Meal Prep in 5 Easy Steps!

by Aimee Wojtowecz

You know that being successful with your nutrition goals takes some planning and preparation but it often feels overwhelming to start. Here are 5 easy steps to start implementing some planning and preparation in your life!

1. Start with a plan

Being prepared doesn’t have to mean making every single thing you’re going to eat for every single meal all week, but it does mean that you need a plan. Take out a piece of paper or a calendar, look at your schedule and write down anything that might be an obstacle that week. Kids have a late night soccer game on Tuesday? Write that down. Work lunch on Thursday? Write that down. Now fill in your meals knowing that Tuesday you need something quick and easy or a crockpot meal that you can start in the morning before you leave and Thursday you don’t need to bring lunch. Remember too that not everything has to be homemade from scratch to help you meet your goals. Don’t have time to make breakfast? Plan on buying a box of frozen Kodiak Cake waffles or breakfast burritos. Hate chopping vegetables? Pay the extra for pre-chopped, it will save you time and stress. 

2. Grocery shop

Now that you know what meals you’re going to need this week you can make your grocery list. This cuts down on impulse buying and food waste because you only buy what you need to make meals and snacks; you’re not just throwing anything that catches your eye into the cart. It also ensures that when you’re going to make your meal that you haven’t forgotten something. There’s nothing like going to make buffalo chicken and realizing you don’t have any buffalo sauce!

3. Set aside time for prep

This is usually the part where people get thrown off in their plan. Taking time for meal prep does not mean dedicating an entire Sunday afternoon to cooking. It could mean that you’re taking 20 minutes to chop up vegetables for snacks while you’re making a batch of pulled chicken in your Instant Pot (Also if you don’t have a pressure cooker get yourself one! It’s a huge timesaver and can double as a crockpot.). Even the smallest bit of preparation for the week ahead can save you time and stress. 

4. Store your foods conveniently

Does your fridge have room for 5 days of individual meals? Do you have enough containers for food storage? Are these containers portable, leakproof, shatterproof? Do you need to take a cooler to store your food for the day or do you have access to a refrigerator? 

5. Follow through with your plan

When life happens during the week – a rescheduled game, an unexpected late work night – it can be hard to stay committed to your plan. Remember that you’ve already done some of the prep work and you would hate to waste that food but also that reaching your goals requires consistency and occasionally some discipline and tough choices. That’s why it’s important to also build some fun into your plan! Include plenty of vegetables of course but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy homemade pizza one night, schedule a dinner out at your favorite restaurant, or meet friends for drinks. These can all be part of a healthy balanced nutrition plan. 

 

We’re all striving for food freedom and a healthy relationship with our nutrition and it might seem counterintuitive to actually implement more discipline but meal planning and prepping doesn’t have to be one more stressful chore. It’s ok to take some shortcuts where you need to. It’s not about perfection but rather being 1% better than yesterday. As Jocko Willink says “Freedom is what everyone wants – to be able to act and live with freedom. But the only way to get to a place of freedom is through discipline.”. 

If you need help with accountability and planning we’ve got tools for that!

The War on Fat

by Aimee Wojtowecz

What causes more fear in the American language than the word FAT, that often misunderstood macronutrient? In the late 1970s, America’s fear of fat really took off. It started when senator George McGovern called a congressional hearing to discuss the effects of the Standard American Diet (SAD) and its links to disease and, more specifically, heart disease. There were some causal links between saturated fat consumption and increased levels of LDL cholesterol, but there were a lot of things that scientists still didn’t understand. There just wasn’t enough data or research to make concrete recommendations, but this stopped no one. This hearing resulted in the first set of dietary guidelines for the American diet (Aubrey, 2014). Fat was bad.

With fat out of the way what did Americans fill the void with? Carbohydrates. The dietary experts at the time assumed and recommended that diets be filled with carbohydrates from things like fruits, vegetables and whole grains but something was lost in translation. Instead, what the general public heard was that fat is bad, carbs are good, and so began the era of low-fat or fat-free and high-carb products. Sugar became the standard replacement in most low-fat and fat-free products. By the early ’90s, fat-free products dominated the shelves, I know somebody out there remembers those SnackWell’s Devil’s Food Cookies that dominated my teen years! This is when things started to get really interesting. Instead of a healthier population, levels of obesity and type II diabetes started skyrocketing (Aubrey, 2014). By trying to fix one problem (misguided at best) a whole new slew of problems were created. 

