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Have you ever watched a cooking show where they try to pass a delicious healthy recipe off as a “20-minute meal”? You get all excited, ready to take notes and make this healthy kitchen masterpiece a reality, until you notice that as they are cooking, somehow all of their vegetables are already magically diced, their meats trimmed and cut, and their herbs and spices pre-measured? And then – big surprise! – the whole dish is done in 20 minutes or less! All they had to do was dump this, brown that, stir this in, and the whole creation was complete.

If you’ve had this experience and you’re anything like me you feel lied to. This was not a 20-minute meal. This was a 20-minute meal preceded by 10-15 minutes of peeling, chopping, dicing, and measuring which, again, if you’re anything like me, is the least enjoyable part of cooking.

Many of my clients struggle with this – they buy fresh veggies with perfect intentions of using them. But after a long day the thought of all that prep before they even get to cooking sends them, defeated, to that bag of freezer ravioli (or the corner fast food joint) and their produce one day closer to the garbage.

 



 

So how can we bridge this gap? We want our food to be healthy, and we need it to be quick and easy. Can we have both?

My answer is pretty much, yes. I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s not going to take any time and I certainly can’t hire a magic kitchen for you like the Food Network hosts have, but I can share the trick that has helped make healthful cooking SO MUCH FASTER for me.

That “trick” is food prep. Food prep is different than meal prep, where you actually cook and portion out individual meals in ready-to-go containers. If you have sufficient time and don’t mind eating the same meal for a few meals, meal prep is a great option! If you like a little more variety or can’t spare an hour or more for meal prep each week, give food prep a try!

 



 

Basically, you are your own magic kitchen. When you bring your groceries home, set all your produce (and your meats, if you really want to go for the gold!) on the counter. Put everything else away.

Now you get out your cutting board and knives (once!), and some containers. Chop, slice, and dice your little heart out. It usually takes 10-20 minutes, depending on how many veggies are in the recipes you’re using that week. Put them in containers based on the recipe they’re for. If we are having burgers, I slice tomatoes and onions, lay out lettuce, and put a handful of sliced mushrooms on a plate. If we’re having stew, I cube potatoes, chop onions, and slice carrots and seal them in a container. Then you clean up your cutting boards and knives (once!) and you’re done chopping for the week.

Note: Make sure that if you trim and cut raw meats, you prep them after you’re done with all your produce and that you store them in separate containers if they are uncooked!

Aren’t they pretty?

Now, when it’s time to cook, you can pull your container out of the fridge, dump this, brown that, stir this in, and your healthful meal is ready to go – just like the cooking pros!

For a demonstration of food prep and a recommendation for one of my favorite food prep kitchen tools, click here!

Have you ever tried food prep? Do you like it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments!

 



 

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How to Meal Plan to Save Time and Money (with FREE printable meal planning template)

One Tip and One Product to Make Living Well Quicker and Easier

Ready to Get Healthy? 5 Simple Steps to Set Yourself up for Success

 



Eating Well in Less Time Wellness Tips

quick and easy meal planning tips for beginners

 

I can’t even count how many of my clients come in asking me how to meal plan. Whether you’re on a tight budget or a tight schedule, making a meal plan can be a great way to simplify a healthy lifestyle. For beginners though, meal planning can feel like a daunting task that takes more time than it saves. It can seem overwhelming at first, but some simple steps can streamline the process and make it much easier. Not to mention that meal planning is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets! After you have a dozen meal plans under your belt, you’ll be whipping them out in minutes and saving yourself tons of time (not to mention moolah!).

 

1. Decide which meals will be planned

 

Meal planning doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Some people plan three meals a day plus snacks, while others find it works best for them to plan dinners and buy a variety of breakfast/lunch/snack ingredients. Choose what will work best for you. One mistake many newbie meal planners make? Forgetting about leftovers. If you have leftovers from Monday’s dinner but every meal is planned for the week, you’re increasing the likelihood of food waste. One easy solution is to implement a “use it up” day. At my house, we do “Whatever Wednesday” and “Scrounge-it Sunday.” This gives you a day (or two!) off from cooking and a chance to clean out the fridge and prevent food waste (saving time and money)! Planning these days into your meal plan can simplify the process and make it more practical.

 



 

2. Choose a “jumping point” (or three)

 

This is where a lot of folks get stuck – where do I even begin to come up with meal ideas? It’s important to consider what’s going on in your life to make sure that you set yourself up for success. Check out these “jumping points” to help you tailor your meal plan and give you a little inspiration.

