10 Recipes Perfect for Your Thanksgiving Gathering

‘Tis the season for fall recipes, tastes of home and cooking with family or friends in the spirit of cooler temps and time together. Whether you’re bringing a dish to a Friendsgiving function or want to contribute a healthy dish to your family Thanksgiving, I’ve got you covered!

Below I’ve compiled 10 of my favorite seasonal recipes, and any of them will be a perfect addition to your holiday meal — organized by veggie-packed side dishes and a couple fruit-inspired desserts.

Bringing food is a thoughtful gesture to not show up empty handed, and it enables you to share your desire for a healthy lifestyle with others. It will give you the opportunity to show off how great quality ingredients can taste, and it allows you the comfort of knowing that there will be at least one thing available to eat at the gathering that’s aligned with your goals. And before you start cooking, if you’re counting macros or tracking your food, check out my step-by-step post on logging a recipe here.

Enjoy, and happy Thanksgiving!

Sides

1 | Butternut Hummus

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound cooked butternut squash (about 3 cups)

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 2 tablespoons tahini

  • 8 pitted green olives

  • 1 clove garlic

Directions:

Purée all ingredients in a food processor, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons water, if needed. Serve with raw veggies or crackers.

2 | Warm Cranberry Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag TJ’s Cruciferous Crunch

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • Handful of dried cranberries

  • Handful of sliced almonds

  • 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil.

  2. When heated, add cruciferous crunch and sauté 3 minutes until slightly wilted.

  3. Remove pan from heat and pour contents into a large bowl. Add salt and lemon juice and toss until coated.

  4. Divide greens among two plates and top with a handful of dried cranberries, almonds and cheese. Serve warm.

3 | Everything Cream Cheese Crispbreads

Ingredients:

  • TJ's Gluten Free Crispbreads

  • 1 container whipped cream cheese

  • TJ's Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend

  • Fresh Dill, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Generously slather a crispbread with cream cheese. Sprinkle liberally with seasoning blend and top with fresh dill.

4 | Caramelized Cauliflower, Date, and Lentil Salad with Spiced Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

Salad

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

  • 1 cup uncooked green lentils

  • 1 cup pecans

  • 6 dates, pitted and chopped

  • 2 persimmons, sliced

  • 1 cup fresh herbs – such as parsley, cilantro, or basil

  • 6 cups mixed greens

Spiced Apple Cider Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and spread the cauliflower florets and sliced onions out over a baking sheet. Mix the oil, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl, pour over the veggies and toss to coat. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until the cauliflower is caramelized and golden on the edges.

  2. Meanwhile, cover the lentils with 3 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook gently until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain the excess cooking liquid and set aside in a bowl to cool in the fridge.

  3. Remove the cauliflower from the oven and toast the pecans at 350°F for 5 minutes until fragrant.

  4. Whisk all of the ingredients for the vinaigrette together in a large serving bowl. Add the lentils, roasted cauliflower and onions, pecans, chopped dates, persimmon slices, herbs, and greens to the bowl and toss to combine. Serve and enjoy!

5 | Lemon Garlic Green Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Blanch green beans in a large stock pot of well salted boiling water until bright green in color and tender crisp, roughly 2 minutes. Drain and shock in a bowl of ice water to stop from cooking.

  2. Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and the butter.

  3. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  4. Add the beans and continue to saute until coated in the butter and heated through, about 5 minutes.

  5. Add lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.

6 | Mediterranean Pasta Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz box of Organic Chickpea Fusilli by Explore Cuisine

  • 1/4 cup red onion diced

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes

  • 15 oz of northern beans (drained and rinsed)

  • 3/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley

  • 3/4 cup fresh basil

  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts (from a jar, chopped)

  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives halved

  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded

Instructions:

  1. Prepare the pasta, per the directions on the box.

  2. In a 9x13 oiled casserole dish add in cooked pasta and remaining ingredients.

  3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

  4. Top with additional parsley for a pop of color.

7 | Brussels Sprouts With Cranberries

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts trimmed and quartered

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 42 grams walnuts chopped

  • 40 grams low-sugar dried cranberries

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in pan on medium high heat.

  2. Place brussels sprouts in pan and saute until desired caramelization.

  3. Sprinkle with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

  4. Turn heat to low and add walnuts and cranberries to warm through.

8 | Cauliflower Potato Mash

Ingredients:

  • 450 grams cauliflower (1 large head), chopped

  • 100g Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered

  • 3 Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb Cheese Wedges

  • 30 grams low-sodium chicken broth or bone broth

  • Garlic salt to taste

  • 4–5 cracks of pepper

  • 2 stalks of rosemary

Directions:

  1. Boil cauliflower and potatoes until soft (stovetop or microwave, 10 minutes in boiling water).

  2. Add cauliflower, potato, Laughing Cow cheese wedges, herbs, spices and chicken broth into a food processor and blend until creamy. Occasionally remove food processor lid and stir to make sure everything gets blended evenly.

  3. If your food processor is small, it might be worth doing this step in two batches.

  4. Transfer into serving dish and set aside for 30 minutes to overnight to let the mash firm up. It’s easy to reheat.

Sweets

9 | Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond milk or coconut milk

  • 1/4 cup cacao powder

  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

  • 2 to 4 marshmallows (optional)

Directions:

  1. Pour the almond milk into a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and whisk in the cacao powder and maple syrup.

  2. Bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the cacao lumps have dissolved.

  3. Remove from the heat and stir in the peppermint extract.

  4. Pour into 2 mugs. Top each mug with one or two 1-inch marshmallows, if desired, and serve.

10 | Pomegranate Coconut Chocolate Bark

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips or dark chocolate, melted

  • 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut flakes

  • 1/2 - 1 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate or chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave.

  2. Mix in coconut into melted chocolate.

  3. Spread out coconut chocolate on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Spread out to about ⅛-1/4 inch thick.

  4. Sprinkle chocolate pomegranate seeds.

  5. Place in freezer and freeze for 1+ hours until hard. Break into pieces and serve immediately.

 Photo:  Social Style Co.  for Hey Preslie Nutrition

Photo: Social Style Co. for Hey Preslie Nutrition

A Twist on Pumpin Seeds

Sometimes pumpkin gets a bad rep, but that’s largely because it’s usually served in a pastry or covered in icing. Here’s a few reasons to love the seasonal staple:

  • The orange color is derived from beta carotene, which provides vitamin A to the body and is good for eyesight and immunity

  • It also packs some vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Manganese + Potassium (more than a banana!)

  • Pumpkin is a member of the squash family - doesn't everyone love it's sister spaghetti squash?

  • The seeds have an average of 12g fiber per 1 cup - you'll feel fuller, longer using them as a crunchy, satisfying snack

Roasting Pumpkin Seeds

Roasting pumpkin seeds yourself is an easy, hands-on activity for kiddos. Once you've carved the pumpkin and scooped out the seeds, rinse and roast for about 20-30 minutes to dry. Then, toss in 2 teaspoons of butter and a pinch of salt, bake in a single layer (on foil, for easy clean up) at 300 degrees for 45 mins or until golden brown. That's the traditional method, but there's lots of ways to change up your pumpkin seed flavor:

  • For a spiced seed, add in 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.

  • For a deeper profile, mix in 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (skip the salt)

  • Feeling Italian? Mix with dried Oregano and parmesan 

  • For something a little different, skip the salt and use butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons ranch seasoning mix - yum!

