What a Health Coach Buys in the Frozen Foods Section

Think that the frozen food aisles will derail your health goals? Think again! True, there are a ton of processed items that I would never recommend to another human, and if you have a sweet tooth it’s best not to go near the Ice Cream Novelties section (especially if you’re hungry!), but there are some items in these very aisles that are staples in my home.

Here are the frozen foods I stock up on that help me get a healthy dinner on the table when I have no time!

Birdseye Frozen Brown Rice

This bag may be your new BFF. Rice can be intimidating. You don’t want to overcook it, and it isn’t a quick thing to make, but is often a staple of a meal that’s otherwise quick. Toss this bag in your microwave while your finishing up cooking or getting out the plates, and 4 minutes later you have 2 servings of whole grain brown rice! I like to add it to boxed soup to bulk it up and make a quick meal.

Trying to eat more veggies? Grab their brown rice with broccoli and carrots!

Frozen Diced Peppers

Every grocery store has at least a few brands that make bags of diced green and red peppers. They are an excellent way to add veggies to any casserole, stir-fry, and soup. Just toss a cup or so into your dish as it cooks and enjoy a boost of veggies without extra work.

Kashi Frozen 7-Grain Waffles

Forget the Eggo’s, these waffles have 28% of your daily fiber needs, 3 grams of sugar, and only 140 calories per 2 waffle serving. Enjoy them for breakfast with sliced banana, or make a panini out of them with granny smith apples and brie!

Frozen Berries

Just like the peppers, most stores offer a variety of brands, including their own (typically cheaper) kind. Fruit and veggies are frozen and canned at their freshest, so the nutrition is similar to their fresh counterparts, making them a great choice year round that you won’t have to throw out. I like berry mixes with cherry, blueberry, and raspberry, but I’ll buy all kinds to heat and top pancakes, oatmeal, and waffles, or toss into my Ninja for a quick smoothie!

 

Amy’s Burritos

These are perfect for a solo quickie dinner or office lunch. There are a ton of flavors, including a gluten free and dairy free version, all ranging from 290-320 calories. My favorites are the black bean, southwestern, and breakfast burrito!

Mini Wontons

These frozen chicken and cilantro mini wontons can be found at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for a good price, to boot! No special prep here, you sauté however many you want (only 50 calories per 4) for about 5 minutes, steaming in a little water for 1-2 minutes. Have a few for a snack or make them part of a filling dinner along with soup or salad.

Veggie Burgers

Lots of brands out there to try, but here is a list of some healthy ones I trust. Veggie burgers are more versatile than just eating as a burger, so get creative! I like to crumble mine over baked sweet potatoes, zoodles, or mix into a creamy tomato soup.

Healthy Sweet Treats

There are some great options for when you need something sweet, but don’t want to overindulge. Here are my favorites:

Arctic Zero

Halo Top

Trader Joe’s Caribbean Fruit Floes Bars

Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches (many other products, too!)

The best thing about frozen foods is that they won’t go bad, so you can stock up when there’s a sale, and not have to worry about when you’ll get around to eating them. All these items can help you get a healthy home cooked meal even when your week is in a frenzy, making fast food an afterthought!

What are your favorite healthy frozen foods?

Tabata Strength

The Tabata format of 20 seconds of exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds, make for a short and intense workout! Get a total body strength session in 20 minutes with this Tababta Strength workout at home!

Healthy Fats Healthy Weight

In the late 80s through most of the 90s, Americans found themselves in a fat-free craze. Fat-free foods stocked the shelves and commercials gloated about their foods being fat-free (other health concerns be dammed!) If you’re older than 30 you most likely remember SnackWells being a staple in the pantry.

Look familiar?

Here’s the thing: we didn’t lose weight. In fact, we got fatter and experienced a rise in diabetes.Why? Because these fat-free (!!!) foods were laden with added sugars and processed carbs. Plus, how many of those spongy chocolate cookies did you eat since they were fat-free?