  • Your schedule – Look at your week. Got a full Wednesday with a late meeting and your kid’s recital? Make a note on that day on your meal plan and choose a slow cooker meal or something you can prep ahead of time (or better yet, leftovers from Tuesday’s dinner!). Work with your schedule, not against it.
  • Your budget – Sales are a great place to start! Find the weekly ad for your grocery store online and list the deals. Use a search-by-ingredient database to turn these cheap eats into healthful meals. A couple of my favorites are the Food Hub by the American Diabetes Association and Healthy for Good by the American Heart Association. Plug in the ingredients that are on sale that week (Pork loin? Brussels sprouts? Shrimp?) and find healthful recipes to make with them.
  • Vary your proteins – If you eat all things meat, choose one meal each of skinless poultry, lean pork, lean beef, and meatless, two of fish, and one wild card. Vegetarian? Rotate between beans, tofu, meat alternatives, tempeh, and/or seitan.

 

3. Select your meals

 

Select your recipes – family favorites or newbies – and list them out. If you’re more of a Type-A planner, assign them to a day so you’ll know exactly when you’ll make them. If you’re more a flexible, type B, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type (or you just like having the flexibility to choose what you feel like eating each night) choose however many meals you will need for the week and take your pick day by day.

 

Free printable meal plan worksheet with shopping listFree printable meal plan worksheet with shopping list

 

Use this FREE printable meal planning template to help you out.

 

4. Make a shopping list

 

As you go, add any ingredients that you don’t already have to your shopping list. Tack on any staples or household essentials (don’t forget the TP!). Want to save wandering time in the store? Divide your list into 4 sections: fridge/freezer, aisles, produce, and household/other. Pick up items from each section before moving on to the next.

 



5. Shop!

 

Now you have a meal plan for the week and a shopping list to get you there. Planning your meals will help you save time and money not only at the store but throughout the week, since you will already know what you’ll be making and you will have all the ingredients you’ll need (and not ingredients that you won’t)!

 

6. Optional: Consider food prep

 

Less work than meal prep (where you cook and portion all your meals ahead of time), food prep takes only 20-30 minutes per week and makes cooking much quicker and more fun. Ever seen the TV cooking shows where all the hosts have to do is dump in all their prepped ingredients and cook? It’s pretty great and you can cook that way too! Check out this video for a tutorial on food prep. If you choose to incorporate food prep, make a quick list with your meal plan so you remember which food prep steps you plan to do.

 

Go forth and plan! And remember, any new change is going to be baby-deer status at the start: wobbly, awkward, and unsure. That’s normal! It will feel awkward and the first few times might take a while. Keep trying! You might find that certain parts of meal planning make sense for your life while others may not. You might find that a different approach or method works better than these or than methods that worked well at other times of your life. My process is constantly evolving as my life changes or as I find bigger and better ideas! Just be sure not to give up on meal planning until you’ve given it the old school try and had a chance to find your rhythm.

 

Good luck and let me know if you have any great meal planning tips to share!

 



 

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Eating Well in Less Time

…and the healthy lifestyle I’m going to feature next is…

 

 

Thank you for voting! It looks like you’re all lookin’ to live healthy lives on tight schedules. I hear ya! Stay tuned, because I’ll be dropping tips for saving time over the next few weeks!

Eating Well in Less Time

It’s time to start another feature, and this time I’m adding a new category of features: healthy lifestyles!

 

 

This category includes tips and advice on living well within different lifestyle factors: kids, tight budgets, tight schedules, picky eaters, you name it! So now is the time to vote. Which factor should I feature to help make your healthy life easier?

 



Eating Well on a Budget

We’ll talk about every trick in the book for making a healthful lifestyle as cheap as possible. It doesn’t have to be crazy expensive and often it’s actually cheaper than buying “cheap” junk food! I’ve been playing around with cutting our food budget while keeping it healthy for years, and I can tell you it’s possible to eat well on a tight budget (and I can show you how)!

 

Eating Well in Less Time

We are all busy! A tight schedule can leave little margin in our day (not to mention our energy) for keeping up healthy habits. Let me help you find healthy habits to streamline your life and make healthy work for your mind as well as your body.

 

 

Eating Well and Reducing Waste

For most American households, the vast majority of our trash bins are full of food waste and plastic food containers. A few easy swaps can significantly reduce the amount of food-related garbage in our landfills and be healthy for the planet as well as for you.

 

Vote in the poll below to let me know which feature is most helpful for you!

