Commercial Break Cardio Workout

Break up your TV binges with this quick cardio workout! Get off the couch and do one exercise per commercial, cycling through them for the whole commercial break. Binging on Netflix? Do 1 minute of each exercise between episodes!

commercial-breakcardio-workout

5-healthy-grocery-store

5 Healthy Grocery Store Shortcuts

Getting a healthy meal on the table can be a big hurdle, especially on weeknights. Luckily, there are a few grocery store hacks that can help you eat at home in less time! It’s all about using simple shortcuts you may have overlooked. Here are a few of my staples that help speed up dinner prep:

Canned Chicken/Tuna

canned-chickentuna

Go for the chicken and/or tuna packed in water and you’re looking at a product comparable to the fresh stuff, as the protein, fat, and calories are the same. These will last in your pantry for a LONG time, which means less waste as it won’t go bad in a week or get freezer burn. These cans are cheap and since they keep so long you can stock up whenever there is a sale. While you’ll want fresh chicken or tuna when eating it alone, the canned stuff is perfect for recipes that use them as an ingredient. My favorite ways to use these are:

Enchiladas/burritos
Tostadas
Pizza topping
Wraps
Chicken or tuna salad (mix with plain yogurt for a slimmed down version)

Rotisserie Chicken

rotisserie-chicken

For (well) under $10 you can walk in the door with an entire chicken that’s already cooked and seasoned. Whether you’re flying solo, or figuring out dinner for a family of 4, you will be set for multiple meals and a lot of versatility! Chicken is a great source of protein, low in fat, and full of flavor, but cooking it or thawing and preparing it takes up a lot of time. This quick grab-and-go item from any grocery store is cheap and easy to work with.

Need ideas? Check out this post from Greatist.com for 24 easy meal ideas!

Canned and Frozen Veggies

canned-veggies

Fresh in-season veggies pack a lot of flavor along with nutrients, but don’t pass the canned and frozen sections for your veggies just yet. When picked and packed at their freshest, canned and frozen veggies hold as many or even more nutrients than their fresh counterparts. Nutritional value aside, I recommend the canned and frozen veggies for two main reasons: they won’t go bad when you run out of time to cut them up and use them in a week, and they are a super quick addition to up your family’s veggie quota for the day.

When making one pot meals, casseroles, or using your slow cooker, dump in frozen veggies without thawing and let the cook time take care of it. Make a quick salad a powerhouse with canned veggies and have dinner on the table in under 15 minutes.

Pre-Boiled Eggs/Pre-Cut Veggies

hard-boiled-eggs

Eggs are cheap and a healthy addition to your diet with only 70 calories, 13 essential vitamins and minerals, along with 6g of high-quality protein in just a single egg. They are easy to take with you, eat on the go, and make for an energizing afternoon snack. While I realize I could make a dozen at the start of my week and use how I see fit (snack on it’s own, or addition to a simple salad), I have yet to do that. Have you? If you enjoy eggs, go ahead and buy the pre-boiled (and often pre-peeled) eggs next time you see them.

Same goes for fresh veggies. Yes, they do cost a bit more, and you could cut them on your own, but how many times have you tossed produce because the time to wash and cut everything ran out. Not exactly a money saver if you ask me. With pre-cut veggies – baby carrots, celery, peppers – you have a quick and easy snack or lunch/dinner addition that you can grab out of the fridge, ready to eat.

Salad Bar

salad-bar

The salad bar is a great way to add more veggies to your weeknights without shopping forever or spending precious time cutting everything up. Make a big salad for the entire family for that night, or grab a few ingredients to use throughout the week. The salad bar is perfect for when it’s just you or you and your spouse; you don’t waste money on a bag of carrots when you just need them for a salad, and it’s ready to eat when you are. Get a few smaller containers if you have picky eaters and quickly make separate salads and keep everyone happy!

Need more ideas for quick weeknight meals? Click here and get my How to Cook When You Have No Time guide!

What are your best grocery store hacks?

