Skinny Veggie Slow-Cooker Lasagna

There are a lot of evenings I’m not home until near 8pm so I have a deep appreciation for my slow-cooker. If you don’t have one, or have one buried in the back of your cabinets, get one on your shopping list and use it to your advantage to have healthy meals ready to serve when you get home. You may even have time to hit that 6pm gym class after work now!

I have a handful of slow-cooker recipes that I cycle through but am always on the prowl for healthy recipes to add to that list. I nailed it last week with this easy-peasy lasagna recipe and you are reaping the benefits!

I wish I could claim this recipe as my own, but I must give a shout out to Pinch of Yum, a great blog where I have had plenty of recipe success. I made a few minor adjustments (not as much tomato sauce and the addition of onions and sun-dried tomatoes) so if you want the original recipe click here. Hopefully you trust me enough to try my version below!

 

Skinny Veggie Lasagna

Setting SMART Goals

You’ve decided to start exercising regularly; awesome! However, you’ve picked up exercising before, with a goal of getting in shape, and after a few weeks of diligently going to the gym you don’t see the inches falling away, so your interest and ambition fade and you’re back to a less than active lifestyle. Sound familiar?

The vast majority of those who aim to start a fitness program have the goal of “getting in shape” or “toning up”. While this may be enough to get you into the gym the first few times, the goal of “getting in shape” or “toning up” is too vague to elicit real change. It’s hard to create and stick to a solid plan when you don’t know exactly where you want to end up. Set a SMART goal and create a blueprint to achieve the results you want.

What exactly is a SMART goal?

Specific – Be specific in what you wish to accomplish. Instead of, “improve my cardio endurance”, try, “be able to run 3 miles”. Instead of, “get a stronger upper body”, try, “be able to do 20 pushups”. Instead of, “lose weight”, try “lose 10 pounds”.

Measurable – If you can’t measure your progress, you won’t know if you’re improving. Tracking your workouts is key to reaching your goals, and it doesn’t have to be cumbersome. Simply writing in a notebook after your workout how far you ran, how many pushups you got through, how long you held a plank – whatever your goals are – provides feedback and keeps you accountable.

Attainable – If the goal is too easy or nearly impossible you’ll lose motivation (you can already do a 55 second plank, do you really need to go to the gym today to reach 1 minute?) or become frustrated and give up (losing 30lbs for your reunion next month is neither attainable or healthy!). Set a goal you can visualize yourself reaching with the time you are feasibly able to dedicate to training.

Relevant – Your goal needs to be relevant to you and your interests/abilities. Don’t set a goal of running a marathon when you don’t enjoy running, just because a friend did. If you aren’t fully vested in your goal it’s easy to find excuses to not go after it.

Time-Bound – To create a plan you need an end date. Goals can be long-term or short-term, and it’s recommended to implement short-term goals to attain a long-term goal. Signing up for a race or a 30-60-100 day challenge are both great examples.

Smart Goals

Setting a SMART goal, or goals,  is the first step in making lasting change. Once you see exactly where you want to be you can develop a plan to get there.

Still, even with the best goals there will be barriers along your journey. By planning for these with realistic strategies to overcome them (stashing workout clothes in your car, ensuring there is a gym in your hotel, having healthy snacks on hand) you can arm yourself so you don’t throw in the towel. Keep the big picture in mind and make adjustments as needed. Your goals may change as you learn more about yourself and that’s OK.

Remind yourself often – make a list – of WHY you set this goal and the pros that go along with reaching it. Posting your goal in a highly visible space (refrigerator, by your computer, on your bathroom mirror) serves as a daily reminder of what you want to accomplish. Telling your friends and family is a great way to create a support system. Share your accomplishments along the way and don’t be afraid to ask for support, request they don’t constantly offer you treats at the office or find a coworker to take lunch break walks with.

For long-term goals – running a marathon or  losing 50+ pounds – break them down into smaller goals to avoid feeling overwhelmed. The sense of accomplishment that comes with hitting these smaller goals will reinforce your resolve and belief in yourself to achieve the larger goal.

