with your significant other on your 30th or 40th wedding anniversary. Whatever you find self-motivating. There are no right or wrong reasons here!
Look for Value in Your Reasons Why
Looking good in a bathing suit isn’t ultimately that valuable to us unless its our job. If you’re a model – then that could be a long-term value to you. If you’re not; you’re going to need a more personally valuable reason. What does being healthy mean for your life? What will you be able to do more of? How might your life be negatively effected if you don’t make the necessary changes? How does the decision to be healthy affect the future you desire for yourself and those you love? Look for things that will bring value to your life long-term.
Let Go of Negative Body Images as Motivators
Being healthy just to “look good” doesn’t work. You’ll never be satisfied and you’ll end up defeated. Being “skinny” or “fit” or “a size 6” are all superficial reasons why someone would want to be healthy and may even contradict your real motivators. For example, if someone is trying to “be skinny” and they skip weights at them gym so they don’t “bulk up” that may have long-term consequences of not being strong enough to complete certain tasks, increase risk of falling and breaking bones later in life, and avoiding healthy foods solely based on calorie counts. Search for reasons within your soul that have nothing to do with your outward appearance. Being physically able to put on your shoes or play your favorite instrument is more valuable long-term than what size pants you wear to do them in!
My Reasons Why
I decided to go into the health, fitness, and nutrition field upon entering college. I knew I loved sports, wanted to spread that love to others, and I didn’t want to be old, overweight, and unhealthy like my parents (sorry mom and dad! Also, thanks!). I also wanted to help others – but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to help other learn to help themselves. You see, I realized people were becoming overweight and unhealthy due to decisions they were making in their own lives – many times because they just didn’t know better. I didn’t know better either – but I wanted to learn and then share that knowledge with others. So I initially decided on a degree in Kinesiology and became a personal trainer and weight loss coach out of college.
However, I realized about 6 months after graduating that I didn’t know enough about nutrition to do my job well. I was just regurgitating information when it came to nutrition and I wanted to learn more on the subject. Which funny enough, I chose kinesiology as my bachelors degree so I wouldn’t have to go back for my masters to work in the field I loved. Oh was I naive. So then another 3 years later I was really equipped to do what I wanted – help others help themselves – in a whole lifestyle approach that included exercise and nutrition.
My Healthy Eating and Exercise Beginnings
My first year of college I had a snickers bar and 20oz soda every morning for breakfast. I am not kidding. I also ate daily at the restaurant where I worked. Because I was young I was able to fight those calories with my high level of physical activity. I played volleyball 3-5 days per week, worked out occasionally at the gym, and overall led a very active lifestyle. I eventually learned more about healthy eating and made better choices prior to graduating. Once I started my job as a weight loss coach I actually tried to follow the advice I was giving clients because I felt like I needed to “walk the talk”. That’s still the philosophy I live by today with my food and nutrition choices.
After graduating from college though, I realized I enjoyed the playing of sports much better than I did the exercise and fitness regimes that were meant to be paired with them. I was spending a lot of time at the gym as a trainer and lost motivation to spend more time there by working out. Eventually I left that job and quit going to the gym all together. At that point I took up running. I needed something to stay active, that was inexpensive, that I could do on my own time, and that I enjoyed. A few of my friends ran and so a new love for a different type of physical activity was born.
Running Helped Me Find Myself
I trained and ran my first half marathon to get over a break up. I needed to find my strength, determination, perseverance, and internal motivation that I had almost lost. Running gave me a break from graduate studies, space to not think about life if I wanted to or time I could devote to thinking about it for an hour or more, and running also gave me an outlet for stress. Running helped my spiritual health because it gave me time to pray, running improved my time management skills because I had to build in training runs around graduate school and work, and running improved my fitness levels in new ways. I love running because it’s a relatively inexpensive sport, I can compete against myself, and I can run almost any where. Running works for a multitude of reasons for me. I realize it might not work for other people in that same way – so this post isn’t to convince you to run. I just want you to see how much more living a healthy lifestyle can provide outside of “preventing chronic conditions and weight management”.
For the last 10 years I have realized that I’ve been extremely inconsistent with the strength training portion of my exercise plan. I’ve done my time at the gym, I’ve done home based workout videos, and I’ve done several 30 day squat challenges. But none of them have stuck with me. I am not sure why I haven’t been able to stick with a strength program but it is something I’ve wanted to explore in more detail. See below for some reasons why I’ve decided to add strength training back into my routine.
Eating Healthy: Necessity to Normalcy
Eating healthy has become natural and normal for my family. It’s something I strive for on a regular basis and something I am constantly conscious about because it is literally my job. Cooking at home became a necessity to save money a few years ago and I’ve since learned a love of cooking I never knew I had and continued with the practice. I also struggle with a digestive condition that has prompted me to make even more careful decisions about foods I eat and how they’re prepared. I actually enjoy eating healthy and how much better I feel when I’m following my balanced nutrition plan.
Looking Towards the Future
I’ve recently made two decisions about my health and lifestyle based on planning for the future. 1) I sought a more specific treatment approach to my digestive disorder because it was interfering with things I enjoyed and I wanted to rule out more serious issues because my status had gotten worse. 2) I’ve decided to focus more on strength training as an addition to my physical activity plans because we are building a house this year and I’ll need more strength and muscular endurance to help. Another reason I made both of these choices is because I want to prepare my body for pregnancy if we choose to have a baby in the next few years. I’ve always been a planner and I really enjoy planning ahead so why not plan for better health during a potentially very critical time period.