 

 

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Healthy Lifestyles

Salmon and red potato hash with dijon aioli

 

This delicious dish is a copycat of a breakfast from a favorite restaurant of ours – the Ironwork Grill at McMenamin’s Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, Oregon. The original is made with a dill sauce but I always swap it for this dijon aioli, and I’ve never been disappointed!

The salmon, veggies, and potatoes make this a complete, protein- and potassium-laden anti-inflammatory power meal. Plus, it is so, so tasty and very easy to make!

 



Salmon and Red Potato Hash with Dijon Aioli

This dish is a complete dinner - it's loaded with omega-3, antioxidants, and other anti-inflammatory power punches. It's also very easy to make!

Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

Salmon and Vegetables

  • 4 fillets salmon
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 10 spears asparagus, cut into 2" lengths
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black ground pepper

Dijon Aioli

  • 1/4 cup avocado oil mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

  2. Place fillets skin-side down in a greased 9 x 13" baking pan. Surround with vegetables.

  3. Drizzle with canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until thickest part of salmon measures 145 degrees.

  5. While salmon is baking, whisk together mayonnaise and dijon mustard.

  6. Serve salmon with aioli spread on top.

Recipe Notes

Each portion contains 499 calories, 29 g carbohydrate, 32 g protein, 3 g saturated fat, and 458 mg sodium.



Anti-inflammatory Diet Carb Counting Heart Healthy MyPlate Guidelines Recipes

 

So you’ve read about the Trim Healthy Mama Plan, and you’ve decided you’re a good candidate for using Trim Healthy Mama as your structure for moderation. Your next step is to get started! Over the course of my time following the plan, I gathered a list of a few tips to help you make the most out of your THM journey.

 

1. There’s a learning curve

Don’t feel bad if you unintentionally eat something that’s “not on plan.” It’s bound to happen (it happened to me!). Also, figuring out what you’re allowed to eat may feel super overwhelming at first. There is a lot to learn in the beginning! Take it in steps. Read one chapter of the book at a time (or as much as you can without feeling overwhelmed) and sit with the information for a day or more. It will get easier.

 

2. Having certain products on hand makes a world of difference

There were several products that made the THM plan so much simpler for me. Which products help you will vary based on your schedule and preferences. Here were some of my faves:

  • Pressed peanut flour – Basically ground-up peanuts with a good portion of the natural peanut oil removed, pressed peanut flour is great for E meals because it is a low-fat protein source that goes great with sweet flavors. It works well in smoothies or you can reconstitute it with water to use it as you would normal PB. Click here to purchase the one I used.
  • Almond milk (or other milk alternative) – Technically, dairy milk is not “on plan” with THM if you’re aiming for weight loss because, as the authors state, it is a “natural crossover” containing both carbohydrates and fat. That’s true unless your milk is fat free – but if you want to follow the plan to the letter, an alternative like unsweetened almond milk is useful. This one might not be as “essential” for others as for me since my family is comprised of hard-core dairy lovers, but it came in very handy for both S and E meals and as a milk alternative in recipes.
  • Low-carb wraps – These are so convenient for S meals. Sometimes you just want to put all that fatty goodness into some kind of bread-like thing. They were awesome topped with pizza toppings and/or Caesar salad. Click here for the wraps I used (also recommended by the THM authors).
  • Sprouted whole grain or sprouted sourdough bread – Your THM-approved bread option for E meals! I goofed up and used non-sprouted sourdough for my first week and had to course-correct with this tasty sprouted Dave’s Killer bread for the next two weeks. Note: eating only sprouted bread is not necessary for blood sugar management, though the plan requires it
  • Stevia – If you want something sweet, it’s nutritionally your best on-plan option. Choose one that is primarily pure stevia or stevia with erythritol or xylitol. Here’s one option that fits these criteria.
  • Almond flour (or other grain-free flour) – I’m a little torn on this one because almond flour and I didn’t exactly get along. I can’t see how you could get too far cooking without any kind of flour at all, but I didn’t take the time (or money) to explore options besides almond.

 



 

3. Don’t forget the protein

They mention this repeatedly in the book, but I can’t reiterate it enough. You need protein to stay full until your next meal, especially after E meals. The carbohydrate in E meals will go much farther if you put some protein in the tank to slow down digestion.

 

4. Be careful with your saturated fat

My biggest nutritional gripe with THM is the amount of saturated fat that can very easily be consumed within plan guidelines. Eating high amounts of saturated fat is correlated with inflammation and higher levels of harmful cholesterol. I personally ate way more saturated fat than daily recommendations most of the days I was on the plan. Be careful with the animal-based fats they recommend like butter, cream, and fatty red meats. Even the small amounts they encourage can easily push you over the recommendations.

