Simple Ways to Be More Sustainable

Like all of you, my life changed dramatically when COVID-19 hit. I was forced home, my job as a trainer at a fitness resort near Seattle in jeopardy, and all the triathlon races I was training for postponed indefinitely. It would have been easy to let the circumstances bring me down, but I wasn’t ready to give up hope on growth for 2020. I threw myself into revising our lifestyle to be eco-friendlier.

In years past, I had the “if it’s not happening to me, it doesn’t affect me, I don’t really care” mentality. I also used the excuse that I was so busy with work and training that I didn’t have time to deep dive my life and turn it all around. When I was forced to adapt my work life, a positive result was the opportunity to become more sustainable. I can’t wait to share how this has changed me as a person, and how you can implement small rituals to help save our Earth.

Commuting 60-80 miles a day in a Jeep certainly contributed to pollution. Now, I drive one time a week, 10 miles at most, sometimes less! While it’s not possible for everyone to work remote, there are other ways you can be more efficient AND save money as a result. Carpooling is one option or joining the #GoByBike movement started by one of our favorite cycling companies, Trek! Trek makes a cool E-Bike for commuting, as well as several bike options for people who want to be healthier and exercise their way to work or the store. Check it out here!

Perhaps the easiest way for you to have an immediate impact on both the environment and your budget is to do a quick peek around your kitchen and bathroom. Where do you consume a lot of plastic or waste? Is there a way for you to either make it yourself or purchase an eco-friendlier version? For example, I noticed the main source of waste was food packaging, plastic shampoo, soap, and conditioner bottles, air freshener or cleaning bottles, face scrubs/masks, detergents, and lotion bottles. I took a few weekends to try my hand making most of our bathroom and kitchen needs things myself. Yes, it took time. Yes, I messed up a few times. Yes, I kept going and now regularly make all of our bathroom needs from scratch. You may want to try it once for fun- perhaps it will stick like it did for me and perhaps it’s not for you! Below I’ve listed my homemade items I’ve found easy to make myself weekly or monthly,  along with eco-friendly links to products you may consider buying instead to help reduce your waste.

DIY Kitchen:  DIY Bathroom:  DIY Laundry Room/Other:  
Oat MilkBread Pickled seasonal bulk vegetables Mayonnaise Cleaning solutionAir freshenerSoap Shampoo barsConditionerFacial scrubsLotionDetergent Candles Décor  

Eco Friendly Resources:

**If all of this still seems like too much, start by simply using sponges instead of paper towels, reusable plastic bags instead of Ziplocs or single use baggies, reuse your coffee cups from coffee shops, bring refillable water bottles to use instead of buying single use plastic bottles, and avoid buying disposable cutlery, plates, and cups.

I’ve also enjoyed starting indoor and outdoor gardens! I grew up on a farm with a massive garden, and after spending a few years in the Arizona desert I realized how much joy thriving green plants bring me! I’ve started a container garden consisting of herbs, tomatoes, berries, and spinach partially from seed and partially from propagating plants from my existing outdoor garden. My hope is that I can use as much produce as possible from my own plants, so I don’t have to waste packaging material or even fuel to get to the store. I want to be the source as much as possible to save money and reduce my carbon footprint. I enjoy reusing milk containers and bottles to plant new life that will later provide for our meals. Whenever possible, I try to shop at our local farmers market, Carpinito Bros. They offer reduced priced bulk vegetables and fruits, which are great for canning, making sauces, pickles, and juices!

I urge you to locate a farmer’s market near you! Additionally, we use a weekly service that picks up compost (leftover food scraps and yard debris), garbage, and recycling. I wish all states and cities offered this! If you don’t have these resources, look online for a local recycling center to drop off plastics, cardboard, paper, and aluminum recyclables.  If you don’t have a compost option with garbage pick-up, great news: You can start composting TODAY! Start by dumping all food scraps and biodegradable waste into a lined container (I use a large upcycled plant container lined with a re-usable food bag. From there, you may choose to start a compost pile, dump into an area in your garden if you have one, or simply begin a large, open-style compost bin outdoors. Be careful of local animals, as composting is a bit like a buffet for them, and reference different ways to start composting here.