My Reasons Why I Run:
- I enjoy the alone time it gives me
- Helps me challenge myself physically
- It keeps me trim
- I can run any time or place
- No drive to the gym or membership costs
- It supports my spiritual health
- My self-confidence is higher with running
- It is easy to set goals and see progress
- A good reminder of who I am
My Reasons Why I Eat Healthy:
- It’s my personal philosophy to practice what I preach
- My personal health conditions are improved with mindful food choices
- I enjoy it
- It is fun to prove it can be done
- On a budget
- With limited cooking experience
- When time is scarce
- Iimportant to me to support my family’s health
- I want to avoid the chronic health conditions that run in my family
- To give my future self the best chance of a great quality of life
- I enjoy sharing my knowledge of food with others
- It keeps me focused on advances and opportunities in my career
- It helps me help others help themselves
My Reasons Why I Want to Add Strength Training:
- Increased strength and muscular endurance for building our house
- To physically be prepared as much as possible for pregnancy and child-birth
- I want to prevent the age-related decline in muscle strength/mass
- It’s important to me to stay fit
- I want to be able to play sports with my kids as they grow up
- To be able to complete projects around the house
I encourage you to ask yourself these questions and consider your reasons why you want to become healthier. Remember to make these personally valuable to you and your future goals. I encourage you to write them down and review/edit at least once a year. This will help you find some motivation you may have been lacking in the past.
If you would like more guidance on how to eat healthy, tips for successfully managing your weight without dieting, and suggestions for ways to incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle: Check out this information on my 12 week weight loss course – Click below to go straight to the registration page!
Do you Want to Lose Weight and Keep it Off?
I want to help you achieve that goal! I have the perfect weight loss course to get you started. My 12 week course is designed to help you lose weight long-term by teaching you how to create a lifestyle plan that will continue with you for the rest of your life. You will learn how to create a plan that is realistic, personalized, and perfect just for you.
THIS IS NOT A DIET
Diets only work for short-term weight loss. I don’t believe in diets. The foundations weight loss inspirations course teaches you how to make your own eating plan that includes a healthy balance of all food groups, works with your family, and includes your favorite foods. No restrictive dieting, no feeling deprived, no ridiculous eating guidelines. You will learn how to make your own nutrition plan through this course instead of trying to follow something designed for someone else.
Learn How To Meal Plan
The Weight Loss Inspirations online course teaches the details of making a healthy meal plan and how to implement that into your daily life. You will learn what makes a balanced plate and how to calculate your individual needs. You will also learn why dairy isn’t a necessary part of your meal plan and that you don’t have to count food group servings to have a healthy food intake!
Gain Knowledge You Didn’t Know You Needed
Do you know how to read a food label? How to find healthy recipes? What resources are available to you to find accurate and helpful information online? Are you familiar with the Plate Method? Do you know how many grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat you need each day? Find the answers to these questions and many more in this 12 week weight loss course!
Obtain Numerous Other Benefits Too!
Struggling with fatigue? Eating healthy can help with that! Desiring a better body image? Learn how to love your body for what its capable of, not how it looks! Afraid of developing a chronic condition? Choose to eat healthy now and follow the guidelines in the Weight Loss Inspirations Course and ward off those pesky conditions (or improve your management of ones you already have). You might find that you’re sleeping better, improving your ability to manage stress, and overall just have an improved since of well-being. A healthy lifestyle can make some HUGE differences for you!
Find Out Why “Everything in Moderation” Is Bad Advice!
If this way of thinking worked, do you think we would have an obesity epidemic on our hands? Obviously this strategy isn’t working well in the U.S. You will learn better strategies and tips to make your weight loss journey a successful one. The Foundations Course also shows you how to look at the big picture when it comes to health, weight loss, and lifestyle habits.
Receive ALL the Necessary Tools in this Course for Successful Weight Loss
- Meal Planning Worksheets
- Grocery List Printable
- Food and Exercise Logs
- Research Article Links
- SMART PLANS Worksheets
- and More!
Enjoy Multiple Learning Forms to Match Your Needs
Each course week includes a video presentation to watch and listen to for auditory and visual learners. Also, each week contains written content for your reading pleasure with more details and information. Printables that support each topics are included as well such as food logs and menu plans. You will watch, listen, read, and practice what you learn each week to match all of your learning needs.
Share Your Journey with a Community of Like Minded Individuals
As part of the course you will have access to discussion forums and as a bonus, you will also have access to a FREE and private Facebook group to share your journey with others. Having accountability is an important part of a weight loss plan. It is also important to have a support system for your weight loss journey as well. The Weight Loss Inspirations course is designed with that in mind and provides you with a platform to discuss your struggles and successes, learn from others, and feel encouraged along the way.
What’s Included in the Course:
12 Weeks of Exclusive Content
- Each week will take approximately 1 hour to complete
- SMART PLANS and Setting Realistic Expectations
- Importance of Keeping Food Records and How to Track Your intake
- Implementing the Plate Method
- How to Meal Plan
- The Best Exercises for Weight Loss
- Why Counting Calories Doesn’t Work
- The Problem with “Everything in Moderation”
- Label Reading for Weight Loss
- Finding and Creating Healthy Recipes
- Finding and Maintaining Weight Loss Motivation
- A Look at Meal Replacements and Other Diet Foods
- Convenient and Healthy Eating for Weight Loss
Private Discussion Forums and FREE Closed Facebook Group Access
- Community Support
- Connect with Others Just Like You
- No Need to Travel to Meetings or Presentations
Printable Resources You can Download and Keep!