  • For my southwestern friends, mix butter, 1 teaspoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon taco seasoning and a tablespoon of fresh cilantro

  • For a barbecue feel, toss in 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chile powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • Everything is better with bacon - cook 3-4 slices separately and crumble over the roasted seeds

  • Make a tasty trail mix: once roasted, combine with dried fruit (cranberries, raisins), almonds and cashews

Tell me what your favorite way to enjoy pumpkin seeds is in the comments below!

Crispy Carnitas

Since I made this the first time a couple weeks ago, I haven't stopped telling my friends and clients they need to try it. The meat is juicy and flavorful, making you feel like you're eating out at a Mexican restaurant, without all the grease. 

It feeds a large group, and keeps well if you’re like me and plan to re-heat it throughout the week for lunches. Throw into a corn tortilla for tacos, or serve it bowl-style with rice, beans or lettuce. Top with cilantro for an extra fresh twist, and throw green chilis into the crockpot for a kick. Recipe adapted from @FeedingTheFrasers.

Ingredients:

4lbs pork butt or shoulder

3-4 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried cumin

½ cup sweet onion, diced

4 teaspoons minced garlic (or 8 cloves, smashed)

2 limes, juiced

2 large oranges, 1 juiced and 1 sliced

Directions:

  1. In the slow cooker, add pork, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, onion, garlic, lime juice and orange juice

  2. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8-10 hours, or high heat for 5-6 hours (until meat is falling apart)

  3. Remove pork and shred with two forks (keep the liquid!)

  4. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add pork in batches of two or three, and sear until just beginning to crisp. Pour about ½ cup of leftover liquid onto meat in pan, and continue cooking until the juices reduce down and the meat is crispy.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Recipe: Summertime Fiesta Bowl, Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice

This dish is easy, super satisfying and tastes like a summertime fiesta in your kitchen. Oh, did I mention it’s ridiculously easy?

This serves 2-3 people with big appetites, and there’s about 3/4lb chicken left that will store great in the fridge to pair with regular rice, quinoa, sweet potato, beans or a salad for quick meals later in the week. Score!

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)

  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix (I used Casa Fiesta)

  • 1 16 oz jar salsa (use your favorite; I used Sprouts brand classic mild)

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Juice from two fresh squeezed limes

Instructions

  1. In your slow cooker, place the chicken breasts first, and top with taco seasoning.

  2. Top with salsa, lime juice and cilantro.

  3. Put lid on top and cook for about 4 hours on high, or 6-7 hours on low.

  4. Move chicken to a bowl, and shred with two forks. Pour a small amount of juice from the slow cooker on the chicken to add moisture, based on preference.

  5. Set aside to put on top of Fiesta Lime Rice (below), or enjoy by itself or on top of a salad - yum!

Nutrition: Per 4oz - 8g carb, 2g fat, 24.4g protein (149 calories) and high in Iron.

Fiesta Lime Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 package Uncle Ben’s Jasmine Ready Rice (90 second microwave kind, SO easy! You also can use dry rice, you’ll need about 1-½ cup cooked)

  • ½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and heated

  • ¾ cup cooked corn (I grilled mine, but you can also get the frozen steamable kind!)

  • 1 small-medium tomato (diced)

  • ½ cup chopped bell peppers

  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Juice from one fresh squeezed lime

  • Salt to taste

Directions

Toss all ingredients in a bowl, stir, and serve warm.

*If you made the chicken, mix in with rice and enjoy! Any lean protein mixed in with this rice would be delicious. Other good toppings or mix-ins could be shredded cabbage, avocado, sour cream, onions, jalapeños and/or cheese.

Nutriton: Per 100g rice - 20g carb, .7g fat, 3.2g protein (98 calories), and high in vitamin C and Potassium. 

If you need help tracking these recipes in MFP, check out my step-by-step guide here.

 

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Have any plans this weekend?

If you're looking for something fun to do on your next day off, look no further, because I have an idea for you that is fun AND helps you get an awesome start on your meal prep! What could it be?

Go visit your local farmers market! To get a list of the ones in your area, click here.

If you're not sure what the big deal is with farmers markets or shopping local, just hear me out:

First, it's the prime spot to buy locally produced food: The food looks and tastes betterbecause it’s grown in the natural season, picked at the perfect peak of freshness, and doesn’t need added preservatives to sustain travel time or to prolong shelf life.

There's an opportunity to discover foods you may not have tried before, and incorporate them into your cooking for new flavors and added variety of nutrients. Large retailers can't sufficiently stock very unique items, but a local shop can and often do bring character, charm and rare finds to places like the farmers market.

It's a great place to meet other community members who care about locally sourced food, as well as grab a bargain because the middleman and transportation costs are eliminated. And, you likely get to talk to the person who actually grew your food — how cool is that?!

When you shop at the farmers market, you're also supporting the environment.When items have to travel long distances it uses an enormous amount of fuel. If only 10% of ingredients were sourced from a state grower instead of corporate farm, it would save 310,000 gallons of fuel annually (source). Additionally, food that takes a while to get from farm to table demands special packing and storing methods that are typically not recycled.

Shopping local helps financially support those living in and caring for your community, and provides you the delightful opportunity to get closer to the root of your food source (no pun intended).

Go check out a farmers market near you this weekend, and reply back and let me know what you find in the comments below! :)

Recipe: You won't believe how easy (and delicious!) this spaghetti squash is

It's no secret I love spaghetti squash. In a previous blog post, I wrote about the health benefits and basically why it rocks, so check it out if you haven't already. This recipe is my latest take on the versatile vegetable, and it's easily now one of my favorites. With the perfect amount of flavor, it's a staple side or base to a main dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Salt

  • Black pepper

  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Cut spaghetti squash length-wise and scrape the seeds out with a spoon

  3. Brush the inside of the squash halves with 1 tbsp oil (1/2 tbsp each) and season generously with salt and pepper

  4. Place the halves face up on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork. Then, remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to touch.

  5. Use a fork to scrape the inside of the squash, creating spaghetti-like strands. Set aside.

  6. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until lightly brown (about 3 minutes).

  7. Turn off heat, add cheese and reserved spaghetti squash to the pan. Use tongs to evenly coat.

  8. Enjoy!

Note: If you want to use this as a main course instead of a side dish, just add protein! Ground turkey, lean ground beef, chicken sausage, shrimp, salmon or chicken (grilled, baked, rotisserie) are all great options.

To have extras for later and/or use as the base of a meal, consider cooking 2 spaghetti squashes at the same time.

Nutrition: Per serving (about 1/4 of recipe): 3g carb, 3g protein, 8g fat - 96 calories

I’d like to introduce you to Roger

Roger Zetah knows a thing or two about investments, to say the least. He spends his weekdays clocking long hours at the office as a 58-year-old CPA (certified public accountant). Though, that’s not the particular facet of his life that fascinated me: it’s his investment in health in and out of the CrossFit gym we attend together.

When he’s not hitting the workout of the day with the class, he’s in the back training to improve his olympic weightlifting mechanics. He’s an accomplished athlete, missing qualifying for Regionals as a Masters competitor by only 35 spots and 5 spots, respectively, the last two years. And for those who know as little about the Masters category as I: it’s a worldwide competition where only 200 of the best move on to Regionals. I got curious about what keeps him going; age aside, at a time when so many people across the board struggle to maintain consistency of gym attendance. So I asked him if we could chat after a workout.

He’s certainly got an admirable level of determination, which became painfully clear when I found out his first CrossFit workout ever, five years ago, involved 100 thrusters.