In short, I’ve become a more resilient, self-sufficient, confident individual by taking care of my environment, saving money, and becoming the source of my foods and hygiene products. I enjoy crafting in ways that have a positive impact on Earth, and feel accomplished every time I make bread, soap, jam or repurpose a plastic bottle. I hope you can find a few small ways to make a change, too! Please reach out if you would like to try some of these ideas but are a little intimidated or overwhelmed at how to go about it. I’ve tried all sorts of short cuts, and even some long cuts because I don’t have everything some recipes call for, so holler if I can help you get in touch with your hippie side!

Remember: There is no Planet B.

Cheers,

Becca K

                                 

                                                          


Normalize Carbohydrates

Controversial topic, I know! Carbohydrates have long been the “enemy” to people who associate themselves as healthy. I, too, used to encourage clients to focus on protein and healthy fats to lose weight and limit carbohydrates. Protein and fat play important roles in metabolism and recovery, don’t get me wrong. My mission (today at least) is to decriminalize carbohydrates and help show you how balancing carbs, fats, and proteins in harmony will help you feel and move your best!

I felt lead to discuss this after watching a recent episode of Down to Earth with Zac Efron (swoon). If you have a chance, give Episode 4 a watch. The episode is filmed in Sardinia where there is a notably high population of centenarians (people living over 100). Why does this matter? Doctors studying the envious longevity of the Sardinian people noted they have a diet high in carbohydrates and lower in protein. The healthy senior citizens walked rigorously, drank wine, ate foods grown, harvested and cooked by the community, and lived low stress lives. Sounds great, right?

While living on an Italian hillside sipping wine and eating pasta isn’t realistic for 99% of us, I think we can learn something from this community. It proves carbohydrates aren’t bad. In fact, they’re clearly associated with living long lives. We can also assume how foods are prepared is important. Taking the time to prepare food with love and intention, ideally growing what we can ourselves, is a healthy practice. Harvesting is great exercise (my dad is a farmer, so I can speak to this from years spent in our family garden and corn fields!) and food preparation is mentally stimulating as well. Cooking and eating nutritious carbohydrates should not be taboo!

As a competitive athlete, I rely on carbohydrates for fuel and recovery. If you’re not a competitive athlete, you still need fuel to survive. Metabolism is a word that gets thrown around a lot by fitness guru’s and coaches. To put it simply, your body needs calories to operate even when you’re at rest. There’s important stuff happening inside of you that requires energy, even when you’re sitting down and reading a book. That being said, the more fit and active you are the more fuel your body needs, even at rest. In short, everyone needs different amounts of carbohydrates, protein, and fats based on their genetics and activity level.

To review, here’s what your needs and why:

  1. Carbohydrates: provide and store energy for your cells, sparing protein and fat for other uses
  2. Protein: grow and maintain tissue, provide structure for cells, regulate PH, acts as a messenger aiding in communication between cells, important for chemical functions
  3. Fat: provide energy, support cell growth, aids in protecting vital organs and keeping them warm!

I choose different ratios based on my activity level that day. Example: on days I’m very busy and active, I eat a lot of healthy carbohydrates like fruit, brown rice, and organic or rice pasta to keep my energy up during the day. In the evening, I focus on lean protein, fibrous vegetables and fats once my activity is done. On days my activity level is low, say a recovery day where I sit a lot and write these great blogs, I eat more protein, fiber, and fat throughout the day and fewer carbohydrates in general. I also NEVER train without fuel.

Perhaps this leaves you thinking: what are some healthy sources of carbohydrates and ways to prepare them? I’m happy to provide some suggestions! Ultimately, you need to eat things you enjoy and taste good. Life is just too short. The good news is there are MILLIONS of healthy, tasty, balanced foods that provide all the key nutrients I just outlined. While the purpose of this blog is to get America comfortable with carbs again, I’m not encouraging you binge on Wonder Bread and Little Debbie products. Instead, I hope you look into what healthy combinations of foods and food groups that you enjoy, including carbohydrates. As a free resource, most of the recipes I post on my website include carbs, fats, and protein because I enjoy the way I feel when I eat all three.