If you look at more recent studies, there has been no concrete evidence that low-fat diets are best for weight loss, or that they lead to decreased incidence of disease (Aubrey, 2014). We need certain fats in our diet. Dietary fat helps with promoting healthy brain and central nervous system function, supporting heart health, reducing inflammation (shout out to omega-3’s!) and so much more (Gordon, 2019). So where does this leave the average American looking to improve their health? 

Balance. 

It always comes back to balance in all the things. We need healthy fats in our diet. Healthier fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, for example olives, nuts and seeds and their oils; fish; avocado. Other types of fats, saturated and trans fats, should be consumed in moderation because of an increased risk between disease and consumption levels. This includes foods like butter, red meat, cheese, ice cream (high-fat dairy), and palm oil (Boston & Ma 02115 +1495‑1000, 2012). 

If you’ve lived with a fear of fat let this be a nudge towards accepting that fat can be part of a healthy diet and is necessary in reaching your goals and optimal health. The key word here is “part” of a healthy diet, not the basis of a healthy diet. Moderation goes in all directions (and yes I’m vaguely referring to that “diet” that rhymes with cheeto). 

References
Aubrey, A. (2014, March 28). Why We Got Fatter During The Fat-Free Food Boom. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/03/28/295332576/why-we-got-fatter-during-the-fat-free-food-boom
Boston, 677 Huntington Avenue, & Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. (2012, September 18). Fats and Cholesterol. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/
Gordon, RDN, LD, B. (2019, August 6). Choose Healthy Fats. Eat Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/choose-healthy-fats

Protein 101

by Aimee Wojtowecz

This is part 2 of our intro to macronutrients series and this week we’re here to talk about protein. Everyone agrees we need “enough” protein, but what does that even mean? 

First let’s talk about what protein is. Protein is considered an essential nutrient, made from amino acids and present in every cell of the body. There are over 20 various amino acids that work kind of like puzzle pieces that compliment each other to form complete proteins. Protein is involved in growing and maintaining bodily tissues as well as synthesizing and maintaining hormones (Teaching Dietary Protein Basics, 2021). It also helps with our immune system and appetite regulation. 

There are three classifications of amino acids; essential, non-essential, and conditional; or more simply one’s the body cannot produce itself, one’s that it can, and some that are usually not essential except in times of extreme stress or illness. There are 9 essential amino acids that must come from the food we eat whether that’s plant based or animal based; histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. The great part about amino acids is that you don’t have to worry about getting all of them in every meal, just strive to have a variety over the course of the day (Amino Acids, 2021). 

So how much do we need? The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) suggests a minimum of 0.8 grams for every kilogram of body weight per day, or roughly 7 grams per 20 pounds. 

Examples

  • For a 140-pound person, that means about 50 grams of protein each day.
  • For a 200-pound person, that means about 70 grams of protein each day.

The NAM also sets a wide standard for an acceptable range, anywhere from 10%-35% of total daily caloric intake (Boston & Ma 02115 +1495‑1000, 2012). Maryland University of Integrative Health advises 0.8-1.0 g/kg for adult maintenance and up to 1.2-2.0 for adult athletes. With ranges all over the place how do you decide how much you need? Goals. More importantly your very specific goals; are you training for endurance or for strength gains; to maintain your body composition or to change it; what stage of life are you in right now? There’s a lot of factors to consider other than just some article you read in a magazine telling you to eat that much (or that little). 

There’s also several health factors to consider when trying to decide the best protein sources for you. You have to take into consideration the whole package, the other nutrients that you’re getting when consuming that protein source; fat, sodium, fiber, carbohydrates, B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids. Some common examples: 

  • A 4-ounce broiled sirloin steak is a great source of protein—about 33 grams worth, but it also delivers about 5 grams of saturated fat.
  • A 4-ounce ham steak with 22 grams of protein has only 1.6 grams of saturated fat, but it’s loaded with 1,500 milligrams worth of sodium.
  • 4 ounces of grilled sockeye salmon has about 30 grams of protein, naturally low in sodium, and contains just over 1 gram of saturated fat. Salmon and other fatty fish are also excellent sources of omega-3 fats, a type of fat that’s especially good for the heart.
  • A cup of cooked lentils provides about 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber, and it has virtually no saturated fat or sodium (Boston & Ma 02115 +1495‑1000, 2012).