By keeping your SMART goal in mind, planning for barriers and arming yourself with a support system, you have the tools to achieve whatever goal you set for yourself!

If you want assistance in determining an approachable SMART goal, or would like help creating and sticking to a plan to get you there, I would love to work with you. Reach out at samantha@simplywellcaoching.com today and together we will make your goals a reality!

 

Roasted Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Pasta

Nothing screams FALL IS HERE!! like butternut squash and you’re probably noticing it appearing in many forms on menus everywhere, from bisque to ravioli and even on the dessert menu. Don’t let it’s odd shape and tough exterior keep you from creating delicious cool weather fare in your own kitchen!

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Many recipes call for cubed butternut squash, and if you’re really crunched for time they do sell it pre-cut at most stores, but if you’re going the DIY route I recommend cooking it first as it’s MUCH easier to remove the shell that way. To roast a whole butternut squash slice it in half length wise (like the photo above), drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and nutmeg, place cut side down on foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Once out of the oven you can fairly easily peel the shell off, and cube the squash.

There are a ton of delicious things you can do with butternut squash, but here is an easy one to get you started!

Butternut Squash & Cauliflower Pasta

Run Your Own Race

recite-15909--777798778-1s34of2This simple mantra saves me at the start of a race from self-sabotage. After waiting anxiously for the start it’s easy to want to chase the guy who flies past me or to keep up with the girl I was eyeing before the gun went off. But I know I can’t hang on to that pace because it’s not what I trained for and by mile 3 I will be done. So I repeat in my head, “run your own race”, and settle in to a good pace for me and challenge myself to do better than before.

The thing I love about this quote is that it holds true for so much more than running. Wherever you are in your fitness, there will be someone ahead of you. Worrying about keeping up with someone else does nothing for you and often causes blindness to your own victories. When you make yourself your competition you can fully focus on your progress and see the gains you’ve made instead of giving into the, “I’ll never be where they are” doubts.

When you get down on yourself  by fixating on someone who passes you on your run, does more pushups than you in bootcamp or holds Crow Pose long past when you opted for Child’s Pose; you don’t know what you’re even comparing yourself to. Maybe the girl doing 7 minute miles is training for a 5K and this is her speed interval. Maybe the pushup queen has never attempted near the number of burpees you can crank out. And, let’s be honest, Child’s Pose is the best. My point is, if you stop focusing on their race and put that energy into your race you’ll start seeing your progress for what it is. Yeah, she did 20 pushups and you did 15, but last week you did 12 so in the end you won.

Tracking your workouts is incredibly useful and a great way to boost your confidence for those times you can’t seem to see the forest through the trees. There are a ton of online tools to help you track your progress, but know that pen and paper or a simple spreadsheet accomplish the same thing if virtual tools aren’t your thing. Here are a few to check out:

Fitness Builder
Gym Hero
Strong

Often we get caught up in where we want to be and forget how far we’ve come. By tracking even the most basic stats (how many miles you ran that week, how many pushups you can do, how many times you made it to the gym) you’ll start to see how your big picture has changed. What once was an accomplishment – going to the gym 3 days a week – may now be so routine you don’t realize it!

Enjoy this race and be proud of your pace!

 

Oatmeal is the Best Meal

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Behold the power of the mighty oat! Growing up, my dad often made homemade oatmeal for breakfast and I loved it then as much as I love it now; but now I know just how good it is for you. Maybe I don’t have to convince you to add oatmeal as a staple to your diet but if I did; this would be my case:

  • They help lower cholesterol via the high fiber content that removes it from ending up in the bloodstream
  • They help stabilize blood sugar
  • They substantially help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • They are high in fiber, low in fat and high in protein, helping you feel fuller for longer
  • The phytochemical, plant lignans, found in oats, help protect you from heart disease and cancer
  • They enhance the immune response to disease
  • They are DELICIOUS!

Ok, that last one is purely opinion but please trust me on it! You can find oatmeal in the cereal aisle at the grocery but please beware of the instant packages. Most instant oatmeal contains an absurd amount of sugar; upwards of 12 grams per tiny bag! Even Kashi, a brand I trust, has 7 grams. Better, but nothing you can’t beat by making your own with quick cooking rolled oats.