Here are my favorite go-to combinations:

  • Apples and cheese or nut butter
  • Banana with raw nuts or nut butter
  • Brown rice with avocado
  • Oatmeal with an egg, avocado and feta OR almond milk, blueberries & honey
  • Quinoa with fresh fruit, almond or oat milk and a drizzle of honey
  • Rice or organic pasta with sautéed vegetables and roasted or grilled chicken
  • Homemade banana or zucchini bread with nut butter
  • Granola with fruit and oat or almond milk, OR yogurt

The takeaway is this: Carbohydrates are not bad. We should fuel wisely with wholesome, intentionally prepared foods. We should choose foods based on our taste and activity level while having the intuition to adjust. All things in moderation.

Be well.

Becca’s Favorite Homemade Bread

A simple and delicious way to reduce plastic packaging while investing in producing the foods you eat. Kids may enjoy helping knead the dough as part of a fun kitchen experiment!

*Whole wheat flour can be used in place of flour, too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups warm water (should be warm to the touch, not boiling)
  • ½ cup sugar (I use white sugar but plan to try with brown raw sugar soon!)
  • 1 ½ T. active dry yeast
  • ½ – 1 T. salt (I like Himalayan salt, and prefer more salt)
  • 5-6 cups flour

Directions:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine water with sugar until dissolved. Add yeast and stir continuously for about 5 minutes. The mixture should look combined and froth a little. Add salt and stir for another minute. Add flour one cup at a time. (I usually add about five cups, and then beginning lightly kneading, adding pinches of flour as a go until the dough isn’t sticky to the touch). Knead for 7-8 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place. I usually Once the dough is double in size, punch down (the fun part!) and divide into two greased 9 x 5 loaf pans. Let the dough rise again for about 30 minutes. Be patient, the bread will turn out at about the height you put it in at! Bake at 350* for about 25 minutes, or until a cooking thermometer reads 190-200*. Brush with butter, let cool, and slice with a serrated knife. E N J O Y!


Eating Out At Home – Creating Your Favorite Restaurant Eats Without Going Out!

We eat out for convenience, the experience, and to eat great tasting food. With COVID-19 rearing its ugly head, it may be awhile before we get our traditional restaurant experience. That shouldn’t stop you from being creative in the kitchen! I’ve recreated some classic favorites for you to make at home, along with tips and tricks to create a positive dining experience. Eating out at home is cheaper, healthier, and often times more memorable!

Each themed night will require a few special ingredients, so be sure to check the special grocery list I’ve included when doing your weekly shopping.

1. Bar Food

  • Jalapeno poppers
  • Wings
  • Baked Nachos

2. Wine Night

  • Cheese Board
  • Easy apps to pair with wine

3. Italian

  • Pasta Carbonara
  • Simple Salad w/ homemade vinaigrette

4. Surf N Turf

  • Steak & Shrimp
  • Grilled Corn

1. Bar Food

Grilling the wings instead of deep frying saves a ton of calories and mess! While the nachos and poppers may still pack some delicious calories in, using the best quality ingredients and portion control is your advantage for cooking at home! Use the best quality ingredients you feel comfortable buying at the store (quality cheese vs. pasteurized American or nacho cheese sauce for example).

Ingredients needed:

For the poppers:

  • 8-10 large jalapenos
  • 1 brick Cream cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten with 1 T. water
  • 1 ½ cups Dried Bread crumbs, OR 1 cup flour seasoned with salt/pepper for dredging
  • ½ cup olive or vegetable oil
  • For the wings:
  • Party wings (flats and drumsticks, skin on)
  • Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 T. – ¼ cup butter
  • 1 large bottle of Franks Hot sauce

For the nachos:

  • 1 bag of Tortilla chips
  • 2 cups Shredded cheese
  • ½ Onion, diced 
  • 1 cup Salsa

Optional additional toppings: olives, sour cream, avocado, black beans, sliced jalapeno

Serving suggestions: Ranch, carrot and celery slices, additional salsa and/or hot sauce.

The first step in getting this meal to the table quickly and efficiently is to prepare the wings. Preheat your oven to 375, or smoker/grill if you have one (preferred method) Arrange you wings on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a sauce pan or large microwavable bowl. Combine with 1-2 cups Franks Hot Sauce. Tip: If you like your wings spicy, use less butter and more hot sauce. If you prefer mild, use more butter and less hot sauce. Regardless of your ratios, I promise you can’t mess them up! Brush the seasoned wings with the sauce. Whatever you have leftover can be used to baste the wings at the 10 minute mark. If grilling or smoking, baste when you turn them once, about 10-15 minutes in. Baste once more once finished grilling or baking. Can serve with additional Franks sauce (do not use the sauce you basted the wings in, its likely touched raw chicken!)