 

Finally let’s talk about protein supplements. Do you need a protein shake after you workout? Well again the answer is yes and no. It comes back to your goals and what your normal daily intake is like, your exercise routine, age, and overall health. It is considered a supplement and therefore is not regulated the same way that foods and medicines are (LDN, 2020). I suggest talking to a qualified professional if you’re looking to add a protein supplement to your diet. 

Nutrition can be simple, it can also be as complex as you want to make it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to eat to support the lifestyle you want, schedule your FREE nutrition intro and ask us anything you want!! 

 

Resources

Amino acids: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (2021). Retrieved August 31, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002222.htm

Boston, 677 Huntington Avenue, & Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. (2012, September 18). Protein. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/

LDN, E. G., MLA, RD. (2020, March 9). The scoop on protein powder. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-scoop-on-protein-powder-2020030918986

Teaching Dietary Protein Basics. (2021). Retrieved August 31, 2021, from https://www.eatrightpro.org/practice/practice-resources/international-nutrition-pilot-project/teaching-dietary-protein-basics

Carbohydrates for Performance

by Aimee Wojtowecz

A few blogs back I talked about macronutrients, calories and tracking. Let’s get further into it! This will be part one of a three part series about macronutrients: what they are, why we need them, their impact on performance and recovery, and some suggestions as to your healthiest options. There are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. This week we start with what has become the most divisive of the three, carbohydrates. (This gets a little sciency, so hang in there!)

Carbohydrates are a class of compounds that can be defined as having a ratio of carbon to hydrogen to oxygen of 1:2:1, Cn(H2O)n. Simple carbohydrates include glucose, galactose, fructose, maltose, sucrose and lactose. These are considered monosaccharides and disaccharides. Complex carbohydrates include glycerose, erythrose, ribose, which are oligosaccharides made of 3 to 10 monosaccharides, and starch, glycogen, pectin, cellulose and gums, which are polysaccharides containing more than 10 monosaccharides. Polysaccharides provide both energy storage and structural functions (Ross, Caballer, Cousins, Tucker and Ziegler, 2014). 

Dietary fiber is considered a complex carbohydrate and can be further broken down into soluble fiber, pectin and hydrocolloids; and insoluble fiber, cellulose and hemicellulose. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are fermented by the luminal bacteria of the colon. The regular consumption of the daily recommended fiber intake has shown the potential to diminish glucose absorption, prevent weight gain, and increase the load of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants in the diet (Ross, Caballer, Cousins, Tucker and Ziegler, 2014). 

We have multiple versions of low carbohydrate diets: Atkins, Keto, Paleo, and yet the American population continues to grow more unhealthy. It is estimated that by the year 2030 (which isn’t so far off anymore), 552 million people will be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle factors including poor quality carbohydrate consumption have been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes while consumption of whole grains and fiber, specifically total fiber and cereal fiber intake, have been inversely associated with type 2 diabetes. The presence of fiber slows blood sugar absorption and causes a bulking effect in the stomach both of which delay the rate of hunger return and/or increase the feelings of satiety (AlEssa et al., 2015).

We’ve long been told that simple carbohydrates are “bad”. Simple carbohydrates include fructose, aka the sugars found in fruit. But recent research suggests that combining fructose with glucose (simple carbohydrate + complex carbohydrate) can increase total carbohydrate availability, allowing for higher carbohydrate oxidation rates (yay for sustained energy!), increased endurance workout performance, and accelerated post-exercise glycogen repletion rates (think about times when you need to recover faster such as competitions with multiple events, or hard workouts with less than 24 hours between them) (Fuchs, Gonzalez, van Loon, 2019).

So now we know what carbohydrates are and why we need a variety which leaves us with the question of what are our best options? This list is just an example of the types of foods that fall into each category and not a complete list of all healthier carbohydrates. 