- Food Record
- Grocery List
- Meal Plan
- Weekly Menu
- Food Lists
- Example Workouts
Expert Advice and Information
- All the content was created by Nancy – a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree and Certified Personal Trainer.
No Prepackaged Foods – You purchase all your own foods
- Stay in control of the food and ingredients you put in your body
- Keeps cost low by allowing you to purchase your own groceries
- This program is NEW so the price is LOW!
- Give feedback and you’ll be eligible for special coupons for additional programs in the future
- Prices will increase over the next few months so act now!
Your Time Learning
- You can go as fast or as slow through the content as you need
- You can choose the day, time, and length of your sessions
- Videos are designed to easily pause or repeat information as needed
- Week 1 content is available immediately after purchase
- Additional content will be available automatically each week as you go through the program
Get All This and More for Only $49!
This is an introductory price offer only! It will be gone before you know it so make sure to purchase your 12 week course today! There is no time like the present, so click here, and get registered! The actual value of this course is well over $250! Similar programs range from $250-780 for 12 weeks of content and resources. This low, low price won’t last long!
Finding Your Best Exercise
We all know exercise is important. From preventing heart disease and diabetes to maintaining our physical abilities to boosting self-confidence there are a multitude of reasons to fit physical activity into our weekly lives. But knowing something is important and actually finding the time to do it and enjoy it are totally different things! Many of you have tried to begin an exercise program, maybe multiple times, just to be back at square one a few weeks or months later. It’s very common to “fall off” the exercise wagon so to speak.
So how do you find an exercise routine that fits into your schedule, works with your current abilities, and that you actually want to do? Well, the answer is a little complicated. See you are all individuals with different lifestyles, abilities, and enjoyments. No one exercise plan is going to work for every person. Also, it will be a bit of an experiment or trial and error to find the right exercise plan for you. I’ve compiled a list of tips and strategies to finding an exercise program to suit your needs.
Pick Something You Enjoy
This may seem simple but sometimes it takes trying out a few different options to find the type of exercise you enjoy most. There are countless options for physical activity but we often go into this short-sighted thinking we have to either run, cycle, lift weights, or practice yoga. In reality we could choose from 100 of different exercise options. Try to base what you choose off of something you enjoy. Did you enjoy dance growing up? Maybe you could try your hand at Zumba or sign up for a ball-room dance class. Are you a sports fan and pretty competitive? Check out what type of leagues may be available in your area. Does going to the gym fill you with dread? See what type of exercise DVDs your library has or download a home workout plan to try.
If you try to force yourself into doing something you hate you most likely won’t be successful at maintaining your exercise routine. Finding an exercise you enjoy might take some time, but will be well worth it when you actually look forward to lacing up your shoes and heading out the door. Keep reading for more tips on making exercise fun! You can take this fun “exercise personality” quiz to get some ideas on what you might enjoy most.
Find an Accountability Partner
Not only can having a friend to exercise with make it more fun; it also helps you stay motivated and on track. It’s easy to talk yourself out of heading to your fitness class but it’s a lot harder when your friend expects you to be there. An accountability partner can be a great source of encouragement or even competition. Knowing someone is depending on your support and commitment makes you more committed too! Research supports exercising with a buddy to increase your activity. You can also reap the benefits of being more social with an exercise partner as well.
You don’t have to actually workout with your accountability partner. All you need to do is set aside some time each week to check in with each other and update each other your progress. Most of us would rather share that we are making progress instead of failing to make progress. You can do this via email, phone, or even text. Just make sure to pick an accountability partner that’s going to support and push you towards your goals.
Many times we over do it when starting an exercise program and that leaves us sore and worn out for the rest of the week, or worse, injured! Take it slow when beginning to exercise. As little as 10 minutes a day can be beneficial and it won’t eat up too much time or energy. Over time, build on the time and intensity of your workouts. If you would like more information about starting small for losing weight check out my 12 week Weight Loss Inspirations Course. Click below to find out more!
Try Something New
If you keep trying to make it to that 6:00 am boot-camp and keep hitting snooze instead of getting out of bed; maybe you aren’t cut out for early morning workouts. Try a different time of day! You can also try different types of exercises, classes, or programs. You might really enjoy kickboxing over step aerobics if you give it a go! Enjoy yoga? Try Goat Yoga! Like running? Try interval training or running hills. Doing the same thing for months gets boring and also prevents additional gains from exercise. Make sure you try new things occasionally to keep your interest and challenge yourself.
Determine What You Want from Your Workouts
What are your fitness goals? If you want to build strength, training for a marathon is probably not your best choice! Trying to lose weight? Cardio is more your friend in the beginning. Need to increase your flexibility to reduce pain and tight muscles? Yoga or Tai Chi is going to be a better option than that weight circuit at the gym. When you decide what you are trying to accomplish that can help you make the best choice for your exercise plan. If you are trying to lose weight, diet is more important than exercise, so you might want to check out how to go low-carb the healthy way and just choose the type of exercise you enjoy most for you workouts.
Choose a Sport and Make it Fun
Try getting involved in your favorite sport or activity. Most cities have leagues of different kinds from volleyball to bowling to kickball. Any activity can count towards your overall exercise goals. If you’re competitive by nature use that to your advantage. If you prefer playing just for fun regardless of winning or losing choose a league or activity with a group that feels the same way. Exercise doesn’t have to mean working out in the sense most of us think. Any type of activity can count if you’re moving more and sitting less.