10-friend-date-ideas

10 Friend Date Ideas

Maintaining friendships as an adult takes effort. When you’e in school not only are you around people all the same age, you see them every single day. When you live in different neighborhoods, work different schedules, and have work and family commitments, getting together means scheduling something and writing it in your calendar.

A struggle I hear from clients is that they want to eat out and drink less, but having quality social time with friends often ends up with drinks, dinner, or both. I understand, you don’t want to alienate friends, but also want to make healthy choices. These are classic conflicting goals!

Here are 10 ideas to suggest the next time you’re scheduling time with your BFF:

Movies

Going to a matinee – especially on a crappy weather day – is a great way to get together because the time is already set, plus it’s cheaper! You can skip the popcorn and sneak in your own healthy snacks if you fear getting hangry (I know I do), and get out on the cheap. If there’s nothing you’re wishing to see, have a home movie date. No, not your home movies, but pick an old favorite and have a showing at your (or their) house.

Fitness Class

Working out with friends is more fun and keeps you accountable. What better way to keep your fitness goals on track AND catch up with a pal than working out together? Try a new studio class you haven’t tried before, or take them to a favorite of yours. It’s fun to both do a class you’ve never tried like cardio kickboxing or PiYo. Many studios will run new student specials or let you take your first class free so check with the ones in your area.

Coffee Date

This is my go-to. There are a million cute little coffee shops across the city, making it easy to find a convenient spot to meet up. Coffee (or tea) is cheap and you can sit and catch up for a long time without feeling the need to move on once you’ve had your fill.

Long Walk

Whenever my cousin visits, we meet up and go for a long walk to catch-up. Usually there’s a coffee pitstop in there, but walking is the main show. Go to a park, a running path, or just walk around the neighborhood. There’s something about walking that makes the words and thoughts flow easier and the time flies by. Plus, exercise.

Museum

Be a tourist in your own city and go to a museum you haven’t been to since an elementary school field trip. It’s an inexpensive and active way to spend a few hours with a friend and learn something other than their dating status.

Cooking Class

Yes, there’s food involved, but eating is not the focus. You’ll learn skills, get comfortable with ingredients and techniques you haven’t used before, all alongside a familiar face!

Game Night

Game night isn’t just for couples! Get a group of friends, or keep it small with just one, and play a few games while you talk. With compact games like cards or Pass the Pigs (a renewed favorite in my house!) you can take them with you and play at a coffee shop or park. Even a puzzle gives you something to do that isn’t drinking.

Creative Class

I’ve done watercolor, crochet, painting, and ornament making classes with friends and it’s always a blast! Getting creative is a great outlet and calms your stress instantly. You’ll leave with a new skill and project and they tend to be very laid back so you end up chatting and making friends with others in the class as well. For local classes, check out Dabble.co!

Thrift Store

You can quickly lose yourself browsing through thrift stores, and if you don’t find something you love, you’ll at least come away with pictures of the most ridiculous outfits! There are boutique thrift and vintage shops popping up all over, so consider going on a thrift store crawl!

Craft Day

I have one of these on my calendar now! Again, plan for either one friend or invite a crew, independently bring anything you want to work on or are already working on, put some music on and get crafty! If you aren’t working on any projects or feel you have no creative skills, head to a craft store like Michael’s and pick something simple or get a coloring book and pack of colored pencils.

Want small creative project ideas? Grab a copy of my ebook Positivity Through Creativity and get 52 quick and simple projects!

 

4-fall-favorites

4 Fall Favorites

Cooking with foods that are in season gives you the freshest food options, provide plenty of health benefits, and costs you less. And, cooking what’s in season in the fall is a delicious way to eat! Here are 4 fall favorites – along with some recipes – to cook with this season:

Butternut Squash

This oblong squash intimidates some people, but its taste and versatility are well worth any hesitations you have. Butternut squash is a nutritional powerhouse; zero fat, low in sugar, good source of potassium, 437% of your Vitamin A and over 50% of your Vitamin C, all packed into 82 calories per cup! The tough shell makes for a little challenge to prepare, but by either cooking first or using a peeler, you’ll be prepped in no time. Or, you can buy the pre-cut version for a little more money and save your time. Here are my 3 favorite recipes using butternut squash:

Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

butternut-squash-and-spinach-lasagna-rolls-550x770isit Skinnytaste.com for this and other recipes

5-Ingredient Butternut Squash, Arugula, and Goat Cheese Pasta

5-ingredient-butternut-squash-arugula-and-goat-cheese-pasta-12Visit Gimmesomeover.com for this an other recipes

Butternut Squash ad Black Bean Enchiladas

butternut-squash-and-black-bean-enchiladas-550x825Skinnytaste.com

Sweet Potatoes

While sweet potatoes are primarily carbs, over 50% of the carb content is complex carbs, and they have a decent amount of fiber tucked in there, too. They are an excellent source of Vitamin A (from the beta-carotene),Vitamin C, and potassium, plus are low in calories with a medium sweet potato weighing in around 115. This was a hard list to narrow down, but here are 3 sweet recipes!

Sweet Potato, Kale, and Sausage with White Cream Sauce

sweet-potato-kale-bake-5For this and other recipes, visit Pinchofyum.com

Sausage and Sweet Potato Zucchini Lasagna

sweet-potato-lasagna-1200-600x900 PinchofYum.com

Layered BBQ Chicken & Sweet Potato Enchilada Casserole

layered-bbq-chicken-and-sweet-potatoVisit Ambitiouskitchen.com for this and other recipes

Pumpkin

Absolutely nothing says FALL!! like pumpkin does! This low calorie (50 per cup for cooked and boiled, and 100 per cup of puréed and canned) holds 100% of your Vitamin A needs and the potassium helps lower blood pressure. Pumpkin has a good amount of Vitamin C and beta-carotene that helps boost immunity, so eat up and ward off the flu! Here are 3 ways to cook with pumpkin:

Healthy Bacon & Pumpkin Pasta

pumpkin-bacon-pastaPinchofyum.com

Easy Pumpkin Marinara with Zoodles

zoodles-pumpkin-marinaraVisit Fitfoodiefinds.com for this and other recipes

Crock Pot Turkey White Bean and Pumpkin Chili

crockpot-turkey-white-bean-pumpkin-chili-550x360-1Skinnytaste.com

Apples 

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is an old saying that rings true for good reason. They are an extraordinary source of important antioxidants, dietary fiber, and flavonoids – a group of phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory benefits as well as cardiovascular and nervous system benefits. Aside from eating them alone or with peanut butter, there are some delicious ways to incorporate them into other meals. Here are 3 to try this fall!

Apple Cinnamon Pork Chops

apple-cinnamon-pork-chopsVisit Tasteofhome.com for this and other recipes

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork with Apples and Onions

slow-cooker-pulled-pork-with-apples-and-onions-the-lemon-bowlVisit thelemonbowl.com for this and other recipes

Paleo Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

paleo-newbie-apple-pancakes-featured-1266x850Visit Paleonewbie.com for this and other recipes

Happy fall ya’ll, hope you cook up something good!

your-calendar

Your Calendar

“If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t happen.”

“It will happen if it’s on my schedule.”

“I feel a sense of calm when I have a schedule.”

“If it’s set in stone, I’ll stick to it.”

These are all answers I heard from clients when I asked what has helped them keep healthy habits in the past. We know if we plan and schedule, we are more likely to be successful in reaching our goals, but we don’t always do it. Why?

Often it’s the thought that you’ll remember; you know your gym has a yoga class at 6pm on Tuesday so you don’t need to put that on the calendar. Or, you have all weekend to pick which recipes you want to make next week and get to the grocery, so you don’t need to plan for that. Then it’s 5:30pm on Tuesday and you didn’t bring yoga attire to work. Oh, well, you can go next week, right? You figure you can look at recipes after you get back from your daughter’s soccer practice, but as Saturday’s go, one thing leads to the next and you don’t think about it again until Sunday evening.