While the wings are grilling, prepare the nachos. Layer a sheet of tortilla chips on a baking sheet. Top with cheese and onions. If you’re serving a bigger group, add another layer of chips and cheese. Bake at 375* until cheese is melted. Top with salsa, and any additional toppings. Serve with more salsa if desired. Once you throw the nachos into the oven, check the wings!

While nachos are baking, and wings are grilling, fry up the poppers! Heat a deep frying pan filled with olive or vegetable oil. There should be no “dry” spots, so be liberal with the oil! Set the heat to medium high. Cut each pepper in half. Remove seeds. Use a knife to fill each half with a heaping tablespoon of cream cheese. Dip into egg/water mixture and roll in bread crumbs or seasoned flour. Place in oil. Fry until golden brown, turning once. I use tongs to careful turn the poppers so the filling stays in! When cooked, transfer to a plate with paper towels to absorb excess oil.

Serve nachos on baking sheet you cooked them on OR transfer to a fun platter, drizzled with your choice of yummy  toppings. Serve poppers on a plate with ranch to dip in if desired. Arrange wings on a platter with bonus sauce, sliced carrot and/or celery sticks, and ranch, if desired! Serve outdoors on the patio with appetizer plates or enjoy as a buffet while enjoy a sports game, re run, or movie!

2. Wine Night

A romantic meal on the patio is minutes away! . Get creative! Try different cheeses, wines, crackers, meats, and fruits each time you make this! Enjoy your favorite wine house playlist to complete the ambiance

Cheese Board:

  • 1 lb brick white cheese (I prefer Gouda or Havarti)
  • 1lb  brick yellow cheese (I prefer sharp cheddar)
  • 1 large cluster of grapes (you won’t need an entire pound)
  • 2 red apples (I like jazz, pink lady, Honeycrisp, and/or fuji)
  • 1 lb assorted antipasto (salami, prosciutto, etc.)
  • 1 jar olives (can be stuffed, as fancy /non fancy as you prefer)
  • 1 package crackers (can be gluten free if desired, just be sure to choose something sturdy!)

Serves: 2-3

To prepare: Slice cheeses into several small slices. Rinse grapes. Core and slice apples thinly. Drain olives. Arrange cheese, fruit, olives, and antipasto meat on a large wooden cutting board. Place crackers in a decorative dish next to board. Serve with your favorite red or white wine and small appetizer plates. For a decorative touch, you may consider leaving part of the brick of cheese unsliced and placing on board with a cheese knife.

Other wine-friendly appetizers:

Stuffed Dates:

Slice 20 Medjool dates in half, removing pit. Fill with room temperature goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash of paprika. Drizzle with honey.

Easy Skillet Quesadilla:

Heat a skillet on medium heat. Place one large flour tortilla (burrito sized) directly into pan. Sprinkle ½ cup shredded cheese on half of the tortilla. Add chopped cooked chicken, salsa, chopped peppers/onions if desired, or just keep cheese only! Fold the unfilled half of tortilla over filling and gently turn, cooking another minute or two. Both sides should be golden brown.

Serve with salsa.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries:

Melt a 4 oz bar of Bakers Semi Sweet or Dark Chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring every 30-60 seconds until smooth. Rinse strawberries and pat dry, leaving stems on. Dip the small end in the melted chocolate and place on wax paper. Chill for at 10-20 minutes before plating on a decorative dish and serving with your favorite red wine!

3. Gourmet Italian

Delicious, decadent, and simple!

Simple Salad:

  • 2 cups spinach, stems removed
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar,  or balsamic vinegar reduction (my preference)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Place spinach and arugula in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, balsamic, olive oil and salt and pepper together (start with 1 tsp of each if you’re unsure.) Taste after whisking and add more salt, pepper, vinegar or oil depending on your preference. Drizzle slowly over greens (you may have leftover dressing). Toss to coat, serve with pasta.