There have been a number of studies done, and there’s been no benefit for low-fat diets to lead to better weight loss, and there’s no benefit for low-fat diets to lead to less disease. –Mary Flynn, Professor of Medicine at Brown University.

Finally, we’re understanding that eating fat doesn’t make you fat. And, more importantly, eating healthy fats can help you manage your weight. However, we’re still in somewhat of a fat-free coma, hesitant and confused on how to make fats a healthy part of our diet. I hope this post will clear up the confusion so you can develop a healthy relationship with healthy fats!

 Vs.

Types of Fat

Unhealthy fats should still be avoided or at least minimized to reach a healthy weight. While healthy fats (the focus of this post) should be prioritized in your diet. Here are the types of fats to chose and those to avoid:

Saturated fat (unhealthy) – Saturated fat solidifies at room temperature and can raise your cholesterol. It is found in animal products (beef, chicken, pork, etc.)with leaner meats having less saturated fat, and full fat dairy products. A healthy diet should get less than 10% of its calories from saturated fat.

Trans fat (unhealthy) – Trans fats are altered through a process called hydrogenation which makes the shelf life longer and the fat harder at room temperature. Unlike saturated fat, trans fats both raise your LDL (bad) and lower your HDL (good) cholesterol and should be avoided as much as possible. Trans fats, like all fat, is listed separately on food labels and is most commonly found in highly processed foods like snacks foods, cookies, desserts, fried foods, and baked goods.

Unsaturated fat (healthy) – Unsaturated fat is liquid at room temperature and opting for unsaturated fat over saturated fat may help improve your cholesterol. These fats are found in oils from plants, nuts, seeds, and avocados, and vegetable oils (peanut, canola, soybean, sunflower, etc.). There are 2 types of unsaturated fat; monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (which includes omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids).

Benefits of Healthy Fats

Improving your cholesterol is a benefit of eating healthy fats, but that’s not all. As I mentioned earlier, eating a low-fat diet did not necessarily contribute to weight loss, but enjoying some healthy fats in your diet can help curb cravings for longer helping us to eat a little less overall.

Studies show that replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats can improve insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Omega-3 fatty acids, a polyunsaturated fat found in flaxseed oil and fish oil, and fish, have been shown to help fight inflammation which can improve heart health and other diseases associated with chronic inflammation.

Opting for unsaturated fats over saturated fats can slim you down as it is linked to less central fat distribution, meaning less stubborn belly fat.

Ways to Incorporate Them into Your Diet

Now that you’re on board with healthy fats (because how can you not be?), it’s time to stock up on foods packed with the right kinds of fats. The top 8 most accessible – you can find them at any grocery, they won’t break the bank, and are easy to eat – include:

Avocados
Top soups, use as a spread on sandwiches, spread on toast, or add to smoothies.
Cheese
Put on sandwiches or stock up on string cheese for easy eating on the go.
Greek yogurt
Use in place of sour cream on chili and tacos, blend into smoothies, or eat as a parfait with nuts and berries.
Tree nuts (and nut butters)
Eat alone or with string cheese for a quick afternoon snack, add to yogurt in a parfait, or spread nut butter on whole grain crackers or celery.
Coconut oil and olive oil
Cook with olive or coconut oil instead of butter.
Fish
Drizzle with olive oil and lemon and broil, or check the freezer section for salmon burgers for a quick meal.
Seeds (like flax, chia, and pumpkin)
Add to salads and smoothies.
Eggs
Hard boil a half dozen on Sunday and enjoy throughout the week either alone or as a salad topper, make egg salad with greek yogurt instead of mayo, or try a breakfast burrito for breakfast or dinner.

It’s still crucial to keep in mind that fat – no matter what kind – has more calories per gram than it’s macronutrient counterparts, carbohydrates and protein, making it easy to overindulge and consume excess calories. Check the serving size so you’re aware of what a serving of almonds is (it fills a shot glass), before you snack on the entire bag of trial mix in one sitting.

Don’t be afraid of fat. Instead, be choosy in the type you eat and reap the health benefits!