I loved a particular story he shared: when he was focused on getting his muscle-up, he actually changed his license plate to say “muscle-up” to constantly remind him. Then he got it! Maybe if I borrow his car, my gymnastics will improve too.

With my knowledge on nutrition I was pretty convinced he was killing it the kitchen too, but of course I had to ask.

“It’s huge how much eating impacts performance,” Roger said.

He wasn’t at all shy to admit he absolutely dreads cooking, but suffers through time in the kitchen every Sunday to meal prep and set himself up for success, thus being able to avoid the task for the next six days. Chicken breast (particularly prepared through his newfound love of the crockpot), ground turkey, a variety of vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, sweet potatoes and small amounts of fruit are on the menu for his typical day.

He explained that weighing and measuring his food doesn’t interest him, though he did go strict Paleo for 42 days at an old gym for a group challenge where he dropped to an unsustainable 4% body fat.

“For the first two weeks (on Paleo) I didn’t want to be around sharp instruments,” Roger joked. “And performance wise I didn’t have enough energy.”

After ditching that method, he’s discovered that intuitively eating quality foods keeps him feeling good in the gym and satisfied throughout the day. Well, that and a little bit of dark chocolate.

“I have a small piece of dark chocolate almost every day. I get my fix and I’m done,” he admits. The minor indulgence keeps him on track, as he doesn’t entertain cheat meals or cheat days. He went on to tell me that he doesn’t ever feel deprived by structuring his nutrition this way.

“Once I started eating better, I stopped craving things. I look at bread and ice cream and to me, it’s not food,” he said.

I pressed for what motivates him to keep his health on the forefront of his priorities, especially with his circumstances: his wife is a recent cancer survivor, he works full-time and hates prepping his food. Crushing excuses like thrusters.

“I feel better. I like working out and I can do things people my age can’t do,” he said. “Everyone at Magna that comes to workout that works out hard inspires me, whether they’re a beginner or have been here 5 years.”

He offered me some of his best advice to share: “If you fall off the track, don’t stay off. And be patient, everything will come in time with discipline.”

I really believe that every person you meet has something to offer. And all too often the opportunity is missed. How frequently do you stare at your phone checking out at the grocery store, instead of engaging with the associate helping you? Or come to the gym and make friendly nods, but never actually learn about the people you’re sweating with? These people all have stories, passions, inspirations and knowledge that is just waiting to be shared.

Thank you Roger, for sharing a piece of your story with me.

 PHOTO BY BRETT BARTLETT

PHOTO BY BRETT BARTLETT

Recipe: Turkey Stuffed Peppers

I tend to keep my cooking pretty easy by focusing on rotating between a few staple items and mixing things up with spice and flavorful, nutrient-dense complimentary ingredients. For more on my simplistic approach, check out my meal prep strategy here. But in this case, it was a chilly evening and I was feeling creative, so I decided to try something new in the kitchen and it did not disappoint. These turkey stuffed peppers are full of flavor, perfectly satisfying and packed with wholesome goodness. Give them a try, and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb 99% lean ground turkey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large red bell peppers
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • Nonstick spray
  • 6 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Lightly coat medium skillet with nonstick spray and turn to medium heat.
  3. Add onion, garlic and cilantro to pan and sauté about 2 minutes
  4. Add ground turkey, salt, garlic powder and cumin to pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until meat is cooked through.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of tomato sauce and 1/2 cup of chicken broth to pan, mix well and simmer on low for about 5 minutes.
  6. Combine cooked rice and meat together.
  7. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise, and remove all seeds. Spoon 2/3 cup meat mixture into each pepper half and place in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Top each with 1 tbsp cheese.
  8. Pour the remainder of the chicken broth on the bottom of the pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes.
  9. Be careful when removing the foil. Let cool for a few minutes before eating, and enjoy! 

Nutrition:

1 serving = half a pepper, makes 6 servings. Per serving: 30.4g carb, 24.2g protein, 4.5g fat | 259 calories

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Happy Birthday to Hey Preslie Nutrition!

January 21st marked the first year of business for Hey Preslie Nutrition. To thank the clients, friends and family who made this year so amazing, I brought everyone in the Phoenix-area together to celebrate. Thank YOU for all of your support, and I'm so excited to continue sharing my passion for teaching sustainable nutrition with you in the years to come.

15 Tips for Super Bowl Sunday

What doesn’t bend will eventually break. If your nutrition regimen is so strict that it allows for zero flexibility, you’re far more likely to binge eat, create an unhealthy relationship with food and feel deprived. I hope you realize that none of those three side-effects are desirable results, or ones you’d associate with a sustainable lifestyle.

Cultivating a healthy, high quality of life and reaching your goals is a long-term game, and consistency is key.  I’ve compiled tried-and-true strategies and suggestions to help you enjoy your Super Bowl Sunday while keeping your nutrition goals in mind.

  1. Eat before you hit the party! Don’t show up starving so that you only eat the things you really want. In your meals/snacks prior to the game, load up on veggies and lean proteins to help your body feel satisfied of those valuable nutrients. By eating something before you arrive, you’ll only want to eat something there if it’s absolutely worth it.

  2. Make your indulgences worth it. Splurge a little on the really good stuff, not store-bought cookies or so-so potato salad. Consider that every time you eat, you’re making a choice. You’re saying “this is good fuel for my body, and/or what I want to spend my calories/macros on today.” Do you feel confident saying that about a crappy, store-bought cookie? Make your indulgences count.

  3. There are plenty of foods that don’t seem indulgent that you may eat at while watching the game that you wouldn’t ordinarily, like a hot dog bun, or nachos. I challenge you to be mindful in your choices and eat things you really want, not just because they’re there.

  4. Skip the hamburger or hot dog bun, wrap it in lettuce or eat it naked.

  5. Feel free to pack your plate, but then don’t go back for a second helping.

  6. Pickles have ton of salt, so snack some of those instead of potato chips for the salty satisfaction without the extra carbs and oils.

  7. Use your hand as a guide; have only that much (in size) of any potato, egg, or chicken salad. Aim for a minimum palm size of protein, and a thumb size of sauce or dip.

  8. Drinks lots of water: it will make you feel more full (and is really good for you, bonus!). Flavored sparkling water is a great substitution for soda or alcoholic drinks.

  9. Distance yourself from the temptation by picking a seat that’s not near the food table.

  10. Chew gum so you don’t nibble on something just for the sake of nibbling.

  11. Bring one of your favorite healthy dishes to share, so you’re in control of at least one item available to snack on.

  12. Don’t think about what you can’t/shouldn’t eat, instead add more good stuff! Pack on the veggies, fruit, and wholesome ingredients to whatever you’re eating -- which in turn, makes less room for the junk, both on your plate and in your belly.

  13. Look for better options, regardless of the options you’re given: when possible, pick leaner proteins like chicken, turkey or fish over beef.

  14. Moderation is key. Let’s say you eat 4 meals a day: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner. That’s 28 times you eat in a given week. Now if you “cheat” or eat something less than ideal for one of those meals, that’s not even 4% of all the food you ate in those 7 days. I can assure you that in most cases, if you’re doing something quite well 96% of the time, the 4% won’t make a huge detrimental impact to your overall success. LeBron James, one of the best basketball players of all time, has a career shooting average of only about 50%. If he misses almost half the shots he makes and is still that good, you’ll be okay going a little off track on one meal in a week.