Set Some Goals
Consider where you want to be 6 months from now? Are you trying to lift a certain amount? Run a particular distance? Sign-up for a challenge or a race. Having a date to work towards can focus your attention on improving your fitness levels. Think about doing a 30 day fitness challenge or another type of fitness challenge. Some online challenges will even send you a medal like Will Run for Bling and Charity! You can also sign up for fun events like midnight runs or muddy obstacle courses to keep you on track.
Make Exercise a Family Event
Include the kids in your exercise plans. Maybe you can plan weekly or monthly hiking trips where you live. Sign them up for the 1 mile kids dash offered by your 10k race program. Play flag football or ultimate Frisbee with the neighborhood families. Whatever floats your boat – just get the kids involved and the whole family can have some fun burning calories.
Fit it in Where You Can
Yes it’s optimal to have about 20 minutes set aside 3-4 days per week to get active, but maybe your schedule is really tight right now and you aren’t able to commit to that. Can you commit to a 10 minute walk on your lunch break 2 days? What about another 10 minutes after dinner 1 or 2 nights each week? Start sneaking in extra activity when you can and before long you will start noticing a difference in how you feel. Research supports benefits from small amounts of exercise. Obviously you get greater benefit with more exercise but why not capitalize on what you can achieve and not worry as much about what’s out of your reach at the moment?
Prepare the Day Before
Lay out everything you need the day before. Your clothing, snacks, shoes, and whatever else you need to make your workout a success. Place your gym bag in your car if you plan to hit it on your way to or from work. Have everything ready to make exercising as easy and smooth as possible.
Make it Count
12 minutes of interval training is all you need for a successful and meaningful workout (click here for more info). So if you are limited in time, make up for it with intensity! Really work towards putting in the effort when possible and increase other areas of activity as you are able. A short, powerful workout can be just as effective or possibly more effective than a longer, more moderate intensity workout.
Take the Path of Least Resistance
No I’m not talking about choosing the lightest weights at the gym. Make it easy on yourself to exercise! This might mean lacing up your tennis shoes for a run in your neighborhood instead of driving to them gym for time on the elliptical or it might mean doing a body weight strength training routine on nights you leave work late instead of hitting the gym and waiting on the machines you prefer to be available. Reduce the barriers that come up for you by planning ahead. Your exercise plan should reduce stress – not create it! Choose options that help keep you energized and calm. If you’re always rushing to your workouts, or worse, through your workouts – you’re going to be more likely to quit.
Hire a Professional
If you’re not sure where to start or would like to hit the gym but don’t know how to use the machines; you can always consider hiring a certified personal trainer. They can help lead you in the right direction based off your fitness goals and can show you how to do the exercise correctly and efficiently. Some trainers will even do group sessions – so bring your accountability partner with you! Paying your hard earned money is another way to make yourself accountable to your workout plans and keep you motivated to reach your goals.
Make a Plan
No matter what type of exercise you choose to do, you need a plan to implement it. Write it on your calendar, in your planner, or your bullet journal. Choose what days, what time, and for how long you will be exercising. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail – so make an exercise plan! You might want to check out these meal planning tips as well while you’re at it and knock out both your meal plan and your workout plan at the same time.
What Exercise Will You Choose?
Leave a comment with your favorite exercise type below! Consider signing up for my newsletter for more weight loss, exercise, and nutrition tips delivered to your inbox. If you’re reading this because your trying to lose weight, check out these 25 weight loss tips to help improve your progress.
Meal Planning Tips to Help You Stick to Your Nutrition Goals
Meal planning is a must for those looking to lose weight, manage chronic conditions, or stay healthy. But sometimes it’s boring, overwhelming, frustrating, or all of the above. Here are some tips to keep your meal planning organized and on track with a little variety and fun along the way.
Follow the Plate Method for Meal Planning
The plate method gives you a guide for how your plate should look. When meal planning make sure you’ve got all 5 food categories present: non-starchy vegetables, fruits, proteins, starch/grains, and healthy fats. I’m a big fan of Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate (below). You can read more about Harvard’s plate method here. I especially like that it focuses on water instead of milk as your main beverage. If you would like more information on following the plate method you can read my Ultimate Guide to the Anti-inflammatory Diet where I discuss each of the food groups in more detail.
Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, www.thenutritionsource.org, and Harvard Health Publications, www.health.harvard.edu.
Lose Weight by Meal Planning
Meal planning helps you stick to your nutrition plan and prevent excess snacking or extra calories from sneaking into your day. Make a plan and stick to it so you know how many calories are coming in and what foods will fit in your day. For additional weight loss advice check out these 25 weight loss tips. If you are serious about losing weight consider enrolling in my 12 week Weight Loss Inspirations Course!
You don’t have to plan an entire month or even an entire week to get started. Consider just meal planning your dinners for practice; you can even just do 2-3 to start with. As you refine your meal planning strategy you can increase the number of meals you plan each week or month. I use PepperPlate to plan my meals. You can use an app, calendar, or notebook. Find a system that works for you and keep at it. If you’d like to download my basic meal planning worksheet (pictured below) sign-up for my mailing list and I’ll send you a PDF for free at your request.