How to Set a SMART New Year’s Resolution

The start of a New Year brings possibility, excitement, and enthusiasm, which is why many of us set highly optimistic goals. New Year’s Resolutions have the best of intentions, but they’re also synonymous with short-lived goals of bettering ourselves.

While I dread the influx in participants at my favorite gym classes, I love to see a newbie still at the gym come May. It’s hard to start a new habit, or stop an old one, yet we all think that the New Year will make these things easier. You hate going to the gym now, but convince yourself that once it’s January you’ll love it! You’ve never turned down fries, but next week you won’t even want them!

We often don’t take much time to realistically think through our New Year’s Resolutions, instead spouting off something that sounds good like, “I’ll get to the gym more”, or, “I’ll eat healthier this year”, or, “I’m going to cook more often”. These aren’t bad resolutions, but merely stating a hurried goal won’t give it staying power. This year, take time to really think about how you want to improve your life in 2017, by setting a resolution using the SMART goal method.

Start with an intrinsic Why:

Your resolution needs to be an intrinsic goal, it must mean something to you. Your motivation for achieving this goal should come from your wants, not something external. For example, if your resolution is to lose weight, and your motivator is fitting into a dress for an event or slimming down for a vacation, what happens after the event passes? Extrinsic goals are great to have for the short-term, but internal motivators (intrinsic goals) like having more energy to keep up with your toddler, or lowering your blood pressure to lessen your risk of heart disease, will keep you on track long term because they are set with the intension of a lifestyle change, not a quick fix.

Take a few minutes to think about your Why. If you’re considering becoming a vegan, think or list out why. Extrinsic reasons like losing weight or social status will only get you so far. If you don’t lose weight immediately, and no one seems impressed that you’ve gone vegan, it’s likely you won’t find it worth the effort. However if becoming vegan aligns with your moral values – a deeply intrinsic motivator – you won’t feel you’re sacrificing, rather you’re living a life you idealize.

Now set a SMART resolution:

Think about what bothers you most about how you’re living now. Do you not have enough time with your family? Have you stopped a hobby you once lived for? Is your sedentary lifestyle dragging your energy down? Do you not take care of yourself, always putting others first? Pick the area that you feel will improve your life the most, and outline a resolution that tackles just that by using the SMART goal blueprint.

Specific – Vague goals are hard to accomplish. If you want to work on the area of self-care, a resolution of, “taking better care of myself” doesn’t give you a specific action. Does that mean getting more sleep, working out regularly, getting monthly massages? Pin point exactly how you want to improve in this area in 2017, and how you aim to get there. Resolutions like, “I will set aside 45 minutes each day to meditate to improve my focus”, or, “I will get more sleep by going to bed by 10:30 on weeknights”, give you a specific action. Having multiple actions is OK, it’s knowing exactly what you need to do that is important.

Measurable – If you don’t know where you’re going, you won’t know when you’re there. Tracking your progress is a big motivator, and will tell you if you’re on track. A specific goal like, “practicing yoga regularly by going 2 times each week”, can be measured by logging your sessions in a calendar or taking pictures of a challenging pose to see if your form is improving.

Attainable – It’s good practice to set a high-bar goal, but setting it too high will most likely end in failure. Your resolution should be feasibly attainable or you risk losing motivation if it seems too out of reach. If the area you wish to improve is your nutrition, asses where you are now. If you eat fast food 4 times a week, a resolution of “no fast food” is pretty drastic. Be honest with yourself in what is within your reach. Maybe, “only eating fast food once a week”, or, “finding healthy items when I eat fast food” is where you can start in 2017.

Relevant – This goes back to your Why. Make sure your resolution is relevant to you and the area you want to improve. If you want to work on your fitness, a resolution to start running when you hate running isn’t relevant to you. There are many ways to accomplish fitness gains, maybe weight lifting, spin class, or Barre fits your life and interests better.