  15. Get right back on track Monday! Don’t let your flexible Sunday evening turn into an off-track week. The problem most people have with getting off track is the ability to get back ON track. A “cheat” meal is that: a meal. If you choose to have all of the food, calorie, indulging freedom during the game, keep it to a meal and remember that the next meal, and next day, should go right back to normal. In this situation, it can be really helpful to have your next meal planned. Your body may crave sugar or extra calories a little more once you’ve given it some, so already having a healthy meal in mind and the ingredients on hand helps you steer your wagon in the right direction quickly, and avoid detours.

Enjoying yourself without guilt isn’t an easy feat, but I encourage you to embrace life balance. Your nutrition goals, friends and family, and happiness will thank you for it.

Healthy Hot Chocolate Recipe

Hot chocolate is a crowd favorite this time of year, and whether you’re bundled up at home or out looking at Christmas lights, the smooth, sweet flavor quickly warms your heart and hands.

A tall hot chocolate from Starbucks traditionally made (with 2% milk) packs 320 calories (39g carb/13g fat/11g protein), and made with almond milk it has 250 calories (33g carb/12g fat/4g protein). And both have about 30 grams of sugar - yikes!

Don’t miss out on this seasonal staple, make it at home to save calories and money. This recipe requires only four main ingredients and takes less than five minutes to prepare. Nutrition before topping options: 64 calories per serving (5g carb/3.5g fat/7.5g protein).

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp collagen protein*

8 drops vanilla creme stevia or 2 regular stevia packets

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and whisk together until cocoa powder is mixed well. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently for a few minutes until hot. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

Topping ideas:

  • Ground cinnamon is a great option -- 1 tbsp has only 3 calories (1g carb/0g fat/0g protein) and adds just a hint of Christmas spirit.

  • Top with 2 tbsp whipped cream for only 15 cals (1g carb/1g fat/0g protein).

  • To make peppermint hot cocoa, add 3 drops pure peppermint extract and break half a candy cane into pieces and sprinkle on top of finished drink, adds 25 cals (6.5g carb/0g fat/0g protein).

  • Chocolate lovers rejoice! Cocoa nibs have delicious flavor and great texture, and 1 tbsp is only 60 cals (3g carb/5g fat/1g protein) -- sprinkle on top or mix and melt in.

  • A classic: mini marshmallows, just 15 grams gets the job done for 45 cals (11.5g carb/0g fat/0g protein).

Notes:

You can also use cashew milk (a little creamier than almond) or coconut milk based on preference.

*Collagen protein is beef based (non-dairy). It is flavorless and dissolves in water, so be cautious if substituting for a different protein powder.

Sources:

Various nutrition facts may vary based on brand. Starbucks information from their website

Five things to keep in mind this Thanksgiving

I know what it's like to want to indulge in the annual holiday and all the associated calories, but not throw away all the progress you've worked for; which can feel like a pull in different directions. I've had several clients tell me they're worried about Thanksgiving, or don't want to do weigh-ins or pictures this week because they're nervous about all the damage they will have done on Thursday. 

I wanted to share some guidance and suggestions so that you hopefully feel a little more comfortable, calm and confident going into this week. 

Tip 1: Thanksgiving is one meal

I usually get annoyed when people say "Christmas is just one day!" because really, it's four weeks of parties, social events and work potlucks with temptations on every end cap at Target that you have to endure (click here for Christmas advice). However, Thanksgiving really is just one meal on one day, so unless you're planning on having pumpkin pie for breakfast too (in which case, we probably should talk privately, haha), then you really can't do that much damage with that one dinner. This week should be exactly the same as last week, with the exception of Thursday afternoon/evening.

Tip 2: Enjoying yourself every once in a while is why we work so hard in the first place

You don't need me to tell you that the time you take each day to measure and track your food, and the healthy choices you make when sometimes it would be way easier to just give in, is intentional effort by you to get closer to your goals (you rock!). Because you do that so well most of the time, it's important to indulge in a little life balance so you don't get burnt out, you don't feel left out or resent what you're doing, and to reduce the chance of binging later. What fun would it be to eat perfect 100% of the time and never enjoy yourself and a less-than-macro-friendly meal? Which leads me to my next point...

Tip 3: Don't make your Thanksgiving dinner fit your macros

In fact, I suggest just not tracking that meal at all. Everyone views tracking a little differently, so if you prefer to guess the quantities and put something similar into My Fitness Pal, I won't stop you. But please don't starve yourself all day to try and make it fit, or get your food scale and measuring cups out on the table. PS: Do track your meal prior to Thanksgiving, per usual. :) PPS: If you have no idea what I'm talking about with macros, click here to learn about them.

Tip 4: You should eat well (normal) earlier in the day, especially protein

Your breakfast, lunch and/or snacks should resemble the normal quality of your food (which is awesome, clean, nutrient-dense food...right?), and maybe slightly smaller portions. You don't want to go into your Thanksgiving meal starving, because you'll be more likely to overeat. There's not usually many vegetables present on the table (that aren't in a casserole - doesn't count folks), so get your fiber in early in the day. Generally, while turkey has protein, you're going to get more full off the higher-carb options at your feast, so getting some extra protein in earlier in the day as well will help make sure you're not shorting yourself too much and keep you feeling a little more satisfied throughout the day. When you feel more satisfied, not only do you make smarter food choices but you have less cravings and/or crashes as well. Some good quick options: hard boiled eggs, sliced turkey or ham, chicken breast, mini bell peppers, non-fat Greek yogurt or a protein shake.

Tip 5: Everything goes back to normal on Friday

Wake up and enjoy your typical breakfast and get back on track to hitting your goals. Recall the 80/20 principle we've talked about before: if you're tracking and crushing your goals at least 80% of the time, you're still going to see positive results with that 20% margin of error, better known as life happens, "I forgot my lunch at home" or in this case, holiday celebrations. I'll give you an example: if you eat 4 times per day, that's 28 eating opportunities during the week. If you count Thanksgiving dinner as an off-plan meal and crush the other meals during the week, that still puts you at 96% adherent for the week. Boom! However, if you let Friday slip, and roll into the weekend eating untracked leftovers for snacks, your adherence rate will drop quickly. ;)

Bonus Reminders

Drink lots of water. Before you eat, during and after. Don't make bad food decisions out of dehydration. Chew slowly, and take breaks (setting your silverware down) frequently to chat with loved ones so you're able to identify when you're full. Wait at least 15 minutes before deciding to go back for a second helping. Lastly, if you can, catch a workout Thanksgiving morning. Whether it's a jog or bike ride around the neighborhood, a quick gym session, or some air squats in the backyard; getting your heart rate up early is always an awesome way to start the day.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and don't stress about your food too much. Focus on the intent to spend time with your friends and family, rather than overthinking the food. If you found this advice helpful, please share with a friend. :) Cheers!

How to Track a Recipe in My Fitness Pal

Creating a recipe in My Fitness Pal (MFP) makes tracking your food so much easier if you’re someone that likes to get creative in the kitchen, cooks in bulk for the week or makes large portions, such as for a family. It also improves the accuracy of your tracking and makes it quicker to log next time you eat the dish and/or make the recipe. Follow the steps below to learn how, and reference the set of pictures at the end of the instructions if needed. Happy cooking! 

Step 1. Open the MFP app on your phone and select More on the bottom right of the screen

Step 2. Select Meals, Recipes and Foods

Step 3. Select Create a Recipe at the bottom of the screen

Step 4. Select Enter Ingredients Manually

Step 5. Under Recipe Information, give your recipe a title. Then change the Serving Size to 1, and press the arrow in the top right corner to move on to the next step.