Pasta Carbonara:

  • 1 lb package pasta
  • 8 slices bacon, cut in half
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (+ ¼ for topping, if desired)
  • 3 eggs+1 egg yolk , whisked lightly

Serves: 2-4

Directions: Start by cooking bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Place on paper towels to drain. Cook garlic on medium heat in bacon fat until fragrant and light brown. Remove from heat and pour garlic and pan drippings into a medium sized bowl.

Next, cook pasta (ideally thin spaghetti, but I’ve used all types of noodles) in a large pot of water. Add a dash of salt. Shoot for al dente texture. Reserve 1  cup of the water when draining pasta.  Place pasta in a large bowl.

Add cheese and whisked eggs to garlic. Temper the mixture with ½ cup of pasta water. Add to cooked pasta and toss to coat. Crumble bacon and add to mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Add more of the reserved pasta water if needed to thin the mixture. Top with additional shredded parmesan cheese if desired. Serve immediately with Simple Salad and wine!

4. Surf N Turf with Corn on the Barbie

Who says you can’t have a beach style theme on your back patio? This simple meal comes together quickly, and will be FAR cheaper at home than if you were to order out! Just be sure to get the corn, steak and shrimp when you hit the grocery store, as those are less frequently bought items. Enjoy out on the patio with a beer, glass of wine, or summer cocktail (find cocktail ideas on my website in Becca’s Kitchen tab)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa, pasta, or rice (you can use leftovers or start by preparing as your first step)
  • 2 steaks
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • McCormick’s Steak seasoning
  • 1 lb frozen shrimp, thawed
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. garlic salt
  • 2-4 tsp. pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 ears corn
  • 1 stick of butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Serves: 2

Directions: Preheat grill or smoker to 400.*Place steaks on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil and season both sides of steak with McCormick’s as heavily or lightly as desired. Place on grill, along with corn, in husk. Flip steaks and corn after 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté shrimp in a large pan with oil on medium high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Stir frequently to cook evenly. Once shrimp is no longer pink, remove from heat and pour the lemon juice over shrimp. Steak and corn should just be getting done!

Check steak with a sharp knife to check done-ness. Remove corn from husks.

If using leftover rice, quinoa, or pasta, place 1 cup on a plate and reheat, or if prepared first it should be cool. Place 1 cup on each plate. Soften butter in an appropriate microwave safe serving container and heat for :15-:20 seconds. Plate steak, shrimp and corn over rice. Serve with softened butter, salt and pepper.

I hope these options will help enhance your dining-at-home experience! Cheers!


Meal Prep 101: Keeping it SIMPLE

The trick in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is consistency. The first step is outlined in my last blog, Go-To Grocery List, which includes a checklist shopping guide to use when heading out for your weekly grocery trip. The second step is using those foods to make delicious, healthy meals! I’m going to keep it simple and provide you with a meal prep guide that will save you time and effort during busy weekdays. Even if you’re working from home, prepping foods will help eliminate the “grazing and gaining” trend!

            After you’ve successfully braved the masses at your local Costco or grocery store, follow the steps listed. I usually encourage my athletes and clients to do this on separate days to avoid feeling overwhelmed, but the choice is yours! I usually allow 60-90 minutes for grocery shopping and 60-90 minutes for meal prepping.

*If you have small children, add 1-2 hours on to that guesstimate 😉 

1.      Make your carbs ahead of time (30-60 minutes)

  • This is the best one because it’s EASY! Throw 2-3 cups of rice/quinoa into a rice cooker with the prescribed water amount and have it ready to pull out for a quick side dish. You can also boil a large pot of pasta instead for the same purpose. Tip: stir in a drizzle of olive oil and mix before storing.
  • If you’re on a sweet potato kick, now is the time to can slice the potatoes thinly and bake for an hour @ 375. Drizzle with oil, season with salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder or taco seasoning. Start here as this step takes the longest.

2.      Slice and dice veggies. (10-15 minutes)

  • Dice/ Chop onions, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, etc. for MAIN DISHES
    • Slice carrots and peppers for healthy SNACKS
    • Place diced/chopped veggies in a large container to streamline dinner prep
    • Place sliced carrots and peppers in individual serving containers or snack bags for grab n go convenience.
    • I like to knock this out right after starting the carbohydrates; it’s the most tedious.