A quote that really stuck with me is, “What may be done at anytime, is often done at no time.” You can logistically get to a gym class nearly every night of the week, so why schedule it in? You can sort through your cookbooks and Pinterest for healthy recipes anytime, so you don’t need to set aside time, right? Not so fast! Scheduling the actions that will help you reach your goals is a huge factor in your success.

Scheduling the actions that will help you reach your goals is a huge factor in your success. Click To Tweet

You’re Making an Appointment with Yourself

Mentally planning on going to the 6pm Body Pump class at the gym, and writing it in your calendar are two different things; seeing it on your calendar makes it real. You’re less likely to flake on yourself when it’s saved on your calendar, or plan something else for that timeframe. You wouldn’t blow off a team meeting concerning an important project, you’d put it on your calendar and get your butt to the meeting.

Your wellness goals – whether it’s consistent strength training, fat loss, or eating at home more often – are your personal project, and the only way to get there is to make them a priority. When we put things on our calendars, we’re protecting that time, confirming to ourselves that it is important to us.

You’re Holding Yourself Accountable

When you write something on your calendar, you’ve given yourself a deadline. This especially comes in handy for those things you feel don’t need a deadline. Here’s a recent example from my own life: I had a meeting with a business mentor a few weeks ago, and it was really productive. I had a page of notes for changes to make to my site, and a list of small project ideas I was excited to start in motion. Instead of leaving with my notes and high motivation, expecting to get things rolling on all fronts, I made my next appointment then and there. I left with our next meeting on my calendar. At this point in my planning, no one is affected by me following or not following through on my intentions, so I could take 3 weeks to complete my personal projects or 3 months. But, knowing I had a meeting on a certain day gave me a deadline and specific goal.

For some of us, writing something on a to-do list or scheduling it on our calendar is enough to keep us on task, but others may need outside accountability. If you’re of the latter variety, share your calendar with your partner, a parent, or a friend (Google calendar is great for this). Knowing someone else can see your deadlines and appointments creates a sense of expectation to follow through, even if they don’t say anything!

Knowing someone else can see your deadlines creates a sense of expectation to follow through. Click To Tweet

Of course, writing something down is only a tool to get you to your goals, you still have to do the things you schedule. In my experience, and for many of my clients, the simple act of consciously scheduling time for your “should’s” by putting them on your calendar, is the difference between following through and making excuses.

Is scheduling a struggle for you? Whether you can’t find the space in your calendar or don’t know what takes priority when you do, my Health Coaching Program can give you the clarity you desire. I’d love to help you get a practical plan in motion. shoot me an email at Samantha@simplywellcoaching.com and let’s get a session on the calendar!

label-reading-101

Label Reading 101

Ignorance may be bliss, but when it comes to food labels, ignorance can sabotage your weight loss goals. At first glance, a nutrition label can be overwhelming with all of the numbers, ingredients, and nutrients staring back at you, and it’s tempting to simply not look at it and avoid sussing out what’s important to your health. The good news is, you don’t have to be a scientist or dietitian to benefit from food labels, and – more importantly – you can do it quickly. Here are 4 areas to focus on the next time you’re walking the aisles.

Note the Serving Size

This is a sneaky tactic that you can get wise to in a glance. All too often we assume the small package we’ve thrown into our carts is a single serving, when it’s actually 2 or more. I’ve even seen microwaveable meals that have 2 servings! Have you ever split a microwave dinner with someone? You don’t have to precisely calculate everything on the label, but if there are 3 servings in a package, know that the 330 calories featured on the label is actually nearly 1,000 for the package. This goes for all those percentages as well. A can of soup that has 26% of your sodium needs seems innocent enough, but if you plan to eat the whole 2 serving can for a meal, you’re over 50% of the recommended daily intake. In my opinion, the worst offenders of this size allotment are ice cream and cereal, where a standard serving is 1/2 Cup and 3/4 Cup respectively.

