Tighter Together 30 Day Challenge

I have purposefully steered clear of "one-time-macro-counts" in an effort to support and educate those who want to learn instead of a band-aid solution that requires more effort and time in order to be successful. BUT, summer is right around the corner and I think with the right perspective we can have a lot of fun, get in some killer workouts, have a deeper understanding of macro counting and get a lot leaner and tighter......TOGETHER. I'm 100% committed and will be following the plan each day with recipe ideas, workout videos and practical tips as we go! It's 30 days--- we can do anything for 30 days, right?!

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Air Fried Dinner Ideas & Meal Prep

I’m not the most qualified person to have a blog that includes food because I really do creativity in this area.Give me a gym or even minimal equipment and I can be occupied for hours coming up with new workouts, but the kitchen….not as much.  My Fitness Pal is proof that a lot of meals get repeated, but it’s ok because I like what I like and my energy and creativity is harnessed in other ways. Aren’t you just so excited to keep reading?! Don’t abandon hope just yet, because I have a brand new appliance that has sparked the experimental flame in the kitchen and adding some new flavor to my staple meals!

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Best Choice Products was kind enough to send me an Air Fryer and to be honest, I wouldn’t have known what I was missing and would probably not have bought it on my own because as you know, I’m a bit of a minimalist in the kitchen. I think my minimalist tendencies actually work to my advantage with the air fryer because it is truly so simple and effective. I have tested a LOT in it over the past two weeks and I can safely say that it cooks most vegetables EXACTLY how I want to eat them--that roasty flavor, but with a crunch that I can’t seem to master in the oven. I would be lying if I said exactly how I know the little alien pod works, but from my end, I just cut the vegetables, spray with coconut oil and set according to the recommendation in the manual (usually 10-15 minutes) and it crisps them right up for me.

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Probably one of the best examples I can give to describe the simplicity is that while I was babysitting last week (and too nervous to put the baby down for fear of disrupting the peace), I chopped a zucchini with one hand, threw it in, started it, got it on my plate and ate my dinner without a peep from my sidekick.

Another quick example is the dinner we ate last night. When I saw “we,” my sister is living with Drew and me while she finishes school and we love it when our dinner times coincide, but sometimes it means we are waiting on each other to finish using the oven since we usually eat different meals. Last night, we each ate something a little different, but all used the air fryer in some way:

Carrie: Pork tenderloin with air fried potatoes and asparagus

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Madeline: Mexican cauliflower rice with roasted pepper, mushrooms, ground turkey and air fried zucchini noodles on top for crunch

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Drew: Cauliflower fried rice, air fried butternut squash and air fried chicken cilantro wontons from Trader Joe’s.

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Air Fried Meats

You may be wondering how the air fryer does with meats and to be honest, we have found that it’s better for smaller things like chicken nuggets, although the recipe book says salmon and steak are options as well (have yet to try).

All in all, it’s been a really fun new addition to our kitchen and I think it is 100% worth investing in if you prefer fried foods. I never cook with excess oil because of the unnecessary fats and to be honest, the mess and clean up. If you have a few recipes you can’t live without, this would be even more useful!


 

MEAL PREP

Lately, I have been simply tossing a big bunch of asparagus in the air fryer for about 12-15 minutes and the putting it with the rest of my lunch for the week in these glass containers provided by BC Products. Meal prepping my lunches is without a doubt the best use of an hour and a half on the weekends for getting ahead and staying on track throughout the school week. I really don’t like thinking about it each night before and wondering if there will be leftovers for dinner or if I’ll have to make something else, so I just do it all at once, measure it and log it into My Fitness Pal for the whole week. My schedule doesn’t allow me to go out for lunch, and it’s an easy way to save money by packing a lunch, so even if my job were from home or more flexible, I think I would still do it!

The Nitty Gritty: when it comes to weighing vegetables--

 raw is most accurate.

My typical procedure goes like this:

1. Cut vegetables for the whole week into a bowl on the scale (example: 200g asparagus, 186g zucchini, etc....and write each one down

2. I'll make a new recipe in My Fitness Pal with all the raw ingredients and their weights (it doesn't take long at all)

3. Cook them up and divide them evenly by cooked weight into my containers (example: 5 containers with 150g cooked vegetables each)

4. Log into my daily lunch a 1/5 serving of the recipe that was created with the raw vegetables.

It's really much quicker than it sounds and you can chop it, write down the weights and then log it while it's cooking. Then I like to copy and paste the lunches for the whole week!