3.      Prepare your proteins (20-25 minutes)

  • Marinate your chicken, fish, pork, beef, etc. If you’re grilling or baking your meat, that’s as far as you need to go. When it’s time for dinner, all you have to do is pull the marinated meat out of the freezer.
  • I usually prepare 1-2 lbs. of turkey taco meat as a staple fridge item. You may prefer to do tuna or chicken salad, or beef tacos, or prepare a large container of tofu. Whatever your preference, I strongly recommend a mainstay item that you can build a meal around. Turkey taco meat can make a healthy salad, wrap, or rice bowl into a meal in 5-10 minutes. I prepare and store in a Ziploc container every week. Just throw ground turkey in a pan with taco seasonings and some water.
  • Rinse, slice/chop if needed, label and freeze any protein you won’t cook in the next 3-5 days. This eliminates waste, and the pressure associated with “needing to cook something before it goes bad.” Plus, it’s easy to grab a bag of sliced frozen chicken out of the freezer, thaw, and throw it into a pan to begin cooking.
  • Hard boiled eggs are a lifesaver for those who don’t get enough protein! Place a dozen eggs in a large pot of water, bring to a boil, boil 5-8 minutes, then turn off. Leave the eggs till they cool, then rinse with cold water. Shell, and place into containers or baggies for a high protein snack, or breakfast! I usually do this as my taco meat is cooking.

4.      Smoothies & Shakes (10-15 minutes)

  • Throw some smoothies in the fridge for an easy, healthy post workout snack or breakfast to go! Follow my Easy Recovery Smoothie recipe, or just throw fruit, almond milk, and protein powder into the blender and puree. Store in fridge or freezer.
    • If you’re a protein and milk/water only type, place scoop protein powder in shaker cups or baggies. Now, all you have to do is add liquid and shake. Brainless!

In a perfect world, your carbohydrates are done cooking as your proteins are finishing up so you can place everything in containers and store. I finish it all up with the smoothies or shakes before wiping down the kitchen. It may take a bit of fine-tuning your first try, so don’t hesitate to take notes on what you liked and what you want to different the following week to save time. It has to work for YOU. If you find a rhythm that works, you’ll be more motivated to stick with it each week. There’s room for variety, so have some fun being creative week to week. If you come up with any fun ideas or hacks, please share!


Go-To Grocery List For Consistent, Foolproof Meal Prepping

I’m going to cut right to the chase: in order to be successful with your weight and athletic performance, your diet needs to be sustainable, consistent, and balanced. You can’t expect to hop on a bandwagon plan for a month and then jump off when it gets hard. So, the first step in a healthy lifestyle should be committing to consistency for days, weeks, and months moving forward weekly grocery list is a manageable place to start. Print this off and bring it with you on every shopping trip. Sure, you can add to it or leave an item off if it’s out of stock, but the idea is a consistent base of ingredients that you can easily meal prep and cook from though out the week. The hardest part about cooking new, healthy meals is usually a lack of on-hand ingredients, which is the easiest out for take-out and unhealthy options that happen to be in the pantry. Let’s get shopping!

Pro Tip: Before heading out, use a pencil and check off anything you already have in-stock for the week, so you don’t over-buy.