Use Ads for Meal Planning Ideas
Check out the weekly circular for meal ideas. Purchase sale items for budget friendly meals. Ads are a great way to get the ideas flowing. If roast is on sale you can consider a slow-cooker roast recipe or if salmon is on sale you might add that to your weekly menu plan. Ads also help you find out what produce is in season which helps your budget and your health; see the next point for more info.
Stick to Your Dietary Needs
Meal planning allows for you to meet your dietary needs without feeling overwhelmed or forgetful. Need to go low sodium to manage your blood pressure? Add recipes with limited salt. Aiming to manage your diabetes? Go low carb the healthy way and keep your starchy foods to one-fourth of your plate. Aiming to lose weight? Keep portions under control and pair higher calorie main dishes with lower calorie sides. Any dietary needs can be met by meal planning ahead of time and keeping your needs in mind.
Seasonal Simplicity in Meal Planning
Aim to eat vegetables and fruits that are in season. This can help with sticking to your budget as well as getting in a variety of foods throughout the year. Seasonal foods tend to be a better option since they are often grown locally and fresher when purchased. Seasonal produce tends to be a better price option since the store doesn’t have to pay extra for extravagant shipping requirements or special growing conditions. Meal planning based on the season can also help you get a range of nutrients each season and throughout the year.
Weather Appropriate Meal Planning
Speaking of seasons. Hot weather may call for cooler meals such as smoothies and salads. Cold weather tends to lead us to soups and chili. Consider how eating a certain food may affect how you feel or function that day. Hot soup on a day you’re working out in the yard may not be the best choice but would be perfect after playing in the snow! Meal planning with the weather in mind can help you relax and appreciate your foods in a new way.
Keep the freezer, fridge, and pantry stocked with essential items you use consistently. Things you should always keep on hand include: healthy oils, nuts/seeds, frozen vegetables and fruits, peanut butter, brown and wild rice, oats, salt and pepper, canned tuna, frozen meats, canned beans, tortillas, breads/pastas, eggs, etc. Basically always be able to throw together a simple snack or meal if your originally planned option falls through. Any time you finish off one of your essential items it goes directly onto the grocery list. This also helps you prevent running out of an essential item in the middle of your week after you’ve already completed your meal planning and grocery shopping for the week.
Theme Nights for Meal Planning
Consider having theme nights to keep your cuisines rotating and your planning on track. Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, and Fish Fridays are popular options. Obviously you don’t have to have tacos every Tuesday, but something Mexican or a similar flare would work with the theme night and help when you trying to come up with options. This is also not something you have to stick with at all times. Consider it more of a guide or idea generator instead of a rule book. It can keep your meal planning organized but can sometimes feel limiting. Remember you’re ultimately in control of what goes on the menu that night.
To prevent wasting food – plan leftovers into your week. One strategy is to eat leftovers every 4th night or you can plan to have leftovers on your busiest day of the week. Another option is to have leftovers as your lunch meals all week. Try giving leftovers a little twist. For example: Chili can be eaten alone the first night and then over a potato as lunch or the next night. This helps keep things new and fresh and prevents feeling like you’re always eating the same things. When meal planning for the week or month just write in “leftovers” for the meals you plan to use them; that way you don’t forget!
Aim to go vegetarian at least one day per week. There are countless health benefits to a plant-based diet. This doesn’t mean you need to eliminate meat completely – just eat less of it! Having one day a week meatless also makes some room in your budget. Meatless meals tend to be very budget friendly! It also doesn’t have to be Mondays or even a full day. One strategy I implement pretty regularly is having plant-based/vegetarian breakfast and lunches and only having animal products at dinner time. Incorporate meatless options into your meal planning strategy.
You need a back-up plan. This should be 2-3 meals that meet the following requirements: 1) You can keep the ingredients on hand at all times, 2) take less than 15 minutes to throw together, 3) You enjoy eating. These may include something like a simple shrimp stir-fry made with minute rice, frozen precooked shrimp, and a bag of frozen stir-fry vegetables or easy tuna salad sandwiches. These meals are not to be written into your meal plan. Instead, they are planning ahead for the unexpected. Your back-up plan is for those days when you’re running 2 hours behind by the time you finally make it home or your crock-pot dies along with your plans for dinner. This will help keep you out of the drive through and eating home-cooked, nutritionally balanced options instead.
Slow Cookers for Busy Days
If you know you’re going to be away from the house all day but don’t want to break the bank on restaurant meals; get a slow-cooker. I love my slow cooker. I typically use it once a week. Look at your schedule for the week and choose slow cooker meals for days when you’ll get home late or you know you’ll be extra tired and not feel like cooking. Meal planning is vital for those busy days and prepping ahead before you leave the house will make you extra grateful for meal planning when you arrive home to an inviting smell wafting from the slow cooker.
Have a prep day. Pick a day of the week you can set aside 30-60 minutes to do some chopping, slicing, marinating, etc. Prepping for the week can reduce your cooking times and help increase productivity in other areas. Prepping your lunches can keep you away from the vending machine and improve your bank account balance as well. Pre-cut vegetables and fruits will increase snacking of these items instead of junk foods because you’re improving the ease of access.
Make a Big Batch
Batch cooking saves so much time! Double or triple recipes and then freeze them. You can freeze after cooking for quick meals for the next week or month or freeze prior to cooking and place into a disposable casserole dish. Freeze in either single serve (for lunches) or meal sized containers. You can add your frozen dinners to the menu when meal planning for the next month. If you batch cook a few times a month you’ll have several meals each month you don’t have to cook! Just heat and eat. I like to double recipes during the week so I only have to cook twice. We will often eat the same meal Monday/Tuesday and a second meal Wednesday/Thursday. Weekends I’ll cook additional meals when I have more time. There are several ways batch cooking can make meal planning easier and efficient.