It's really much quicker than it sounds and you can chop it, write down the weights and then log it while it's cooking. Then I like to copy and paste the lunches for the whole week!

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Tip: If you ever forget to weigh it raw, just SEARCH cooked butternut squash in our Fitness Pal Library and someone will have probably done the work for you!

Tip: If you ever forget to weigh it raw, just SEARCH cooked butternut squash in our Fitness Pal Library and someone will have probably done the work for you!

Watch Giveaway and Winning the Weekend

First of all, there is an amazing giveaway opportunity for someone to win a beautiful, wooden Jord watch in today’s post! I am wearing the Ebony & Sable watch from the Cassia collection. It was fun to swap my Apple watch for something a little fancier for the weekend! (I also have world’s puniest wrists and Drew loves to make fun of them and say he could snap them like twigs….thankfully he hasn’t tested the theory)

Some topics are disputable, but I think we can all agree that weekends are welcomed by everyone and never seem to stay long enough. This particular weekend is was extra special because Drew and I celebrated Valentine’s by staying at a downtown hotel and just spending uninterrupted time together (and if you’ve read this post, you know that’s my love language). I know you aren’t here for all those details, so let’s talk about some practical takeaways that might help you balance all the memories and life-giving experiences that the weekends bring without sacrificing your health and fitness goals.

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Day Dates, Carb Cycling and Protein Goals

For those of you who are familiar with the idea of tracking macros instead of calories (although they are similar concepts), let me offer some answers to BROAD questions that could help navigate a sometimes confusing conversation. I cannot answer extremely specific questions about what your personal macro count should be unless we work together in an 8 Week Coaching format, and that isn’t to be vague, it’s just that macros are the MOST individualized approach to nutrition and in order for your nutrition to accurately match all of the characteristics that make you who you are (height, weight, training style, goals, diet history, body type, carb sensitivity, non-exercise calorie expenditure, etc) I have get all the details to give you the best advice

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Meal Prep Simplified: 80% of Your Success

Meal prepping is not a recipe for success in and of itself, but it’s about as close as you’ll get. It's common knowledge that nutrition is more important than any workout, and can be the missing link in many people's progress. Food is fuel for your brain and body, so a little extra time and planning is worth the investment. For many people it’s the convenience of less nutritious foods that sabotages their intentions more than anything else. Taking a an hour or two twice a week to set yourself up for quick, easy, delicious options will allow you to fuel yourself well even amidst the busiest of schedules.

And you'll feel on top of the world when you finish and your fridge is full and ready to go!

Escelante, Utah (totally safe, Mom)

Escelante, Utah (totally safe, Mom)

1. Prioritize Protein

Whether you track your macros or not, protein is the most effective way to stay satiated (full) and the hardest source to find on the go. When you first realize what your body’s protein needs are, it seems like you’ll never get it in, but then it becomes second nature and you’ll get strategic about fitting it in throughout the day little by little and in no time you’ve got lean muscle, fewer cravings and more clarity of thought.

I always cook 3-4 chicken breasts with various herbs and spices (usually from Trader Joe’s) to have on hand throughout the week. I can incorporate them into so many meals and I find that I cook them well (I typically sear them, then cover to allow them to cook with steam) they don’t dry out at all.

Hard Boil eggs or just have a carton of liquid egg whites on hand to make omelets, add to oatmeal for more volume or add to rice for a protein boost to simulate “fried rice.” Eggs are a great source of protein since they don’t have carbs or fat (unless you use the yolk).

Greek yogurt (fat free or low fat) is an easy way to boost protein without many additional carbs and fats. You can add stevia, berries, protein powder, granola, etc to sweeten it without too many unnecessary carbs. Cottage cheese is also a yummy snack paired with vegetables or fruit!

EXAMPLE: Chobani Flip Vs. Plain Chobani Greek

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EASY way to save 10g Fat, 18g Carbs, and gain 6g protein by adding choosing plain and adding some "friendlier" toppings

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Checking the labels of foods will quickly show you where the sources of protein are that allow you to fill your daily allotment without sabotaging your carbs and fats. You;ll learn to flip things over before you add them to your cart and get creative with your foods to avoid unnecessary items (like fatty sauces) that steal a lot of macros without filling you up!