Step 6. Select Add Ingredient. This will enable you to search the MFP database for millions of foods so you can add ingredients individually. Try to check your ingredients for accuracy because there can be some incorrect listings in the database -- the more specific you can be with your search (brand name, store you purchased it at, etc.), the better. You can also scan the barcode of items you have on hand by pressing scan on the bottom right. Begin adding ingredients, adjusting their quantities to reflect how much you’re using for the total recipe.

Step 7. Once you’ve added all your ingredients, make sure the serving size is set to 1 before completing -- you’ll see it next to the Calories Per Serving at the bottom of the page. Click the arrow in the top right of the screen, and you will be taken to the Save Recipe page. Note that the nutrition facts shown are for the entire recipe, because your serving size is currently set to 1.

Step 8. You need to weigh the finished product in grams, which may have to be done in several bowls if the quantity is too large (then just add the measurements together). When you set an empty container on the food scale, press “tear” or “zero” to zero out the scale, then start adding food to get the weight -- otherwise it will include the weight of the bowl/container in your measurement.

Step 9. Once you have the total grams of the recipe, you’ll return to the Save Recipe page you left on and update the servings from 1 to the grams total you just measured. Then press Save Recipe. You’ll notice that the nutrition facts updated (and are much lower) because they now reflect a single gram of the recipe.

Step 10. Now you’re ready to enjoy and log your recipe! When you go to track the food, you’ll see Recipes on the food diary page. Recall that 1 serving = 1 gram, so when you weigh the portion you’d like to eat, just change the amount to the grams you weighed for that meal. As you can see in the example, the tracker is eating 100g of the recipe.

All things pumpkin: part two

Last post, I told you what to ditch/replace to improve your seasonal treats, but the vegetable doesn't deserve a totally bad rap.

Here's what you can love about pumpkin (when it's not covered in icing):

  • The orange color is derived from beta carotene, which provides vitamin A to the body and is good for eyesight and immunity
  • It also packs some vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Manganese + Potassium (more than a banana!)
  • Pumpkin is a member of the squash family - doesn't everyone love it's sister spaghetti squash?
  • The seeds have an average of 12g fiber per 1 cup - you'll feel fuller, longer using them as a crunchy, satisfying snack

Get in the kitchen: roasted pumpkin seeds

Roasting pumpkin seeds yourself is an easy, hands-on activity for kiddos. Once you've carved the pumpkin and scooped out the seeds, rinse and roast for about 20-30 minutes to dry. Then, toss in 2 teaspoons of butter and a pinch of salt, bake in a single layer (on foil, for easy clean up) at 300 degrees for 45 mins or until golden brown. That's the traditional method, but there's lots of ways to change up your pumpkin seed flavor:

  • For a spiced seed, add in 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.
  • For a deeper profile, mix in 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (skip the salt)
  • Feeling Italian? Mix with dried Oregano and parmesan 
  • For something a little different, skip the salt and use butter and 1 1/2 teaspoons ranch seasoning mix - yum!
  • For my southwestern friends, mix butter, 1 teaspoon lime juice, 1 teaspoon taco seasoning and a tablespoon of fresh cilantro
  • For a barbecue feel, toss in 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle chile powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Everything is better with bacon - cook 3-4 slices separately and crumble over the roasted seeds
  • Make a tasty trail mix: once roasted, combine with dried fruit (cranberries, raisins), almonds and cashews

Bonus: the science behind the craving

Less relevant to nutrition, but equally fascinating, I thought I'd touch on the "why" behind your craving for pumpkin spice, that seemingly only happens a few months out of the year. 

Pumpkin spice isn't really pumpkin (especially in syrup form), it's actually a combination of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, ground allspice and ground cloves. Because these spices are commonly used in home cooking, the scent brings feelings of comfort; perhaps family gatherings, home cooking and warm memories. We learn and create associations with odors over time, and generally speaking, all the associations with pumpkin spice are all very positive. When the spice is created synthetically, it mimics the aroma of butter browning with sugar, giving your senses the illusion of freshly baked pie.

About 80% of flavor comes from smell; largely why when you're sick and congested, nothing tastes or sounds good. That's also why the pumpkin spice smell is strong enough to make us crave and enjoy it.

It's truly marketing genius. The pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks unofficially marks the beginning of fall, and the drink even has its' own verified Twitter account. Since the roll out of the drink by the coffee chain in 2003, there have been more than 200 million cups of PSL sold.

As mentioned above, real pumpkin provides great health benefits, and all spices come from nutrient-packed plants. Enjoy more of the real thing this season, and less of the artificial versions.

Cheers!

A healthier take on the pumpkin spice craze

Do I think it's silly that every girl (+ the guys who won't admit it) obsess over all things pumpkin this time of year? Yes. Will I still partake in the seasonal nonsense? Also yes. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em - you can have your PSL and drink it, too. ️

Here are some things to keep in mind this fall to keep indulgences in check:

  • Order a low-fat latte (non-fat or almond/coconut milk), add 1 pump pumpkin spice, ask for pumpkin spice sprinkles on top and skip the whip. That cuts the originally 340 calorie drink in HALF (literally). PS: the actual pumpkin spice sauce has dairy, so the alternative milk doesn't make it completely dairy-free, if that's something you're cautious of.
  • For an even lighter coffee, order an Americano (espresso + water) with some steamed cream or coconut milk (the steaming makes the milk taste sweeter), and add 1 pump pumpkin spice. Boom! 
  • Snag some pumpkin spice K-Cups for your Keurig.
  • The store bought pastries are hefty: running 380-500 calories (+ lots of sugar) per muffin or scone. Make baked goods yourself with healthy tricks like utilizing apple sauce, Greek yogurt, egg whites and/or protein powder. Test one, and give the rest away. I found a handful of ideas (complete with nutrition facts) on Cookie and Kate and on Amy's Healthy Baking.
  • Treat pumpkin pie like Thanksgiving food, not "because Costco has them already" food. You're in control of your choices, not the supermarket.
  • Pick up some pumpkin spice tea on Amazon for all the warm-your-heart-deliciousness and none of the calories (seriously zero, it's just tea).
  • To make a macro-friendly pumpkin spice hot chocolate, steam 8oz of chocolate almond milk (or heat in the microwave), add 1/2oz pumpkin pie sauce and top with cinnamon, nutmeg and if you're feeling super festive, finish with a dollop of whip (15 cals per 2 tbsp). This version: 132 calories. An 8oz pumpkin spice hot chocolate at Starbucks: 438 calories. Whoa!

Lastly, below is a shake recipe I love to make this time of year. By utilizing real pumpkin and no added sugar, it satisfies the craving without the added empty calories. And, sneaking protein in throughout the day is always a plus! This blended treat has good sources of protein and carbs, and is low in fat -- perfect for a post-workout meal.

Recipe: Pumpkin Protein Shake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon honey or agave
  • 1 scoop protein powder (chocolate or vanilla)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 banana
  • Ice cubes (about 6)

Directions

Throw it all in a blender and mix until ingredients look smooth. Top with nutmeg and cinnamon. 

Macros

32g carb, 6g fat, 27g protein (290 calories) for one shake.

Modifications/Suggestions

  • For extra protein, add 1/3 cup Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons of collagen protein, or 2 tablespoons of powdered peanut butter.
  • For extra fat, add a tablespoon of almond butter or MCT oil.
  • For extra sweetness, add 1 tablespoon cocoa nibs, a pinch of stevia or a few drop of liquid stevia.

Enjoy, 'tis the season!