Prevent Boredom by Meal Planning
You want to make sure you keep things interesting and vary your options for optimal nutrition. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a new recipe every night! You can change things up simply by using different vegetables, seasoning it a new way, or using different cooking techniques. For example, salmon can be paired with asparagus or broccoli, seasoned with garlic and lemon or teriyaki marinade, and can be baked or grilled. These variations can keep things interesting but also consistently keep your favorite foods on the menu.
Make Meal Planning Easy
Consider how to make your life easier while you’re meal planning. A good rule of thumb is 30 minute or less for recipe times during the week. Experiment or do longer cooking recipes on the weekends when you have more time available. Salads, sandwiches, soups, and casseroles are easy and simple options that don’t take a lot of time or energy. Give yourself a break and buy frozen, pre-cut vegetables, canned beans, and premixed salads as needed. Just because someone else did the work for you doesn’t automatically make it unhealthy. Just stick with whole foods with minimal processing.
Reasons to Repeat
Some people really enjoy certain meals and there is not reason to avoid repeating if you love it! Rotating menus can be great for busy families in fact. Consider coming up with about 25 different meals that you can rotate through each month. You can implement a rotating menu where you basically repeat the menu each month if desired. Utilizing the rotating menu option can really cut down on your meal planning time; saving you time and energy. Swap out dishes occasionally as seasons change or you find something new. This can keep your favorites in steady supply but also allow for some variation from time to time.
Organize Your Recipes
Create a recipe organization system that works for you. You can go the old-fashioned way keep them in a tin if you want to write each one on an index card. You can print them or cut them out of magazines and place in a binder. Other options include organizing your pinterests boards just right or using an app designed to organize your recipes. Honestly how you organize them doesn’t matter. Just have a way to access your go-to recipes so you can easily find them and get dinner on the table.
Grocery Lists are Part of Meal Planning
Once you have your meal planning completed for the week or month, the next step is to write out your grocery list. Add all the ingredients you need for each meal down on your list. Then cross off or delete items you currently have in your pantry. Make sure you take your list to the store and stick to it!
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The very low carb keto diet is super popular right now. People have found some weight loss success with it. You could do it and probably lose weight. But you most likely won’t keep the it weight off. Because realistically you won’t follow it forever and you’ll sneak carbs back into your diet. Because most people who lose weight gain it all back (and then some) within 1 year!
So why not use a simple approach for weight loss that you can maintain forever? And avoid the nasty keto flu along with it? I’d be game. Follow these simple guidelines to go low carb the healthy way.
Low Carb Meal Plan Basics
The plan is to follow the plate method of eating and limit your carbohydrates to 30-45 grams of carbohydrates at your meals. This will keep your blood glucose steady and supply adequate fuel to your body without making it rely on ketones and suffer the negative effects of an very low carbohydrate diet. Why a range of 30-45? That’s just a starting point and you many need to adjust based on your experience. Typically I recommended 30 grams for women who typically are at a lower calorie intake and 45 for men at a higher intake. However, if someone is extremely active they could increase based on their needs. I believe once you have the tools and knowledge you can listen to your body and feed it what it needs.
This is a great example of the plate method. You can go here to read more about their healthy eating plate philosophy. In the image below fruit and whole grains are the 2 food categories that contain carbohydrate. Be aware that for this low carb plan that beans and legumes and starchy vegetables would also be in the same part of the plate as the whole grains because of their starch content.
Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, www.thenutritionsource.org, and Harvard Health Publications, www.health.harvard.edu.
Low Carb Foods
Animal proteins, fats, and cheeses don’t contain any significant amount of carbohydrate. These are “free” of carbohydrate but still should not be eaten in unlimited amounts when trying to lose weight. This is where Atkins and Keto diets get things wrong. They don’t pay as much attention to the quality of proteins and fats as they should. What type of protein and fat you consume still matters if you want to be healthy and keep weight off long-term. Low carb and healthy should not be considered two separate goals!
Non-starchy vegetables are also extremely low in digestible carbohydrates. I don’t typically count the carbohydrates of these foods when counseling clients on reducing carbohydrates but if you use a tracking app it will probably count all your carbohydrates. If that’s the case, subtract your total dietary fiber from your total carbohydrate intake to get your net carbs. AKA the actual carbohydrates your body can digest. Because fiber is non-digestible it shouldn’t be counted against your carbohydrate count for the day/meal. So even though all vegetables are technically carbohydrates; non-starchy vegetables are still considered low carb.
High Carb Foods
Fruit, grains, legumes, milk, and yogurts all contain carbohydrate. These foods need to be monitored in a low carb meal plan. Additionally sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages also contain carbs. I recommend against sugary beverages, including fruit juice, completely and reducing your sweet intake to about once per week or very tiny portions a few times per week when trying to lose weight. It’s hard to maintain a low carb meal plan and eat a lot of sweets. Sweets are nearly all carbs or they’re carbs and less healthy fats; either way they are empty calories that will hinder your weight loss goals!
Below I have a list of foods that contain carbohydrates in 15 gram carbohydrate portion sizes. Choose 2-3 options below per meal and 1 option at snacks. You can mix and match any way you prefer. Making a smoothie? Pick 2 fruits and a yogurt serving and add a protein powder (sugarless) to balance the meal. Having pasta for dinner? Make all 3 options as pasta (3 x 1/3 cup = 1 cup) with a side salad and meatballs to balance the plate. These will keep you low carb and balanced at your meals.