Time-Bound – New Year’s Resolutions have a hint of being time-bound, but a year is a long time so setting smaller time-sensitive check points can help you stay the course. A good new year’s resolution creates a lifestyle change, since your aim is to do it all year, set benchmarks to help you measure your progress and keep up your motivation throughout 2017. If your resolution is get to a healthy weight by losing 30 pounds, set a smaller goal of 2-3 pounds a month. A goal of decluttering your home can be broken down into monthly tasks; January focus on the bedroom, February concern yourself with your closets, etc.

Make your new year’s resolutions stick by spending a little time in 2016 to set a concrete plan. Pick one that is truly important to you, and go through the SMART formula to ensure you’ve thought it through.

If you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed with where to start and how to get there, let’s talk! My Health Coaching programs are designed to help you set SMART goals and give you the accountability you need to make them stick.

Great Glutes Circuit

The most attention our glutes get is sitting, but here is a quickie workout you can do anywhere to get your glute muscles back in action!

Your Word of the Year

Another year is winding to an end, with the next right around the corner. It happens every year, but still catches us off guard and can throw us into a tailspin. We fret over not coming far enough – personally, professionally, financially, emotionally, etc. – over the past 12 months, thinking of things we wished would have happened, wouldn’t have happened, and the different decisions we “should” have made. But where does that leave you? In the exact same spot.

Here’s what to do instead. Reflect, learn, and thank.

2016 seems to have been a collectively tough year. But there’s good in there. From little things you glossed over that seemed to pass by without notice, to lessons you learned the hard way, this year shaped you in some way. Get a piece of paper (or open Google Docs and copy/paste this list) and take some quiet time to answer some or all of these questions:

What were you most proud of in 2016?

What is a new skill you learned in 2016?

What did you let go of in 2016?

What changed you in 2016?

What new people did you bring into your circle in 2016?

What was your favorite moment of 2016?

How did 2016 make you stronger?

What were you most grateful for in 2016?

Look at these answers and acknowledge your accomplishments, take what you learned and let it help you in 2017, and thank 2016 for all the new/fun/scary/sad/challenging things that it brought you.

2017 brings possibilities, and we start off with excitement and enthusiasm, but after a few weeks, we gravitate towards old patterns in what we do and how we think. What helps is picking a Word of the Year. This word is meant to focus you on what you want out of the year, and drive you back to your goals when you get stuck in the routine of life.

Your Word will focus you on what you want this year, when you're stuck in the routine of life. Click To Tweet

Maybe one word pops into your mind immediately, but don’t worry if it doesn’t! Start writing words or phrases that resonate with you and how you want to feel in 2017. Take a break, go for a walk/call a friend/do some yoga, then come back to your list and see which words stuck with you.

Now for the fun part! Get a piece of construction paper or a cork board for those really into the crafting, a stack of magazines, scissors, and glue. Cut out large letters to spell your Word and glue them to your canvas first. I like to put a movie or music on and flip the magazines slowly.This shouldn’t seem like a chore, so enjoy the creative me-time and take your time! Cut out whatever jumps out at you, words, phrases, photos, and drawings, anything that represents who and what you want to be in the new year.

Once you’re done, hang or place it by your desk or bedroom mirror; somewhere that you’ll see it everyday. When you’re in the middle of a project, feeling in a rut, or are asked to take on something new, think about your Word. How will the project you’re stressed about get you towards your goals? Maybe it’s teaching you to be a better collaborator which is something you wanted to work on. Does taking the lead of your friends’ book club open opportunities for, or detract you from, your 2017 Word? This word will ground you when you feel things are spinning out of your plan, inspire you when you feel stuck, and help you make tough decisions.

Last year, my Word was Empower. This year, I chose Embrace <3

What’s your Word of the Year?

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Chicken Sausage and Blended Rice

Cooking dinner for myself and my husband is a priority for me, and one that I enjoy, but many nights it’s hard to find time to cook. Yesterday we planned to see a late afternoon movie and my original plan to make a homemade pizza when we got home got a wrench thrown in it when I realized it started at 5:30 (not 5) and was nearly 2 1/2 hours long (Manchester By The Sea = worth it!).

