Last week we talked about cleaning out your pantry, and now it’s time to figure out how to restock it with foods that are going to nourish you, keep you on the right track in reaching your health and fitness goals, and keep you feeling full. Here are some general guidelines for healthy grocery shopping (note: these are general guidelines for balanced eating, not recommendations for improving any medical condition, etc. Definitely see a physician and/or registered dietitian for that).
- Schedule regular shopping trips, so that you can never use the excuse “I didn’t have anything else in the house.” Yes, I know it’s a pain. But so is gaining weight from take out
- Always go to the store after you’ve eaten and at a time of day when you tend to have the most energy.
- Plan a week’s worth of meals in advance, as well as snacks, and then make a grocery list. I didn’t always do this, but my husband and I have committed to being more organized with meal planning this year. And, let me tell you…it’s well worth the 15 minutes you spend planning meals and organizing your list. Anything that shortens the time I have to spend in the grocery store is well worth it in my mind.
- Speaking of lists, don’t leave home without one. Lately, I’ve been using my phone to keep a standard grocery list, and I modify it every week, as needed. If your list is on your phone, you’re much less likely to forget it. Even if you’re just running to the store for 3 things…bring your list and stick to it!
- You’ve heard this before…shop the perimeter. And the reason you’ve heard this so many times is because it’s excellent advice. The perimeter houses fresh produce, fish, poultry and dairy. Of course, some stores still try to trick you into picking up chips or soda on the way over to the lettuce…stay strong! The exception to this rule: unsweetened frozen fruits and veggies and dried beans and lentils tend to be in the center aisles.
- See the grocery cart here? Picture this for a minute: As you’re walking the store, place all of the whole foods you buy in the bottom of the cart and processed foods on top. This helps us to be aware of how many processed foods we may tend to buy, and it also naturally limits the amount you can pick up. Cereals, breads, pastas…those go in the top. Fruits, veggies, oats, lentils, meat…plenty of room in the bottom for those. When in doubt, use the ingredient list as a guide…I like to think of anything with more than 7 ingredients as pretty darn processed.
The more you get into the habit of meal planning and shopping regularly, the more it actually becomes enjoyable. Having a well stocked kitchen is absolutely crucial in allowing you to meet goals for weight loss, increased fitness, improved energy, and so much more. Happy shopping!!
If you’ve kicked your workouts into high gear this New Year, but still aren’t seeing the changes you want, it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Specifically in your kitchen. Just like it’s good to go through the closet, the garage or the basement every year, it’s equally important to clean out your pantry. And if you’re trying to improve your health and fitness, it’s key to your success. I know it’s tough to throw away what we paid for or to eliminate some favorite comfort foods. But again…if you want to see changes, you’ve got to make the change. So let’s do this together…I’ll meet you in the kitchen:
- Make sure your counters are clean, because we’re cleaning out the cabinets. I mean, really cleaning them Take everything out of your cabinets and place them on your countertops.
- Now, that may have taken some time. Step back and reflect for a minute. Take a look at what you had in your cabinets and try to remember why you bought some of those things. Cookies for the kids that you end up snacking on? Pasta or rice side dishes that make for easy and quick weeknight meals? Leftover candy from the holidays?
- Take out the garbage can and immediately get rid of the obvious. Candy, opened boxes of cookies and sugary cereal. No one needs this stuff. Kids will forget the stuff was in the cabinets…at the very least they’ll get used to new cereal with enough time. Setting them on a track of sugar addiction early one benefits no one, so don’t feel guilty about getting the stuff out of the house.
- Now let’s look at the “food.” Pasta and rice side dishes, though extremely convenient, often have a terrifyingly long list of ingredients. Most of which don’t even resemble a whole food. Pack these up in a grocery bag or box, and plan on dropping them off at your local food bank. We’ll talk later about quick weeknight side dishes.
- Canned vegetables and sauces that are low in sodium can stay…for now. But think about buying fresh veggies and dried beans, and about making your own sauces and salad dressings. A future endeavor…let’s not get too crazy here.
- “Healthy” snacks like popcorn, protein bars, pretzels and crackers? Again, take a look at the ingredient list and nutrition facts. You’re probably looking at 10+ ingredients and a lot of sodium, little fiber and little protein. Decide if these snacks are worth holding on to for the kids. But (and this is a big but), if you’re going to be tempted to snack on them AT ALL, through them away or donate.
- Now tie up that garbage bag and get it out of the house. Bring the foods to donate out to the car for your next trip by the food pantry. Feels better already, right?
- As your putting the “saved” foods back into your cabinets, think about organizing them. Least healthy (i.e. any of those pretzels or crackers) towards the back, with healthier items in easy reach (i.e. nuts and seeds, unflavored oatmeal, natural peanut or other nut butters). Also, keep olive oil and herbs/spices where you can see them…these can be a great way to flavor veggies and side dishes without the 10+, very unnatural and unpronounceable ingredients. And if they’re at eye level every time you open the cabinet, you’ll remember to use them. (Just a note…this doesn’t include salt. That can go in the back J ).