Resources:

Starbucks Nutrition Facts

 

Eat, Breathe, Work Hard, Repeat

I’m going to tell you something, and you may be shocked. Drum roll please… I eat ice cream sometimes. Gelato specifically, it’s my fav. And cheesecake, like on my birthday last month. And even chocolate, because every 20-something girl loves chocolate, it’s science. I know, I know -- you’re totally shocked. A nutritionist eats things full of fat, sugar, processed ingredients and insane amount of calories sometimes? Sometimes, yes.

Every time I’m at a social gathering and indulge in something less-than-nutritionist-worthy, heads literally explode and I hear comments ranging from “oh my God you eat things like that?” to “how do you look like that and eat like that?” -- there’s flaws all in, out, and around the logic of those statements and I’m going to break them down for you really quick. Partially for my sanity, but mostly to help you take better control over your approach to nutrition as well.

Eat

First, I eat things like that sometimes. I’m a BIG advocate of balance, and my clients know this well. If you hate what you’re doing, you’ll grow resentful and create an unhealthy relationship with your approach and possibly foods. Anything that doesn’t bend will eventually break, and your “diet” should allow for flexibility.

Balance is open for interpretation, but with something like sugar, it’s fair to assume it should be consumed far less than the higher-priority, nutrient-dense foods like vegetables (especially the green ones), lean proteins, whole grains and fruit.

Next, I’m not actively trying to lose weight right now. I’m eating for maintenance, which supplies my body enough calories to train hard, be less strict with my calorie intake and/or macronutrient distribution, have plenty of energy, and hold consistently at the same body weight. If your primary goal right now is to lose weight, it’s also fair to assume your balance should be more strict than the person who is trying to maintain. Note: you can still eat delicious things and lose weight, but as a general rule of thumb, less frequently.

Furthermore, maintaining is pretty easy (especially once you’ve been doing it a while). Basically: keeping abs is generally easier than getting them. So don’t fret if you are trying to drop pounds, you’ll have even more flexibility once you’re trying to maintain, too.

The 80/20 approach means eating nutrient-dense food 80% of the time, and enjoying other things 20% of the time. Of course, these percentages will vary based on if you have specific goals you’re working toward, but for maintaining weight and overall wellness, this structure works well for most people. So if you’re absolutely just craving that doughnut, consider it part of the 20% for that week. Keep in mind: in order to stay within that 80%, you want to get right back on track after an indulgence -- be mindful of that, and don’t let one meal turn into a weekend.

Breathe

It’s so important for your mind, body and overall health to not beat yourself up when you do indulge. Way easier said than done, I totally get it. But the practices below really help me keep that “guilt” in control.

I make the meal count. I don’t eat indulgences in my car, alone at home (unless that’s your happy place, no judgement), or at the office. Don’t let your circumstances dictate your decisions; you can always find an excuse: it’s so-and-so’s birthday, but there’s a work happy hour, someone else is in town and your aunt is having a baby shower -- if you indulge every single time something comes up, you’re probably further from the balance concept we just addressed. You are in control of your nutrition choices, the food sitting on the break room counter is not.

Try to eat well most of the time so you can really enjoy the pieces that don’t fit in the “most”. Do you ever eat something and think “man that wasn’t worth it?” — “it” being the calories. I strive to avoid that feeling. If I’m going to splurge on something sweet, it’s going to be planned and in-line with what I’m really craving. This notion can be applied to events, too: if you know you’re going to a dinner party, eat well most of that week to allow yourself to embrace whatever delicious items are available in that scenario. Be in control when you can, so that when you aren’t it doesn’t set you back (thus, ladies and gents, an example of the 80/20 approach).

Another thing that really helps with the breathe component is meditation. I used to think meditation was rah-rah yogi stuff and totally not for me. Since I’ve let that assumption go, I’m in the process of writing a piece on how much guided meditation has positively impacted my, and many of my friends’ lives, but in the meantime, know that I use an app called Headspace. Download it on any smart phone -- your first 10 sessions are free. It REALLY helps with the whole “letting things” go thing. Seriously, look it up, right after you finish this post.

Work Hard

Lastly, work hard! My clients know we don’t call them cheat days, we call them reward meals (not “cheating” because you’ve earned the indulgence, this is a lifestyle not a diet, and it’s not full days). Reward meals are earned for, you guessed it: following the plan 80% of the time, not making excuses, and working hard.

Truth be told, in addition to the ongoing comments aforementioned during the introduction, the inspiration for this blog post came from a conversation with my CrossFit coach. On the first Friday of each month, our gym does Fran (a famously terrible workout in the functional fitness community). After everyone sweats their heart out, our coach brings in something fun like snow cones or a waffle truck. It is his intention (and him and I are quite aligned on nutrition-based things) that members eat well most of the time, work really hard during the workout, enjoy the indulgence with their fellow CrossFit friends, and then don’t stress about it and get right back on track the next day. Hmm… it’s almost like, that is what I just outlined as my approach, too! :)

I hope you find these concepts helpful and apply them to improve your mental health, quality of life and relationship of food. Cheers!

How to Beat Nighttime Sugar Cravings

Craving some sweet, chocolaty and delicious before bed is totally normal -- but it's no basis for derailing your progress. The best thing you can do is to know the craving is coming and be prepared with a strategy to win the day. Plan for your roadblocks to happen so you're ready to get through them, until they don't happen anymore.

Below are a bunch of strategies you can utilize to kick those cravings, overcome them completely, or simply make a more mindful choice. If you find any of them helpful for you, please feel free to comment and/or share with a friend!

Try these out:

  • Plug in something small and sweet into your food log for the evening before logging the rest of your day so you can account for it and it's planned in later; like a piece of dark chocolate. Then, you can look forward to it all day and it doesn't throw you off when you have it.

  • Have some fruit, its naturally sweet and will curve the craving a little bit. Fruit breaks down into sugar the same way sweets do, and they have way more micronutrients (vitamins + minerals)! Try: strawberries with a little whip cream on top, peaches warmed up and topped with granola, apple slices topped with cinnamon or a little peanut butter, frozen grapes, or some raspberries topped with Stevia.

  • Drink more water at night; that helps with cravings -- and you could do something fun like add orange, cucumber or lemon slices to your water.

  • Have some hot, decaffeinated tea. There's plenty of naturally sweet teas (no added sugar) you can find at a local Fry's or Sprout's store, or via Amazon that come in decedent flavors like caramel and actually promote restful sleep.

  • Brush your teeth right after dinner so you're less likely to snack on something.

  • Set an alarm to go off on your phone about the time this usually happens at night; change the name from "alarm" to "you've got this!" or a brief message about your why behind your goal you're working toward. This literal reminder will come at the perfect time to re-instill that motivation.

  • Ask yourself: are you tired, stressed, bored, or upset? Those feelings may increase your cravings, and I encourage you to recognize that you are in control of your actions, not your emotions at the time.

  • Journal about what you're craving -- seriously! Write down why it might be, how committed you are to your goal, and then how proud of yourself you are that you stuck to the plan. Then, in your next moment of weakness, you'll have this to reference.

  • Distract yourself: go do some meditation (Headspace, for example), go for a walk outside, or write in your gratitude journal.

  • Just go to bed -- seriously! I know that one seems silly, but really, you probably just need to catch some zzz's. I promise you'll wake up being glad you stayed strong. If you need some ideas for before bed rituals to get your mind off the candy drawer and on the pillow, check out this blog post.