5. Make sure to eat your veggies.

The plan itself is focused on fuels and though encouraging of vegetables, does not have a specific requirement for meeting veggie recommendations, and veggies are a very important part of a healthy lifestyle! It can be easy to skimp in this area, (I found some Youtube THMers who warned against this very issue) so be sure and give these powerful plants plenty of attention.

 



 

6. Ignore some of the verbiage from the authors

One of my pet peeves as a dietitian is seeing foods labeled as “good/clean/guilt-free” or “bad/sinful/naughty” as though each individual food could be placed in a single cut-and-dry category of either good or bad. Years of this kind of mindset can make it difficult for people to enjoy any kind of food without feeling guilty (except for raw, non-starchy, organic vegetables). I’ve had many clients who follow up every statement about what they eat with “and I know that’s bad.” (“My family likes pasta and I know that’s bad…I like to eat a lot of fruit and I know that’s bad…Sometimes I eat a piece of chocolate and I know that’s bad.”) It makes me so sad! While there are clearly foods that are more nutritious and deserve to be chosen more often than others, please ignore anyone who tells you that any food is “naughty” or that you should feel guilty for eating.

 

7. The plan is more restrictive than is necessary

In reading the first few chapters of the book, you’ll be preparing for “food freedom”…the authors start the book with that phrase and spend plenty of time discussing the cons of all the diets that are overly restrictive and that eliminate food groups. I was really on board with all of that.

Then for the remainder of the book, you find there is a pretty large list of common foods that are “not on plan” aka “not allowed.” It was a bit of a letdown for me, to be honest. They even cut out healthful options like whole grains based on some overly restrictive and outdated guidelines that I talked about in this post. For the most part, these complete eliminations are unnecessary to meet health goals, so bear in mind that 100% on-plan compliance is not necessary and that you could swap in foods that you know to be healthful.

 

8. Fuel isolation is not necessary for fat loss

I have not seen research to back up the concept of isolating either carbohydrate or fat at a particular meal as a method of weight loss. It can, however, be a structure for moderation that would make sense to some personalities. There’s no magic in the fuel isolation itself, it’s just a way to help some folks balance their overall diet.

 



9. Baked goods are tough

 

 

As I mentioned throughout my time on the plan, baked goods are tough cookies on THM. I know several ladies who follow THM and have found options that they enjoy, and I’ve also tried many plan-approved recipes that just could not cut it for me. If you are a baker (or lover of things baked), be prepared that finding “on-plan” recipes or tweaking your family recipes to your satisfaction may be a long road. You may need several specialty flours, oils, and sweeteners. This was my biggest struggle throughout the plan.

 

10. Do what works for you

Try the plan out – see what you think! If you are one of the people that loves it and finds it freeing, enjoy! Keep your eye on nutritional balance and rock your food freedom. If the plan is a struggle or parts of it don’t make sense, feel free to let them go! Personalize your nutritional plan and only keep the changes that work for your lifestyle and personality.

 



 

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and I have no affiliation with the producers or manufacturers of these products. As an Amazon Associate, I receive compensation for  purchases of products through the links on this post.

Diets Trim Healthy Mama

 

My favorite breakfast on the Trim Healthy Mama Plan was this banana split oatmeal recipe from Oil of Joy. I tweaked the recipe a tad from the original, partly for taste and partly to improve the nutrition to better meet the Trim Healthy Mama guidelines.

Here’s what I did: cut the chocolate chips in half, removed the salt, and used fresh mashed strawberries instead of strawberry jam. I also added 2 scoops of plain whey protein to boost satiety and help regulate blood sugar. The vanilla in the oats really helps to make this oatmeal rich and delicious. It definitely feels like a dessert (it doesn’t have to just be for breakfast!) and it is so, so sweet. I have continued to make it even after finishing Trim Healthy Mama!

 

Banana Split Oatmeal (THM E Meal)

This decadent oatmeal is rich, delicious, and filling. It is easy to make and satisfies your sweet tooth in minutes!

Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup water boiling
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp stevia
  • 2 Tbsp plain whey protein
  • 2 strawberries, mashed
  • 1/2 banana, sliced sliced
  • 1/2 Tbsp dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Combine oats, water, vanilla, stevia, and protein.

  2. Top with strawberries, banana, and chocolate chips.

Recipe Notes

Contains 275 calories, 45 grams carbohydrate, 16 grams protein, and 5 grams fat per serving.

Recipe adapted from the blog Oil of Joy.



Recipes Trim Healthy Mama