Before you abort mission at the words, “making your own”, hear me out! You don’t have to stand over a stovetop to make a delicious bowl of hearty oatmeal. All you need is a microwave and a spoon and you’re good to go. Here is my standard oatmeal recipe (which i mix in a large mug because it tastes better that way) plus some mix-ins for variety since you’ll want to eat this often.

1653633_365378950293671_6220526641899549521_nTo make it even more creamy I sometimes add a spoonful of greek yogurt. You can add more or less milk depending on the consistency you like your oatmeal and do watch while it’s in the microwave because it can bubble up and there is nothing worse than an overflowing oatmug in your microwave. To make at work you can mix everything in a small tupperware (one that you trust with liquid!) at home, and nuke it in the microwave whenever you’re ready to eat. I even make mine the night before.

I hope you enjoy and please share any toppings you like to add!

 

Sources: The World’s Healthiest Foods and Care2.com

 

Small Changes add up to Healthy Habits

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Making a healthy lifestyle change can be overwhelming and intimidating. There is so much information and so many things you may wish to improve it’s no wonder many people throw in the towel before adopting lasting change. As we discussed earlier, it’s consistency that’s key for real results so these changes become habits.

Still, you can’t upend your every bad habit and expect to not go crazy! Adopting small changes and getting comfortable with them before tackling the next one is much more approachable and you’ll be more likely to stick with them until they are second nature.


Don’t know where to begin? Here are a few goals to start with. Set yourself up for success and take on 1-2 at a time!

Nutrition

Skip breakfast? Eat something simple each morning (banana, string cheese with almonds, yogurt, or breakfast bars are just a few ideas)

Buy lunch everyday? Aim to bring your own 3 days a week and make it the night before so it’s ready to go. A sandwich or wrap with canned soup, apple or yogurt are inexpensive and simple to make.

Replace soda with water during meals and view soda as the treat it is.

Go for the salad or fruit/veggies instead of fries/chips as a side.

Be prepared for afternoon energy slumps with nuts, string cheese or fruit in your desk or car.

If you drink coffee, drink COFFEE. Avoid the sweet coffee drinks you don’t know the ingredients of. Many contain over 400 calories and more sugar than you should have in a day!

Meet your friends for a post-work walk, coffee or window shopping instead of happy hour.

Exercise

Download the StandApp (or set an alarm yourself) and get a reminder to standup and take a lap or do a few calf raises to get the blood flowing to your muscles. No amount of exercise will make up for sitting for hours on end!

Take the stairs whenever feasible (i.e. not carrying luggage or going to a meeting on the 85th floor!)

Take a walk with your spouse and/or kids when you get home and catch up on their day.

Park farther away at the grocery and work.

Aim for two to three 15-minute walks throughout your day. Any movement is better than no movement!

Do calf raises or squats while brushing your teeth or drying your hair (I do this, it’s not that crazy!)


Most of all, keep in mind that it’s about progress and not perfection. Habits take time to form and just because you indulge one day doesn’t mean you’ve fallen off the wagon; treats have a place in a healthy lifestyle, just not a place in every meal. Remind yourself WHY you’re making these changes and know it’s not always about making the BEST choice, but the BETTER choice!

Tabata Time!

tabata

Tabata workouts have received a lot of press and many bootcamps incorporate this style workout into their classes so it’s not surprising if you’ve heard the term but may not be so sure what it means or what it can do for you. Here’s a brief run down of some common questions:

How was Tabata created? Tabata originated as a high intensity interval training (often known as HIIT) protocol for Japanese Olympic speed skating athletes by Dr. Izumi Tabata in the mid 90’s. Dr. Tabata discovered these high intensity intervals and very short rest periods increased the athlete’s fitness in a very short amount of training time.