Check for These Highs and Lows

The % Daily Value (%DV) notes the percentage of each nutrient in every serving, in terms of the recommended daily allowance (based on a 2,000 calorie diet which is average for a grown adult). Overall, anything 5% and under is considered low, while values 20% and over are considered high. There are a lot of nutrients and vitamins listed on the standard food label, so knowing which ones matter the most can save you time when skimming a label.

Generally, you want to have a limited amount of Saturated Fat (11-13g tops a day is a good guide), Cholesterol, and added sugar (6-9 teaspoons a day, which in the US we go WAY above and beyond in the worst way!), as little trans fats as possible (this is listed separately under Fat just as Saturated Fat is), and keep your sodium to under 1,500mg a day. The %DV represents these guidelines. On the flip side, place an importance on choosing products high in dietary fiber, protein, calcium, and iron. Again, you don’t need to whip out a calculator, but when grabbing salad dressing, if the label reads 28% of your saturated fat for one serving (nearly always 2 Tablespoons), consider looking for a different brand.

Question Health Claims

This is where grocery shopping gets downright maddening. While the actual nutrition label shows you objective numbers, companies will distract you with seemingly healthy buzzwords and images. Have you noticed sugary cereal claiming to be a “good source for whole grains!”? Legally to be a “good source of”, an item needs a meager 10% DV, and you can bet those 14g of added sugar per serving aren’t going to be plastered across the box in large font. A big one on my list is the term “made with whole grains”, which merely means there are some whole grains in the food, not that it’s made of entirely whole grains. Look for 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain to get the biggest bang for your caloric buck.

Generally, the more over the top and prevalent the health claims on an item are, the farther they are from actually being healthy. For 16 common misleading food claims, check out this post on Health.com!

Consider the Ingredients 

Health claims can be subjective and misleading, but listed ingredients tell the real story. Two general tips I always recommend, are to seek items with the least amount of ingredients, and the more known ingredients (like the ones you can pronounce!) the better. It’s good to know that the ingredients are listed by weight in descending order, meaning the main ingredients are the top 3-5 listed on the label. Pay attention to these if you have any food allergies or sensitivities.

I mentioned earlier about limiting added sugars, but what are added sugars? Simply, added sugars are those added to foodstuffs during processing/preparing. A banana has a lot of sugar, but it is natural, where as a candy bar has added sugar. This is a tricky one, because sugar has a ton of names that often fly under the radar. Check out this list on choosemyplate.gov and get familiar with the many names of added sugars.

food-label

Remember, these aren’t hard rules, but guidelines to help you make healthier choices while grocery shopping. If you’re picking up brownies for a pot luck, sugar is probably going to be a main ingredient and there won’t be much protein or vitamins, and that’s OK! But when you’re picking up staple items for healthy cooking at home, look at the numbers and compare brands to make the healthier choice. It will take a little time to compare brands, but once you find one you trust, the decision is made for every other trip to the store. I have a few breads that I trust and buy, so I’m not rereading every label each time I go to the store.

A big help for me that I recommend to everyone I talk to (seriously, I’ve told someone about it at a bar), is the free app Fooducate. As a label reader, it is my BFF. You scan the barcode of nearly any item (new or small production items are sometimes not listed, but new ones are added constantly) and up pops a health grade. From A+ to D-, you can quickly evaluate the quality of food and compare to other items. If you want to know more, you can see why it got the grade it did by seeing how it ranks in different categories; high in fiber, highly processed, low in sugar, high in protein, etc.

Cooking healthy at home is a goal for many of my clients, and healthy home cooking starts at the store. If you feel stuck and overwhelmed with planning healthy meals, my Power Hour Session can give you clarity. We’ll spend 60 minutes talking about where you are, and figure out how to get to where you want to be. You’ll leave with an action plan of 1-2 specific goals and strategies that fit your life. Ready for change? Email me today and let’s talk!

top-20mobileapps

8 Bars to Keep on Hand

I am a planner, and food is probably the thing I plan the most. Being stuck on an errand that took 4 times longer than expected, road trip detours, or a meeting that was supposed to end by 7pm but isn’t even wrapping up at 8pm, can leave you in a hanger crisis. When you finally get to eat, you grab anything that’s close and scarf it down without enjoyment, and most likely without much nutritional value.