Complex Carbohydrates

  • Oats
  • Beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Wild rice
  • Quinoa
  • Sprouted breads
  • Acorn squash

 

Simple Carbohydrates

  • Bananas
  • Berries (Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Figs

 

If you have any questions on carbohydrates or how to better work them into your diet, sign up for a FREE 15-minute nutrition consultation and let us help you add those carbs back into your life!

 

References

AlEssa, H. B., Bhupathiraju, S. N., Malik, V. S., Wedick, N. M., Campos, H., Rosner, B., … Hu, F. B. (2015). Carbohydrate quality and quantity and risk of type 2 diabetes in US women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(6), 1543–1553. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.116558

Fuchs CJ, Gonzalez JT, van Loon LJC. (2019). Fructose co-ingestion to increase carbohydrate availability in athletes. J Physiol. Jul;597(14): 3549-3560. doi: 10.1113/JP277116. Epub 2019 Jul 2. PMID: 31166604; PMCID: PMC6852172. 

Ross, A.C., Caballero, B., Cousins, R.J., Tucker, K.L., and Ziegler, T.R. (Eds.). (2014). Modern nutrition in health and disease (11th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 

 

The Magic Pill

by Michael Plank

There’s a whole lot in this day and age that we can get immediately, or dang-close to it. Things are becoming more convenient by the day. Grocery pick-up! Same-day delivery! It is a magical time to be alive. But when so much of what we want is available at our fingertips, it can be frustrating when health and wellness don’t come quite as easily… or maybe that’s not quite right.

Maybe it’s not that building health and wellness is difficult, it’s that it can be slow. Because the truth is that there actually is a magic pill of sorts for weight loss, strength gain, and biomarker improvement.

Consistency.

That’s it. That’s the whole secret. You don’t have to workout for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week; you don’t have to completely cut out all carbohydrates and processed foods; you don’t have to engage in monumental, herculean efforts. You just have to keep going. Consistent mediocrity will beat sporadic excellence every time.

And really, that’s a huge part of what we do as coaches: we help our members stay consistent. You probably don’t need to learn about what foods are good for you, you probably don’t need to learn that lifting more weight makes you stronger; what you need is to know that every week, someone is waiting for you, and excited to see you show up to work out like you said you would. Every week, someone is checking in to be sure you’re still good with creative ideas for those 2 servings of vegetables you planned on. Every week, someone is in your corner, helping you to not just do what will help you, but helping you want to do what will help you.

Because then you’ll be consistent. And then you’ll get results. And it’s as simple as that. Magic pill.

Macros: Yea or Nay?

by Aimee Wojtowecz

IIFYM

No it’s not some secret cult, it’s the acronym for the “If It Fits Your Macros” movement. The premise being that the path to health and fitness relies solely on counting macronutrients: weighing and measuring everything before it passes your lips.

As nutritionists we often get asked about tracking, journaling, counting macros or “points”; whatever label you want to put on it, what it comes down to is accountability. Tracking our foods can absolutely be a useful tool, but maybe not in the ways you expect. There are many reasons to track that aren’t just about calories. You can track protein, fat or carbohydrate intakes, maybe you’re watching your sodium levels and need to track that, or you’re tracking your vitamin and mineral intake to make sure that you’re getting all the needed nutrients. You can track the QUALITY of the foods you’re taking in because maybe you’re trying to cut back on processed foods or maybe you are indeed tracking the calories as a means to reach your goals; not because those calories somehow increase or decrease your value as a human being but because you’re an athlete with goals that sometimes require certain calories.

The important takeaway here is that we want to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food and sometimes tracking can be a beneficial tool for that but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes tracking can lead to an obsession with food, or “clean eating”, or alter our relationship with exercise. If you know that tracking isn’t for you but you want to stay on track with your training and nutrition plan, what do you do when everyone is screaming at you that you must count macros?

Keep. It. Simple. 

We often recommend the plate method (1/2 plate non-starchy veggies, 1/4 lean meat and 1/4 complex carb) as a way to estimate portions and make sure that you are balancing meals with a combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, while also ensuring that you get plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day. It’s simple and effective. But if that seems overwhelming, start even simpler. Try starting by including a vegetable at most meals and snacks. Or start by having a single glass of water with every meal and snack.

You can make massive improvements to your health and fitness with the smallest of steps when it comes to your nutrition and as we all know, nutrition is the foundation upon which our fitness is built.