Congratulations! You just took the first, very important step towards improving your nutrition and eating a healthier, less processed diet. Not something a lot of people can do easily, so be proud of what you’ve just done! Stay tuned on the blog for ideas of how to re-stock those cabinets with delicious and healthy foods.
If you’re like me, you were watching the Golden Globes the other night and simultaneously making mental notes of all of the movies you need to see. And what better time than now, when the days’ high temps reach 20 degrees and there’s just not that much to do. Going to the movies in the winter is a favorite hobby for many (for me and my husband, it’s probably the only time of year we go). But on a recent trip to our local theater, I couldn’t help but notice how very much junk can be consumed by movie goers in one 2 hour period. It’s a bit scary how the theaters up sell their customers to buy the largest amount of food/beverage they can get, and it’s even scarier that we can consume these snacks in their entirety before the end of a movie. I do love that some movie theaters are posting calorie counts on their menu items (though I’m not sure it’s influencing customers’ choices too much). Here’s some facts that I can’t seem to get out of my head:
- A large movie theater popcorn contains between 16 to 20 cups of popcorn, ~1,000-1,200 calories (or more!), 100 grams of fat, 57 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 mg of sodium (a whole day’s worth). To put this into perspective, it’s equivalent to eating at least 6 fast food burgers. Yeah…
- Many movie theaters have gone back to using coconut oil to make their popcorn. Yes, many would argue that coconut oil has healthy fats that are good for your heart. But 20 cups of popcorn made in coconut oil is another story entirely…
- A large soda, which is equal to 5-7 cups of soda after you take away the ice, has about 500 calories and up to 33 teaspoons of sugar.
- Remember those nachos, with the cheese? I’ve never been a fan, and now I’m very grateful for that. 1 tray has 610 calories, 22 grams of fat and roughly 1,400 mg. of sodium.
Ok, I won’t scare you with the candy facts. You get the idea, and you can read. (Just make sure you read the total number of servings in one container…food packaging can be tricky, for sure). What I will do, though, is give you some ideas to make your next trip to the movies less devastating to your New Year’s resolutions, and your health:
- This won’t surprise you. I’m going to tell you to work out before you go (obviously). I like to plan my workouts for any day I know I’m going out…to dinner, to the movies, to a party. It doesn’t make it ok to splurge like crazy, but it balances things out a bit and makes you feel much more confident when you’re out.
- Eat a healthy dinner before going near the theater. Cooking at home is ideal (for the wallet too), but ordering a healthy dish at a restaurant to fill you up is way better than planning on popcorn or pizza at the theater.
- I’ve also always been a fan of packing a healthy snack in my purse before leaving home. Some ideas are single serving portions of almonds or walnuts, dried fruit, Pirate’s booty or homemade trail mix. Some like 100 calorie packs or natural protein bars. For a little crunch, mini rice cakes or whole wheat crackers work, as does salted edamame.
- If it just feels unnatural not to get a snack at the theater (I get it, it’s part of the experience), some theaters offer “smart snack” packages, or try a kids size of unbuttered popcorn. Or share a small popcorn.
- Think about the empty calories in soda, and decide if it’s worth the extra few miles or 50 burpees you’ll have to add to your workout tomorrow. Instead, opt for a bottled water or unsweetened tea. Or bring your favorite flavored seltzer.
Your goal in the New Year may or may not be to look “red carpet ready,” but I can also almost guarantee that your goal is to not eat the equivalent to 6 or more hamburgers in one sitting. With adequate planning, the right facts and a little willpower, your next trip to the movies doesn’t have to sabotage all the progress you’ve made these last few weeks.
I’ll admit it, I’m a dork. Just like I felt at the beginning of each school year growing up, I get so excited about the New Year. I love dreaming, setting goals, making plans. And I’ve (mostly) managed to stick to my resolutions these past few years, and feel much better because of it. But this year, I’m trying something new. Instead of vowing to work out more, eat less junk, not drink, work more…you get it… I’m going to focus on the positive things I can add to my life. I’m going to enjoy long weekend walks with my husband, even it if means cutting back a few hours at work. I’m going enjoy nights at home, cooking in and watching our favorite movies, even if it means we don’t make it to every event that comes up. I’m going to nourish my body with water, herbal teas and fresh, whole foods instead of, well…all that other stuff. I’m going to read that stack of books collecting dust on my nightstand, even if it means the dust collects on the furniture for one more day.
There are so many things in life to stress about, and I’ve learned over the past few years that stress never really goes away. I may finish a project at work or pay off a credit card bill, but that doesn’t mean I’ll never feel work or financial stress again. But what I may miss while I’m worrying about all those things is precious time with my husband, family and friends. And what I’ll gain is headaches, insomnia and a wicked bad mood. Not worth it.
So this year, I’m focusing on adding only positive, healthy things to my plate. Things that I enjoy and that will nourish my body, my brain and my heart. When that plate gets full, positivity stays and one stressful thing gets pushed to next week. That’s just the way it’s gonna be. And I can’t wait to enjoy each week a little more than the last.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year…may you truly enjoy each day of the journey.