15 Gram Carbohydrate Serving Sizes: Pick 2-3 per meal for low carb eating
For items not listed, read the label. Figure our how many carbohydrates it contains per serving and do the math. You can have 30-45 grams per meal so adjust as needed. This is a great starting point for most people who want to lose weight, and bonus: manage their diabetes or prevent diabetes. But like always consult your personal physician or health care professionals before making any dietary changes. Carbohydrates per serving size above were obtained from the glycemic Index or by searching Calorie King.
Low Carb Foods to Eat More Often
What makes my low carb plan a little different than keto or Atkins? Because it’s a little higher in carbohydrates, the protein and fat amounts are more moderate. You shouldn’t go into ketosis on this diet and if you already have diabetes or prediabetes this plan is a lot safer for you than keto. The type of protein and fat also matters. Yes bacon is low in carbs but it isn’t healthy for you!!
The foods below are all low carb and can be eaten in quantities that you decide. They won’t contribute much or any carbs to your intake but you should still be mindful of overall calories and portion sizes. Also, vegetables are technically carbohydrates; but since they only contribute a couple of carbohydrates per serving and are rich in fiber they don’t count against you on this eating plan. There is NO reason to limit non-starchy vegetables.
Foods to Limit to Stay Low Carb and Healthy
Finally, we have foods you should eat less often. This is where a lot of people disagree, feel deprived, or begin to cheat. There are foods that we should NOT eat on a daily basis. We use the phrase “everything in moderation” and believe that one cup of ice cream per day counts as moderation. I have a different view. I am not saying my opinion is 100% correct but it will help you lose weight by reducing the calories you eat and keep your body healthy at the same time. Losing weight on an Atkins type diet won’t do you much good if your cholesterol goes up and you have a heart attack. So the foods below should be limited. Not avoided. Just eaten less often.
Now you have to tools to go low carb the healthy way. It’s up to you to utilize these tools and start losing weight. Please share these resources with others so they can learn how to obtain a healthy weight without drastic fad diets. Stay in touch to get more information about healthy eating, weight loss, anti-inflammatory foods, and other healthy lifestyle information.
In case you were wondering. You can follow the anti-inflammatory meal plan and go low carb at the same time with AMAZING health benefits! Check out my Ultimate Guide to the Anti-inflammatory Diet for more information.
Weight loss is a hot topic. There are so many tips and diets and supplements out there its hard to know who or what to trust. These tips are tried and true; plus they’re scientifically backed. Consider trying out several of these tips to help you meet your weight loss goals.
Use smaller plates and bowls
Aim for a 9 inch plate. The same amount of food on a 12 inch plate will look like less food due to the plate having more empty space than on a 9 inch plate. Use this tip to trick your brain into thinking you’re eating more than you are. Check out this example from Jen Lee. Our brains can be fooled by this optical illusion and we can end up eating less. Check out this research on the matter.
Drink a glass of water before meals
The water will help fill you up faster! You will eat less than your usual amount each meal. Plus, fiber needs fluid to do its job well. Fiber expands and moves through our digestive track with adequate fluid intake. Water works best for weight management because its calorie free!
Practice mindful eating
Pay attention to your food. Not the TV. Not your phone. The food you are putting into your mouth. Focus on it. How does it smell? Look? Taste? This focus will help prevent overeating because you’re tuning into your body. Here is a great article from Psychology Today on mindful eating and how it helps with weight management.
Set your fork down.
How often do you just shovel food in your mouth without coming up for air?! Set the fork down. Take a drink. Take a breath. Then continue your meal. This will naturally slow down your eating. It takes 15-20 minutes for the hormones that control hunger and fullness to do their jobs and for our body and brain to realize we are no longer hungry. If we scarf our meal down in 5 minutes we may still think we are hungry and go back for more. Wait 15 minutes before getting seconds. Then if you are still hungry choose low calorie options like vegetables and fruits to fill up. If you aren’t willing to eat a vegetable, you must not be that hungry!
Fill up on veggies
At least half of your meal should be non-starchy vegetables. They’re low in calories and high in fiber. A perfect weight loss friendly food group! The health benefits to vegetables are too many to list. If you want to learn more about how the quality of your foods effects your overall health check out the Ultimate Guide to the Anti-inflammatory Diet.
Choose whole grains
Whole grains have more fiber. Fiber helps you feel full. It also does a lot of other nifty things like keep blood sugar in check and get things moving in our digestive track. White and refined grains will quickly be digested and the energy kick we get from them will quickly dissipate. Before we know it we will begin to feel tired and “hungry” again. Not a great option when you are trying to lose weight.
Keep a food log
Write down every, single bite. You’ll be able to determine where you may be getting excess calories and prevent mindless snacking. If you have to write it down you may be more likely to say no. It’s like being your own accountability partner. Many people don’t like this or feel its tedious. But people who track their food intake lose more weight than those that don’t. You can’t really make improvements if you don’t know where your going wrong in the first place. Check out this simple food log from the American Heart Association. Consider using pen and paper, different apps, or some other tracking option.
Ask yourself if you would eat an apple
When you’re about to eat something ask yourself if you would eat an apple (or other favorite fruit) right now instead. This will help you determine if you’re eating out of habit or boredom instead hunger. The idea is if you would eat a healthy snack instead you’re probably hungry. If not, maybe you shouldn’t be eating at all.