I looked in my freezer and pantry and in one minute had a new plan. We got home at 8:10 and were eating by 8:20. Here’s what I used:

1 box Trader Joe’s Roasted Red Pepper Soup (THE BEST!!)
1 Fontina cheese and spinach precooked chicken sausage
1 bag Birdseye frozen brown & wild rice with broccoli and carrots

The rice goes in the microwave for 4 minutes while you dice the chicken sausage and divide the soup into bowls. After the rice is done, split it evenly, along with the chicken sausage, into the soup and reheat about 90 seconds. That. Is. It.

4 Winter Ingredients

Winter cooking makes me immediately think of steaming bowls of soup and heart warming comfort food. I have many recipes I make year-round, but there are some ingredients that are in season in the winter that I find myself using more of this time of year. Here are four ingredients to stock up on this winter along with a few recipes for each!

Brussels Sprouts

For a minimal calorie count, brussels sprouts meet your vitamin C and K needs for the day, and are atually high in protein for a green vegetable. They aren’t what you call an entry-level veggie, but if you haven’t tried these as an adult, roast them up and you’ll be surprised at their versatility and almost sweet nuttiness. Just be careful not to over cook them as it reduces the nutrients.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Golden Raisins

Check out Realsimple.com for this recipe and more!

Bacon and Brussels Sprout Salad

Pinchofyum.com features this and more!

Sausage, Brussels Sprouts, & Parmesan Pasta

Check out Iowagirleats.com for this and more

Potatoes

Potatoes are practically synonymous with “comfort food”, and because of that many people steer clear for fear of gaining weight. In reality, it’s the high calorie and high fat ingredients we associate with potatoes; mashed potatoes. potato au gratin, twice baked potatoes rich in butter, cheese, and sour cream, that do us in. Prepared properly, potatoes can definitely be part of a healthy and nutritious meal! Packed with phytonutritents and an excellent source of vitamin C as an antioxident, these studs belong on your winter veggie hot list! (and don’t forget sweet potatoes!)

Turkey Taco Twice-Baked Potatoes

Check out Cookincanuck.com for more recipes like this!

Quick Potato and Cauliflower Curry

Visit TheKitchn.com for this recipe and more

Baked Potato Soup

Go to Skinnytaste.com for this recipe and others

Kale

It shouldn’t take much convincing that kale is good for you. But do you know why? Here are a few reasons kale belongs in your diet. It is high in antioxident, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates (WHFoods.com) for starters, also offering cholesterol lowering abilities. Need another reason? Kale’s glucosinolates create isothiocyanates which support your body’s detoxifying processes.

Kale and Potato Soup with Turkey Sausage

Head to SkinnyTaste.com for this recipe and more

Pork Tenderloin with Kale and Kimchi

Bonappetit.com has this an other delicious recipes

Braised Kale Frittata

Check out Health.com for this recipe and more

Pomegranate

This berry isn’t just for fancy cocktails! With anti-inflammatory properties that protect against cancers like breast and prostate, and other chronic diseases, you’ll want to put these on your shopping list (you can buy the seeds at most gorcery stores and Trader Joe’s). Studies also show pomegranate to help guard memory and brain function, as well as having phytochemicals that help lower blood pressure.

Stuffed Chicken Breast with Goat Cheese and Pomegranate

Head to FoodFaithFitness.com for this recipe and more

Slow Cooker Pomegranate and Orange Marinated Pork Chops

Check out savoringthethyme.com for this and other recipes

Pomegranate Chicken Salad

Go to plaidandpaleo.com for this and other healthy recipes

What are your favorite items to cook with in the winter?

Creamy Marinara with Chicken Sausage and Kale over Penne

This dinner for two is quick and simple for busy nights! You can cook the pasta while heating the sauce and be ready to eat in 20 minutes. I used a sundried tomato and basil flavored chicken sausage, but experiment with whatever flavors sound good to you when you’re at the store. These typically come in a 4-5 pack so if you aren’t using the rest that week, toss them in the freezer for another day.