2. Have “VOLUME” Foods Ready To Go

What I mean when I say “volume” foods is basically foods that take up space on your plate that you can eat a lot of that don’t add up to many macros. Everyone likes to munch, but it can quickly add up if you’re not careful. My favorite volume foods would be:

  • Spaghetti Squash- (WAY fewer carbs than sweet potatoes per serving)

  • Greens- You can add a huge side salad to your plate, kale to your stir fry, lettuce to your sandwich, etc

  • Broccoli, Asparagus, Brussels Sprouts- Fills your plate, your tummy and barely makes a dent in your macro budget

  • Cauliflower “Rice”- You can make the biggest stir fry you want with chicken, eggs, peas, carrots, soy sauce, etc and you carbs will still be sitting pretty.

  • Cantaloupe, Honeydew, & Berries- These are some lower carb fruits that fill you up without sending your carbs out the window like bananas can.

  • Protein Ice Cream- I’ll let you make this and then you’ll understand why I have it 4-5 times a week.

3. Treat Yourself

That’s right! Food is enjoyable and SHOULD be. It’s natural to crave chocolate and sweet things, so be realistic about it and realize that it CAN be part of your diet without it sabotaging all the healthy options you are choosing. My advice is to make some compromises and retrain your taste buds a bit. Try some items that are a little “lightened” up and stick to the serving sizes you have planned for.

Inputting the treat that you plan to consume into your app of choice (if you’re tracking your macros), allow you to piece together the rest of your day while knowing all along that you’re going to enjoy something later! When you get to that point of the day, you enjoy every bite of your Enlightened Ice Cream or Halo Top or dark chocolate square or candy bar. Realizing that it’s made up of carbs, fats and protein like everything else. Granted, it won’t provide many micronutrients, but that’s OK with the ratio of whole, nutrient-rich foods you have consumed throughout the day.

I'm no food blogger, but come on....

I'm no food blogger, but come on....

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MY BEST ADVICE:

Any eating approach that strips you of your enjoyment of food, is not going to last long. It’s better to have a plan that allows you a little wiggle room, but ensures sustainability and can be more than a 6 week test of will power while your family is counting down the days until you are yourself again. So track your treat, enjoy your treat, and be done with your treat with no feelings attached other than, “Halo Top is pretty good for healthy ice cream.”

HOW TO LIVE WELL THIS YEAR

I can’t offer insight into many areas of your life, but I can promise you that each of those many areas will improve if your body is healthy, strong and equipped to live well. I say that with every ounce of understanding that our health is in God’s hands and people will face trials that no amount of human effort could prevent or change. For many, exercise is not a means to an end in itself-- it is a box to be checked just as brushing one’s teeth.

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8 Weeks to Self-Sufficiency

Many of the skills we learn in school during elementary grades are important to know (multiplication, cursive, how to use a dictionary), but if we are honest, we don’t implement them every single day. Macro counting is a similar skill because even if you weighing food,  tracking your macros in an app or looking at nutrition labels for the rest of your life isn't sustainable, it can help you understand principles that will keep your physical goals SO much more maintainable.

In order to fully know why counting macros DOES work according to your individual needs and goals, let’s understand why other approaches often don’t.

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Simplified: Traveling and Tracking-- (worth it? impossible?)

These tips are beneficial for someone who tracks their macros or just strives to live a healthy lifestyle on the go. I would argue that the truest test of having a firm grasp on your nutrition is being able to sustain your habits during travel. It's necessary to realize that their is very attainable middle ground between packing every meal your are going to consume during your trip and not giving a second thought to your choices because you're traveling and it's just impossible to eat the way you would at home.

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Macro Misconceptions and Drew's Lost Bet ;)

I think that there are some misconceptions about this topic and my approach to macro counting, so let’s just clear the air :) The purpose of posts about macro counting is not to convince you that it is the only way to reach your fitness goals, or eat a balanced diet, but to shed light on an approach that has been highly successful for many people and could be for you.

I receive so many questions on instagram about how to implement this approach to eating that I am going to be offering some one-on-one “coaching” in January to help equip those who are interested with the tools to take the guesswork out of nutrition.

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