What exactly is Tabata? While HIIT is an overarching term to describe any high intensity interval workout, Tabata follows a strict time adherence. Intervals are a 2:1 ratio with 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Each set is done for 8 rounds totaling 4 minutes. Typically a total workout would consist of 4-6 sets. While Traditional Tabata training can get athletes to 170% of their VO2Max, the typical fitness enthusiast will not be able to reach that intensity, nor do they need to! Tabata workouts in the fitness world are technically modified, but stick to the principle of doing 20 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds.

Who is Tabata for? First off, it’s not for the faint of heart! Those who wish to incorporate this type of workout have a solid fitness base and are accustomed to higher intensity workouts. Anyone can work their way up to Tabata and you can, as always, take is a bit easy as you get used to the workout! Tabata is great for athletes to add to their training routines, those trying to break through a plateau or with a short amount of time (6 full rounds is under 30 minutes!) or anyone who needs to shake things up.

What can incorporating Tabata do for me? Short rest intervals mean you never fully recover, thus working hard the entire time which raises both your anaerobic and aerobic threshold, improving your fitness all around. Tabata and other HIIT workouts use more type II muscle fibers (fibers that come into play for intense short bursts of energy; lifting a heavy weight or sprinting) and have been shown to stimulate growth hormone in women (and testosterone in men) which helps muscles recover.

HIIT is a great tool for weight loss and increases lean muscle mass while simultaneously increasing cardiovascular fitness. Tabata does this in a short amount of time and it’s simplicity makes it easy for anyone to create a custom workout, often with no equipment! For athletes in training and highly fit individuals doing Tabata 3 times a week is OK, for occasional exercisers or those just wanting to switch things up, doing 1-2 sessions a week will enhance your fitness level. More than 4 times a week and you increase your risk of injury.

Here is a cardio Tabata circuit and a full body circuit to try out next time you want to shake things up! Remember to always include a 5 minute warm up and cool down. Each set will be 20 seconds of the exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds.

Cardio Tabata Workout

Set 1: Jumping jacks
Set 2: Mountain Climbers
Set 3: Skaters
Set 4: Burpees

Full Body Tabata Workout

Set 1: Pushups
Set 2: Plank rows (medium weight dumbbells)
Set 3: Burpees
Set 4: Lunge holds (alternate legs each round)
Set 5: Squat holds
Set 6: Mountain climbers

 *Timing is everything in these workouts and the best tool I’ve found is the Tabata-Timer for your phone which you can download here.

Source

The Single Most Important Training Element

With an overwhelming amount of information on working out at your fingertips, it’s hard to tell what you should make your focus. Cardio before weights? Lift heavy with low reps or light with high reps? Full body or upper and lower splits? Machines, dumbbells or bodyweight? First thing in the morning or wait until evening? Do group classes or workout on your own? Try looking up the best way to improve your fitness and you can easily end up more confused than when you started!

Luckily all these plans depend on one single component: Consistency.

Every training plan from a training-for-your-first-5K to an intricate upper/lower body split with heart rate based cardio intervals won’t do anything if they aren’t done with consistency. Naturally you aren’t going to see drastic changes in your physique or be able to run a 3 hour marathon without hard work and a rather strict adherence to a well planned training program, but to reap the vast number of benefits exercise can bring all you need to do is consistently get moving for 30 minutes most days of the week.

Picture this: You haven’t worked out in 7 days and suddenly go for an hour long run (good luck with that, by the way!) then are too sore to do anything the next 4. So you’ve gotten 60 minutes of exercise in 12 days. But, if you fit in 30 minutes of power walking in between errands  on 4 of those days, run for 30 minutes 3 days and lift weights for 30 minutes 3 days you have successfully gone ABOVE the minimum without spending over 30 minutes exercising and throwing in 2 full rest days!

Many people are daunted by the feeling if they can’t fit in a straight 30-60 minute sweat fest they aren’t getting any benefits. Wrong. Every bit adds up. Get your heart rate up for a few 10-15 minute bouts a day and you’re still benefiting. Only time for 15 minutes? It’s better than nothing so go for it!

Here are just a few ways you’ll improve your body and mind through consistent exercise:

TribesportsBenefitsofexcercise[keanan.edits]11.15.12“Great!” You’re thinking. “I get the importance, I want the benefits, but HOW do I make working out consistently part of my life?”.