Good luck, and cheers to empowered, healthy evenings! :)

Be easy, my friend

While sitting in my car waiting for the light to turn green, the car behind me honks the moment it does. Perhaps he was in a hurry, or he thought I was texting and not paying attention. He probably doesn’t know that I just had an injection of medicine 40 miles from home, like I do every week, which causes me to be excruciatingly uncomfortable, therefore moving and reacting a little slow.

Then, after ordering my coffee at Starbucks, the cashier seems frustrated with me as I fumble through my wallet, because the pain I’m in can be so distracting that it’s hard to focus.

And at the gym, I move slowly through a workout and appear less driven or competitive, though I’m really mentally wrestling with the fact that my fitness isn’t up to par with where it was when I was healthier.

I don’t say these things to gain sympathy. I don’t want that, for many reasons; one of which is that everyone has something going on. Some issues are more critical than others, though conflict magnitude is relative to the person. Personal struggle is a universal emotion: death of a loved one, medical issues, break-ups, financial insecurity, the list goes on. At some point everyone is plagued by being seriously upset about something, rightfully so.

Take a moment to think about how you would treat someone who just shared with you that they’re having a hard time. Then, picture how a loved one spoke to and consoled you during a rough period. A gentle tone, soft embrace, compassion and selflessness are probably a few characteristics that you just envisioned.

So if we all have been through a challenging time, thus empathizing with how incredibly difficult it is, why wouldn’t we treat everyone like we understand them? Naturally, each person you encounter is not always emotionally drained due to their current situation (thank goodness!), but think back to the traits you appreciate in both a confidant and random strangers when you’re struggling. What if you treated each person you meet with those same qualities, regardless of what’s going on in their life? What is the worst that could happen if you treated every individual like you sincerely cared about them?

Next time I’m at a light, and the person in front of me doesn’t go right when the light turns green, I won’t be so quick to honk my horn. Maybe he’s on Facebook and should be looking at the road, but maybe his little boy is sick, or he just lost his job. My honking gesture won’t make him a better driver if it’s the former, and will make him feel worse if it’s the latter.

Take a few minutes today to consider how you could treat people more the way you would like to be treated, whether it be your best day or your darkest hours, because we all experience both.

CrossFit Games athlete and entrepreneur Jason Khalipa recently said during a podcast interview that after seeing his daughter receive Leukemia treatments in the ICU, surrounded by other toddlers fighting for their lives, nothing really ever seems that bad. The California traffic, crowds, and daily inconveniences, really seem so insignificant comparatively. He suggested we all calm down, “life is good, be easy.”

Set up for success: Eating while traveling

Hitting your macros, eating well, resisting temptation: those things are all hard enough when you’re in your usual environment such as work or in the comfort of your home. Once you throw traveling into the mix, people tend to completely fall of track. Finding healthy options and maintaining some sense of positive nutrition habits while flying, on the road or in unfamiliar towns can be challenging -- but it’s absolutely doable.

Many of my clients travel often for work and have utilized many of these strategies already to consistently work toward their goals, regardless of where they are. I’ll reference tracking macros in the information below, although even if you’re not diligently following your protein, carb and fat intake, these tips will help you stay on track and feel your best while on vacation.

Restaurant research

Prior to arriving to a new city, or first thing when you get there, scout out a couple top-rated restaurants in the area; you might as well try the best food while you’re there! Once you’ve identified ones within your proximity and price point, pull up their menu online and look through some options of things that fall within your macros from an estimated perspective. 

Example: if I know I’m trying to keep my carbs within reason, a dish with a pasta base, served with bread, topped with something crusted and breaded, probably isn’t the best choice.

Doing this research ahead of time ensures two things: you have some places to go ready to reference when you’re hungry which helps you avoid stopping at some semi-decent hot dog hut, and secondly, you already know what on the menu sounds appealing before you get there and are tempted by smells, other customer’s plates, and so forth.

If the restaurant's nutrition facts are available online, great! Definitely reference those to get an idea of the composition of their dishes. Consider that if their veggie-based plates are super high in fat, they may be cooking in a lot of oil or butter. You can use this information to eat less fat throughout the day to maintain some balance, and/or to track the actual macros.

Estimated nutrients

The reality is that when you’re eating out, protein is expensive and served in small portions. Always look for ways to add lean protein to your meals, and ask your server what’s available for cooking methods: grilled is more ideal than fried, for example. Fat is usually used in excess (because it tastes so good!), everything has more salt than you can taste to preserve ingredients longer, and most things are carb-dense. This doesn’t mean you should just eat less, but rather be more mindful of the nutrients you’re looking for. If you haven’t had many vegetables that day, add some in at dinner on the side. If you had a huge omelette at breakfast, maybe skip the cheese or bacon to keep your fat in check. These small tips go a long way and require no measuring or counting. And always, always, always: drink more water. Being out of your element, it’s easy to forget to get those fluid ounces in.

Reasonable expectations

It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your traveling partner or family in regards to your restaurant suggestions, and share ideas for healthy snacks and ways to stay active during your trip. It’s also important to remember that consistent progress is key: whether or not you got significantly closer to your goal while on vacation isn’t important, but as long as you made some conscious healthy decisions and made an effort to stay enough on track to continue working toward progress, you’re golden. Don’t be too hard on yourself; having unrealistic expectations of eating perfectly and working out every day while traveling will only make falling short of those more upsetting. Let go of the perfection mindset, and prioritize consistent progress.

The adherence “rule”

Let’s start with this: we’re always shooting to hit your goal nutrient intake about 90% of the time to move consistently in the right direction on the progress scale. If you’re eating four times a day (for example), in a given week you’d not want to stray too far off track for more than two meals. 90% of 4 meals per day x 7 days per week = 25 meals to crush perfectly. Over the course of months and a year, you really do have some wiggle room to allow yourself to go a little off track while still achieving progress.

With that said, there’s always going to be some flaw in your measuring -- even at home. Sometimes we don’t have our food scale or measuring cups (like, at a work lunch or on vacation) and we have to eyeball the ounces of chicken or cup of rice. When eating out, you don’t always know how much or what oils food is being cooked in, so we do our best to guess. And furthermore, nutrition labels aren’t 100% accurate, but we go off the information anyway. This small, common discrepancy is called what I refer to as your margin of error. If you’re not totally new to tracking food, you probably have a good sense for what portions looks like. If you tracked everything on vacation pretty closely, you’d probably only be off about 10% (or less) of the time, given all the mentioned variables. That would still put you in the 90/10 area of adherence we’re striving for.

This is a lifestyle

Whether you’re eating healthy or counting macros, it’s a lifestyle -- not a short-term gig. Consider the importance of balance and quality of life before you make yourself miserable avoiding treats or “cheat meals” on a trip. Consider that every time you eat, you’re making a choice. You’re saying, “This is good fuel for my body, and what I want to spend my calories/macros on today.” Make your indulgences count and cash in on really good, tasty food that’s worth it if you’re going to stray away from your norm.

Back on track

The problem most people have with getting off track is the ability to get back ON track. When you get back in town, your body may crave sugar or extra calories a little more once you’ve given it some, so already having a healthy meal in mind and the ingredients on hand helps you steer your wagon in the right direction quickly, and avoid detours. Consider ordering some food ahead of time to have ready to go when you get home, or have some easy-to-prep ingredients on hand so vacation doesn’t roll into a week of “off” eating once you’re back in town.

Come prepared

Bring snacks that don’t need to be kept cold in your suitcase: protein powder (and shaker bottle!), protein bars, those kind of things. If you have access to a cooler, pack in tons of veggies, fruit and extra water. For some more snack ideas that are easy to bring along, check out my recent blog post here

On my most recent road trip, I ordered pre-portioned meals from FitChoice Foods to eat during the day, with the intention to treat myself to a restaurant meal each night. These stay great in the cooler, and can be quickly heated in a microwave at a gas station, hotel room, or hotel dining area if there’s no microwave in your room.