I’m sure you, too, try to avoid this, but it’s those sneak attack hanger strikes that get you. That’s why, if I’m unsure about my timeline or food options – like those parties that don’t mention anything about food but take place at 7pm – I throw a bar(s) into my bag. However, not all bars are created equal. If you aren’t careful, that “healthy” bar can pack you with minimal protein, so many processed ingredients it’s a wonder they fit it on the label, and enough sugar to power a high school football team.

There is a time and a place for different bars; do you need a morning energizer, an afternoon pick-me-up, or a small bite to get your home for dinner? Here are 8 brands of bars that I trust:

simply-protein

Simply Protein makes a variety of bars and snacks, but their protein bars are especially good for staving off a hanger-attack. Great for an in between snack, or pair with a banana or yogurt for a breakfast or lunch replacement.
Protein: 15-16g
Sugar: 1g
Calories: 150
Flavors: 8

kashi

Kashi could have it’s own store they have such a variety of products, but I’m talking specifically about their granola bars. These come in both crunchy and chewy, and can be eaten as a is, or broken up into yogurt cup for a parfait breakfast on the go!
Protein: 3-6g
Sugar: 6-9g
Calories: 140-180
Flavors: 11

luna

Luna is a product under the Clif Bar brand that holds it’s own! These bars are a staple in my house and the flavors are varied enough that I have my favorites for the morning, afternoon, or even dessert that are a bit sweeter.
Protein: 8-9g
Sugar: 8-10g
Calories: 180-200
Flavors: 10

nugo

NuGo‘s standout bar is their Fiber d’Lish brand. They are non-GMO, Kosher, and have 8 flavors that are vegan, keeping your ingredients pronounceable and your hunger at bay!
Fiber: 12g
Sugar: 8-11g (most are 8-9g)
Calories: 130-160
Flavors: 9

kind-bar

I was skeptical at first when I bought 2 different flavors of Kind Snacks newish line; Strong + Kind, this savory bar was something I usually don’t grab up, but O.M.G. it is a new staple! These bars are perfect for an afternoon salty and savory snack with 230 calories to keep you energized for whatever you have planned after work.
Protein: 10g
Sugar: 6g
Calories: 230
Flavors: 5

kates-real-food

These bars are for when you need more than a little something to hold you over. They are packed with organic ingredients (81-90%)and sugars come from primarily honey and fruit. These are perfect for travel when you don’t know when or where your next meal is coming from!
Protein: 6-9g
Sugar: 14-25g
Calories: 260-360
Flavors: 5

lara-bar

Lärabar is an old favorite of mine that never gets old, partly because of the wide variety of flavors! The ingredient list on these babies are incredibly refreshing, for example the Cashew Cookie bar contains: cashews and dates. That. Is. It.
Protein: 3-7g
Sugar: 17-24g
Calories: 190-230
Flavors: 22 (3 are seasonal)

think-thin

Think Thin has you covered for high protein bars and their protein & fiber bars. Personally my favorite is the crunchy peanut butter high protein bar for breakfast (along with an apple or string cheese) when I’ve got appointments all morning. The protein & fiber bars are a great way to fit a little more fiber into your diet, and the calories are a little lower for when you just need a snack.
Protein: 20g in high protein bars, 10g in protein & fiber (5g of fiber)
Sugar: 0g for high protein, 5g for protein & fiber
Calories: 230-250 for high protein, 150 for protein & fiber

While I don’t recommend regularly relying on bars for meals, they certainly have their place in a healthy diet and when chosen wisely can help curb junk food splurges. I stock up at the store when I see a sale, and have a dedicated tupperware that I keep them in for an easy grab-and-go as I head out the door.

Knowing which “healthy” snacks are actually healthy isn’t as easy as it seems. If you would like guidance in choosing better-for-you foods, as well as accountability for incorporating them into your lifestyle, my Health Coaching Program is for you! Email me at samantha@simplywellcoaching.com and let’s set some goals!