Here are a few tips:

Set the right goals
Your motivation to workout should come from within and is best if not tied to something external (extrinsic goal). Fitting into a dress for an event or slimming down for a vacation are both fine (and common) goals, but what happens after the event passes? Extrinsic goals are great to have for the short-term so do set them, but focus on an internal (intrinsic goal) as your “big picture” motivator. Having more energy, lowering your blood pressure and feeling less stressed are just a few examples.

Do what you like
Hate running more than a root canal? Don’t run! There’s no one way to workout so get creative and find something you’ll actually enjoy doing. Swimming, team sports, kickboxing, outdoor bootcamp, dance workout DVDs, etc . The list goes on and adding variety will keep it fresh so you don’t burnout.

Write it down and check it off
Schedule your workouts like you would any other commitment. On Sunday  block off the best times for you to get in a workout and you won’t find yourself with “no time”. Better yet, get it done before work, that way no matter what the day throws at you, you already got your sweat on! Write it in your schedule/calendar and check off the days you workout, or use an online fitness tracker for an additional social media boost, and feel great about yourself as you see all the work you put in.

It’s not all or nothing
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a scheduled day, it’s not the end of the world! Life happens and you can’t always fit in everything. Get back to it the next day possible and remember it’s consistency, not perfection that you’re aiming for.

Plan ahead
Eliminate as many barriers to exercise as you can. Have snacks in your car and at work so you aren’t famished and have energy to workout. Have shoes and workout clothes at work so you don’t have to go home in between. Can’t leave the house? Print out a go-to at home workout you can do with no equipment (check out the workout tab here or type in “home workout” online for ideas) so you don’t have to waste time coming up with a routine.

If nothing else, keep in mind that something is better than nothing. Once you’re consistent with exercise it will become part of your routine and be easier and easier to not only find ways to fit it in, but feel easier to do.

If you have no idea where to start and want help developing and being consistent with a plan made specifically for you and your goals, I can help! As a Certified Health Coach, I work with clients one-on-one in discovering what’s holding them back from living their ideal life. Our sessions are focused on you, your goals and the lifestyle you envision. Shoot me an email and let’s see if my 4-Week Kickstarter Program is the right fit for you!

Happy sweating!

 

 

Harvest Rice Skillet

Butternut squash recipes are everywhere in the colder months but luckily you can always find this winter vegetable and enjoy it’s sweet and nutty flavor year-round. Many recipes call for pureed butternut squash but here we include large chunks along with granny smith apple to bulk up this skillet style recipe! Hearty and flavorful this rice based dish has a variety of veggies for a well balanced meal that will satisfy you even without meat.

 

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Sundried Tomato, Basil & Goat Cheese Burgers

Around my sophomore year of high school I decided to give up McDonald’s burgers cold turkey (or beef, rather), not forever but for a while. While I didn’t eat them constantly, I did have them enough that I had a standard order. It wasn’t to lose weight, but to put better things in my body than fast food burgers. I planned to give them up for, “a while”, with no timeframe set but figured after a month I could treat myself to one if I so wanted.

It was hard at first. I remembered how they tasted, I passed the familiar yellow arches nearly everyday on my way home from school and my friends still ate there. But I held strong. After a month I thought, “I could eat one now if I wanted, it’s been a while!” but I felt I could save that long awaited meal for a more special day. Another few weeks went by and I thought, “It’s been longer than I thought I’d last, I could totally eat one guilt free now.” Then I had a wonderful realization. I didn’t want one. It didn’t sound good to eat and certainly didn’t sound like a reward to myself. I haven’t had a fast food burger since and I don’t miss them in the least!

Heathy(er) eating is like that. Once you treat your body good for a month or so, you stop – or at least cut down – on craving the unhealthy junk.

Don’t get me wrong, I still go out and I love a good burger. But now I want to either indulge in a gourmet restaurant quality burger, or better yet, make one for myself! And with that long winded intro, I give you:

Sundried-Tomato-Basil-and-Goat-Cheese-Burgers-1024x738