Weekly Grocery List

  1. Protein Items
    • Tofu (expiration dates are usually 2-4 weeks, so it’s a nice thing to have on hand)
    • Chicken (breast, thighs, rotisserie, or canned- change it up each week!)
    • Pork tenderloin or thin cut pork chops (fine to alternate chicken/pork weekly)
    • Ground Turkey
    • Salmon or tilapia (fresh or frozen)
    • Bacon (I always have some in the freezer or fridge)
    • Canned black beans
  2. Dairy Items
    • Almond milk or lactose free milk
    • Greek yogurt (plain, nonfat. You can always add sweeteners or fat into a recipe later)
    • Eggs
    • Cheese- any kind! (shredded is nice to have on-hand as that saves a step, but block cheese is fine to pick up for variety)
    • Butter (I always keep a stock in the freezer for baking and cooking)
  3. Staple Items
    • Peanut or Almond butter
    • Olive oil
    • Almond flour
    • Oatmeal
    • Pasta (rice/gluten free noodles or regular noodles)
    • Brown Rice
    • Quinoa
    • Coffee
    • Whole grain bread or gluten-free bread
    • Honey
    • Soy Sauce or liquid aminos  
    • Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper
    • Garlic Powder (unless you prefer fresh)
    • Cinnamon
    • Taco Seasoning (unless you have Chili Powder on hand)
  4. Canned Goods
    • Corn
    • Chicken or Vegetable Stock
    • Tomatoes (diced)
    • Pasta or Tomato Sauce
    • Salsa
  5. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
    • Citrus fruit (lime, lemon, or oranges for adding acid to meals and cocktails)
    • Bell Peppers
    • Onions
    • Leafy greens (spinach, romaine, Swiss chard, red leaf, and/or butter)
    • An Orange Item: butternut squash, spaghetti squash, oranges, or sweet potatoes
    • Apples
    • Bananas
    • Avocados
    • Asparagus and/or Brussel sprouts (I prepare them similarly and prefer to alternate every week)
  6. Snack Foods
    • Fig Bars (gluten free if needed)
    • Pretzels (for long training rides. Can omit if not an endurance athlete)
    • Unsalted nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios)
    • Cheese Sticks
  7. Freezer Items
    • Yasso Greek yogurt bars
    • Veggie Burger Patties (for a quick meal that’s not horrendous for you)
    • Frozen fruit (any type)
    • Edamame (for a quick snack or side dish)
    • Frozen, Riced Cauliflower
  8. Beverages
    • Sparkling Water
    • Vodka or Wine (if you’re a cocktail person, or like cooking with wine)

Again, you don’t need every item every week, but you should have a good variety of items stocked in your pantry, fridge, and freezer to make meal prepping and weekly meals a breeze. Stay tuned for next week’s blog (Time-Efficient Meal Prepping) using the items listed!


Why You’re Fat

Lifestyle management is a daily challenge. One slip, two slips, three slips…and a bad habit is formed with consequences that can be ten-fold. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about lifestyle choices, without any bullsh*t. I’m here to speak truth, and offer a way out. If you need some life changes, this article will help get you on the right track. Let’s get right down to it. 

Main Causes of Obesity (from a trainer’s perspective) :

  1. Stress – 1 out of 75 adults experience panic disorders (National Institute of Mental Health)
  2. Lack of sleep – 1/3 of American adults report getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep/night (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) 
  3. Poor nutrition – The nationwide count for fast food restaurants has doubled since 1970! 

Common sense, right? The prior are three key ingredients to the Obesity Recipe and, quite frankly, get swept under the rug too much. While it may seem easy to “fix” stress, sleep, and nutrition, it’s actually the three topics I’m constantly stuck on with most clients. American lifestyle is high-paced, competitive, and busy. Is that an excuse? No. It is, however, an explanation – a piece to everyone’s individual puzzle.

Let’s look at stress, the causes and consequences, and address how to manage your lifestyle with proper sleep and nutrition to battle the bulge. 

Stress – the start of it all.  

To name a few of many causes: 

– Work – 80% of Americans reported feeling stressed at work, while almost 50% cited they need help managing stress. (American Institute of Stress) Changing careers, pressure to perform and hit deadlines, receiving promotions, and/or working split or night shifts are more specific examples of work related stress

– Fitness Routines – while it’s often a positive stressor, it’s still stress on the body. Training for a specific race, meet, and / or weight loss goals are examples of stressors. Even more specifically, high intensity and specific overload sessions are examples of things that can cause stress. 

– Family-  whether its chasing kids or helping a family member with an addiction or ailment, family can be stressful!

– Future of our country- surprisingly (or maybe not…) this ranked as one of the highest causes of stress in 2017. Some fear the national leader, while others are more stressed about how that specifically translates to things like Medicare. Long story short, Americans are the most concerned and stressed they have EVER been about this topic. (statistically) 

Any of these relate to you? If so, keep reading..

Consequences of short and long – term stress levels

*This is the main takeaway, so if you’re skimming, slow down here.