Due to my own recent traveling and busy weekends, I looked into ordering my meals from a prep service to make sure I stay on track consistently when my time to meal prep falls short. After ordering from FitChoice several times over the last couple months, I reached out to the owner (based in Mesa) and asked if they'd consider a partnership because I'm a big fan of their service. I'm stoked to announce they provided me a discount code to share with you all!

Here's a brief rundown of why I’m a big fan:

  • You order your meals online, choosing from pre-selected options OR create your own meals by picking a protein, veggie and carbohydrate to pair together

  • You can select your size of protein with each order, and the macros are listed on the container

  • There's a TON of options for carbs, proteins and veggies -- and each meal comes with your choice of a sauce (score!)

  • You can have it delivered to your house, or choose to pick it up at a gym located near your house during set times given on the website

    • Make note of the order cut-off times for ordering listed on the website.
      Tip: I put these deadlines in my calendar, so I don't forget to order!

And, bonus: I've been buying one meal for lunch and/or dinner every single day, and I'm spending less on food each week than I was when I was meal prepping all my food.

If you give it a try, please let me know how much you love it, and don't forget to use heypreslie10 at checkout for 10% off your order for the discount, and so they know I sent you their way. :) If you need suggestions or have any questions while navigating the site, please don't hesitate to reach out to me.

Cheers to happy, safe traveling and a summer full of progress toward those goals!

Nutrition Survival Guide: Memorial Day Weekend

What doesn’t bend will eventually break. This concept applies to many situations, and in this case: your diet and lifestyle. If your nutrition regimen is so strict that it allows for zero flexibility, you’re far more likely to binge eat, create an unhealthy relationship with food and feel deprived. You’ll realize (I hope) that none of those three side-effects are desirable results, or ones you’d associate with a sustainable, enjoyable lifestyle.

Being satisfied and actually liking the food you eat while simultaneously working toward your goals, AND having a social life is not a lifestyle only found in a mythical land far away. It can be your reality! It does take time, and you’ll get there through small steps and little efforts at a time. I’ve compiled tried-and-true strategies and suggestions to help you enjoy your Memorial Day celebration while keeping your nutrition goals in mind.

Eat before you eat

Pre-eat. You read that right. You’re thinking “you want me to eat...before I go to eat?” Yes. Your body craves the good, basic stuff: proteins, fats, and carbs. Protein is found in chicken breast and egg whites, just like it is found in hot dogs and hamburgers. Fat is in avocados and dairy products, and in the mayo that makes chicken salad so tasty. And, in simple terms, your body sees the carbs in brown rice and fruit the same way it does hot dog buns. Therefore, eat some wholesome food (such as what you’d meal prep for lunch during the workweek) before you head to the BBQ, so you’re already quite satisfied of the things your body needs and craves, before you’re put in a will-power testing situation. 

This practice has a dual purpose: in addition to being content from a macronutrient perspective, you won’t be as hungry. We all know what happens when you grocery shop on an empty stomach, and a pool party is no different. You end up buying and eating things you didn’t even know you wanted (and in most cases, really don’t want). Set yourself up beforehand so when you arrive, you’ll only want something if it’s absolutely worth it.

Friends don’t let friends eat grocery store dessert

“Worth it”, what does that mean? Great question. You know that favorite dessert you have? Maybe it’s a certain flavor at the Cheesecake Factory, or that award-winning combination at Coldstone Creamery. Picture that item in your mind for a moment. Now, think of what a cookie from the box at the grocery store bakery tastes like, or a brownie from the gas station. Would you say they are comparable? Probably not. Consider that every time you eat, you’re making a choice. You’re saying “this is good fuel for my body, and what I want to spend my calories/macros on today.” Do you feel confident saying that about a crappy, store-bought cookie? Make your indulgences count. This philosophy has really helped me, and I have a post dedicated specifically to it you can check out here.

Similar to the dessert example, there are plenty of foods that don’t seem indulgent that you may eat at a pool-side BBQ that you wouldn’t ordinarily. An average hot dog bun is 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2g of fat and 3g of protein. And be honest with yourself: do they even taste that good? If you do love it, try having half of the bun with the whole hot dog. This concept introduces moderation, which is further explained in the next tip. 

Moderation is key

I know you hear this a lot, largely because it’s true. Let’s say you eat 4 meals a day: breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner. That’s 28 times you eat in a given week. Now if you “cheat” or eat something less than ideal for one of those meals, that’s not even 4% of all the food you ate in those 7 days. Any dietician or statistician can assure you that if you’re doing something quite well 96% of the time, the 4% won’t make a huge detrimental impact to your overall success. LeBron James, one of the best basketball players of all time, has a career shooting average of only about 50%. If he misses almost half the shots he makes and is still that good, you’ll be okay going a little off track on one meal in a week.

The nice thing about a wagon, is you can get back on

It’s your wagon; you’re the one driving it! If you fall off, stop your own wagon, dust the dirt off your pants, and get right back on. The problem most people have with getting off track is the ability to get back ON track. A “cheat” meal is that: a meal. If you choose to have all of the food, calorie, indulging freedom on Memorial Day, keep it to a meal and remember that the next meal, and next day, should go right back to normal. In this situation, it can be really helpful to have your next meal planned. Your body may crave sugar or extra calories a little more once you’ve given it some, so already having a healthy meal in mind and the ingredients on hand helps you steer you wagon in the right direction quickly, and avoid detours.

Wait, there’s more!

For some additional practical tips and healthier picks, here are some ideas:

  • Ditch your hamburger bun, and wrap it in lettuce
  • Grab a single plate and toss it when you’re done, instead of grabbing a second helping
  • Pickles have ton of salt, so snack some of those instead of potato chips for the salty satisfaction without the extra carbs and oils
  • Use your fist as a guide; have only that much (in size) of any potato, egg, or chicken salad
  • Keep the condiments to a minimum; try having less than you usually do. Two tablespoons of ketchup packs 10g carbs, and you’ve likely spread on more than that in the past out of habit
  • Drinks lots of water: it will not only keep you hydrated in the heat, but feeling fuller as well. You’ve heard this tip before, but actually do it — have some water, and then have some more.
  • Add fruit to your water for some flavor and summer flare. Skip the carbonated beverages, even those without sugar, such as diet soda, dehydrate you and can make you feel bloated
  • Don’t sit by the food table: distance yourself from the temptation by getting out and enjoying the pool water, weather, green grass and outdoor activities
  • Chew gum so you don’t nibble on something just for the sake of nibbling
  • Bring one of your favorite healthy dishes to share, so you’re in control of at least one item available to snack on
  • Don’t think about what you can’t/shouldn’t eat, instead add more good stuff! Pack on the veggies, fruit, and wholesome ingredients to whatever you’re eating -- which in turn, makes less room for the junk, both on your plate and in your belly.
  • Look for better options, regardless of the options you’re given: when possible, pick leaner proteins like chicken, turkey or fish over beef. Choose whole-grains or plant-based carbs (like corn or rice) instead of highly-processed ones like breads and desserts. 

And at the end of the day remember: you’re building a healthy lifestyle, this is a long-term game. Enjoying yourself without guilt isn’t an easy feat, but I encourage you to embrace life balance. Your nutrition goals, friends and family, and happiness will thank you for it.