Leave 1 bite
I once had the bad habit of “saving the best bite for last”. Why is this a bad habit? First of all it encourages you to clean your plate, even if you’re not hungry, to get to the best bite. Secondly, it’s scientifically impossible for the last bite to be the best. Yeah, you read that right. It’s actually the very first bite of each meal that’s the most pleasurable (biggest endorphin release) and tasty. So eat the best bite first!
Don’t drink your calories
Say you should be averaging 500 calories a meal. If you drink a 12oz soda then you only have 350 calories left. That’s a lot less food for something that has no benefit and increases the likelihood of obesity and diabetes. Plus, sugary beverages increase our inflammatory response. Leading to chronic health conditions over time. If you would like to learn more about eating to fight inflammation check out my Ultimate Guide to the Anti-inflammatory Diet.
Go for a walk after meals
All you need is 10 minutes. This will help improve blood glucose control and help increase the calories you’re burning throughout the day. Here is some preliminary research on this topic and preliminary research on how it can help manage diabetes (bonus!)
Eat real food as snacks
We have a bad habit of eating candy, donuts, and other dessert type items as snacks. They’re treats!!! Not snacks. Choose fruit, veggies and dip, or nuts instead. Spark People has an amazing list of 55 snacks under 200 calorie. Visit their website for the full list. Here is a sneak peak:
Eat more proteins and fats, reduce carbs
Higher protein intake can help improve weight loss efforts. It’s the science behind why Atkins and keto diets work. But you want to do it the healthy way. Not stuffing yourself with hot-dogs and bacon. Choose lean proteins and eat plenty of veggies. Nuts and seeds are great options too. Remember to keep starches limited to one quarter of your plate.
Make a Plan
Plan meals, plan workouts, and plan to eat healthy choices. That great saying If you “Fail to Plan, you are planning to fail” (credited to Benjamin Franklin). When it comes to losing weight, nothing could be more true. Plan your grocery list, plan ahead when going out to eat, plan your strategies and you will succeed.
I know I just said to make a plan, but meal planning deserves its own note here. Meal planning is so important because if we don’t have a plan we will inevitably make less healthy choices that lead us away from our weight loss goals. Too tired to cook = drive-thru. There’s nothing to eat = restaurant. Didn’t bring any snacks to work = vending machine. This spur of the moment decisions often lead to unhealthy food choices. Don’t be that guy (or girl).
Start your day off right! Eating balanced meals in the morning (not sugary cereal people!) can prevent over eating later in the day. It also helps ensure we get all our nutrients throughout the day. Breakfast doesn’t have to be eggs and toast. Anything that breaks your fast is considered breakfast. According to The National Weight Control Registry 78% of people who successfully lose weight and keep it off eat breakfast every day.
Get Quality Sleep
Good sleep is a vital part of weight management. 8 hours is what the average person needs, but you may need more or less as an individual. How do you know if you’re getting quality sleep? You wake up feeling rested, you aren’t napping during the day, and your mental game is on point. Consider talking to your doctor about sleep apnea if your significant other tells you that you stop breathing during the night or that you snore heavily. Sleep apnea can disrupt your sleep and often coincides with being overweight. Check out what Harvard has to say about sleep and weight control.
Choose high fiber foods
Foods that are high in fiber such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts help you feel full and prevent over eating. Eat more of these foods and less refined foods to prevent hunger throughout the day. Make sure to eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice for the same benefit.
Change just 1 or 2 things at a time until you’re able to make it a habit. Trying to change everything all at once becomes overwhelming and can cause burnout. Weight loss is often about experimenting until you find what works best for you. Trial a couple things out and determine if they are working well or not. Then try a couple more!
or add some type of resistance training to your workout. Cardio doesn’t cut it for weight loss. You need muscle to burn fat. Just twice per week for about 30 minutes can help you reach your weight loss goals! Strength training includes weights, resistance bands, and even body weight exercises like push-ups and squats. Doing both weight lifting and cardio together will get you the best results, learn more here.
Stay Consistent with Meals
Aim to eat at least 3 meals a day and keep consistent. Skipping meals or eating 1 large meal with a couple small ones can throw your metabolism off and make weight loss harder to achieve. Some people prefer to eat more often, which is fine as long as you’re waiting 3-4 hours between meals and snacks. Aim not to go longer than 6-7 hours between meals during the day.
Reduce Portions by One-Fourth
Cut your current intake by a quarter. This tip is way easier than counting calories. You don’t have to drop to teeny-tiny portions on day one. Reduce by a quarter and once that smaller portion is your new normal, reduce again to continue losing weight.
Don’t Bring Junk Food Home
Having tempting, unhealthy foods in the house just increases the likelihood that you’ll eat them! If you’re craving something less healthy then only buy a small amount to quench your craving. Then you won’t have the rest of the item sitting on the counter tempting you to overindulge.
Practice Stress Management
Chronic stress literally causes weight gain. If you are not managing your stress levels it can hold you back from reaching your weight loss goals. Meditate, practice mindfulness, journal, or find something else that helps reduce your stress levels. Research shows that women with chronic, un-managed stress tend to have higher abdominal weight gain levels.
Limit Added Sugars
I’m not saying you can never have ice cream or cookies again. What I am saying is that it shouldn’t be after every meal or even every day! When you do have them keep your portions small and don’t lose sight of the end goal. There is nothing about treats that will help move you forward with your weight loss.
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