When we experience immediate stress, our body releases several hormones (you may recognize one in particular known as cortisol). After the removal of a short bout of stress, say a workout, or traffic jam, or busy day at work, some hormones dissipate, some stick around to make sure energy is restored. Here’s where insulin comes in. Elevating blood glucose (aka eating sugar) lowers some of these hormone levels. As we give into sugar cravings more, our bodies adapt. Soon, we need more sugar to relieve these elevated hormones, and after an extended level of stress (unsustainable amounts of high intensity exercises or prolonged lack of sleep, for example), elevated levels of said hormones hinder thyroid-stimulating hormones, the important ones that account for metabolizing 60-75% of our daily calorie expenditure) which in turn reduces quantities of hormones needed to regulate metabolism. Before we know it, we’re insulin-resistant with high levels of fat in our core. (NASM) Slippery slopes… 

Lifestyle Management 

Stress is a part of life. It always has been, it always will be. The reason why we’re more overweight is partly due to chronic stress from busy lifestyles, and the obnoxious amounts of readily available fast food and sugar. You’re allowed to be stressed! However, your reaction to stress has consequences. Do you want them to be positive (balanced diet and exercise) or negative (sugar cravings, insulin-resistance, weight gain)? *Note: discipline required to read further. 

  • Balance you life. Take 5 minutes at the beginning, middle, and/or end of your day to think about the positive aspects of your life. If you can’t fill 5 minutes with positivity, it’s time to make some drastic changes. If you’re one step ahead saying change is stressful, you bet your a** it is, but if short-term stress leads to relief of chronic stress well, that’s a trade I’d take any day. 
  • Incorporate aerobic activity. If all you’re doing is blowing off steam with ground and pound workouts, or avoiding exercise altogether, think about redirecting your time. If you’re not exercising, start with 30 minute walks 3 x’s a week. If you’re already exercising, step back and look at your approach. Do you need some aerobic activity to help reduce those stress hormones? Try doing 2 moderate workouts to 1 high intensity or anaerobic workouts. If you’re training for a specific, competitive event, be sure to include a recovery week every 2-4 weeks. 
  • SLEEP. Everyone is different, but the majority of us need 7-8 hours of sleep. This means exercising and eating at an appropriate time. Sometimes that means skipping an early workout if sleep quality was poor, while sometimes this means working out early to ensure a timely dinner and bedtime. Lastly, this means lights off and devices away by a certain time. If that’s too much to ask, reassess your priorities. 
  • Feed yourself. Under-fueling is an epidemic, in my dramatic opinion. Too many people work hard at demanding job, stress their bodies in training, and (in a futile attempt to lose weight) restrict calories. If give your body less than it needs to function, you only increase those naughty hormones I discussed. The result is fatigue, not weight loss. That’s depressing! If you’re unsure of what you need to ensure a healthy metabolism, consult a fitness professional. Nutrition is not a cookie-cutter plan. It takes time to find the right caloric intake for optimal performance and / or weight loss. 
  • Proper Nutrition. The minute you pull into McDonald’s after a stressful day at work after a poor night’s sleep is the minute you agree to the negative chain of events we discussed. To be clear: treats and rewards are part of a balanced routine, while stress-responses eating is an addictive habit. If you get promoted and celebrate with a milk shake, awesome! If you’re traveling for work, sleep-deprived, and react with a milk shake, not awesome. Set yourself up for success by grocery shopping for 1 hour, and meal prepping for 2 hours. That’s three hours of time on a day you’ve set aside each week to be successful during a busy week. If that’s still not possible, use an online food service to deliver healthy meals in stressful weeks. If you travel, plan your trip ahead to find walkable distance stores and be strong at company dinners. Skip the alcohol, bulk the vegetables. I could make this bullet a separate post, as this barely touches on ways to have proper nutrition. If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to me personally on this matter. 
  • Routine vs. Ritual: I’ve found most people to be creatures of habit. We prefer to have our schedule “normal.” For example: Breakfast at 7. Workout at 8. Shower and head to work at 9, so on and so forth. Bland, but seems to work…or does it? If you look at your schedule and find yourself going through your daily routine effortlessly, then it’s time to ramp it up a little. Rituals are meaningful tasks that specifically lead us closer to our goal. It’s the mentality behind the actions that make an impact. It’s quite possible your routine is holding you back from reaching your potential, merely by lulling you into mediocrity. Look at your day to day and find ways to insert rituals into your routine that will make you just 10% better. 

That’s it for today, folks!  Feel free to email me personally if clarification or personal advice is needed on any of the topics touched on today. 

BK