6 Strategies for Healthy, Quick, & Convenient Dinners

The biggest obstacle I hear from the people I coach is that they “just don’t have time.”  People are SO busy today with work, families, managing a house, and the million other things that come up.

So it’s too often that they find themselves grabbing food for convenience – food that not only doesn’t serve their bodies but that also ends up negatively impacting the family and their waistlines.  This leads to further guilt and a vicious cycle begins.

It breaks my heart to see these smart, hard-working, and deserving people go down the rabbit hole of convenience because they just don’t know another way.  So, I’m here to help! 🙂

Check out my strategies for healthy, fast, and convenient dinners (or whichever meal you choose!):

You make it:

1. Pre-cook proteins, pre-wash and chop veggies.  You can do this 1-2 times a week depending on time.  I’m a fan of the Sunday Ritual, where you prep and portion for the entire week.  How to do this:  Simply grill or bake enough protein to sustain dinner each week.  You can prep the veggies to be prepared on the spot in the evening before dinner or in advance like the protein.  Heck, throw it all on the grill!

2. Purchase pre-chopped veggies.  If to the first point you were thinking…”Yeah, but the part I HATE is washing and chopping!”  Pretty much every grocery store sells vegetables that are ready to throw in a pan, in the oven, or on a grill.  It’ll typically cost you a little bit more, but it’s worth it if this is what it takes to make the right choice.

3. The 10 minute, minimal effort meal.  This is one of my favorite strategies!  It’s as simple as this:  Rotisserie chicken, steam in a bag veggies, and wrapped microwavable sweet potato.  Serve the chicken, grab 1-2 cups of veggies for your plate out of the bag (season if you like), and eat half the potato with a pat of grassfed butter.  And you’ve got leftovers!

4. Crock Pot meals.  It doesn’t get much easier than throwing a bunch of ingredients in a crock pot in the morning then coming home to a fully prepared meal (and a house that smells awesome).  Also requires minimal clean up!  This is definitely easy to make in large portions, so you’ve got leftovers!

Still not quite going to work?  Here are my GRAB AND GO strategies!

5.  Hit the hot bar.  Have a grocery store like Whole Foods nearby?  Chances are they have an awesome hot bar!  

6.  Healthy take-out.  This is easier to find than you think. With delivery apps like UberEats & GrubHub you can literally get your favorite restaurant foods delivered right to your door. I would recommend ordering extra so you can get a few servings out of it too, then you’ve got lunch for the next day!

Believe me, I am all about convenience when it comes to food, so I always suggest making more than you need so you’ve got left overs!

And when, I cook, I keep it SUPER SIMPLE!  Check out one of my go-to’s with this Beef Stir Fry:

1lb ground beef
1 medium onion
1 large bell pepper (any color)
1 tbsp coconut oil
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a sauté pan to medium high.  Add coconut oil and let it melt.  Add the onion and let it start to turn translucent.  Add the bell peppers.  Let cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add ground beef and cook to desired temperature.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

I usually throw this in a bowl and eat it as is.  This makes about 3-4 servings for me. You can also serve this with about a half cup of quinoa!  How is easy is that!? Under 15 minutes!

Give it a try and let me know how you like it!

Sugar: A Loving Tribute

It’s no secret that sugar is bad for us. It feeds disease, impacts your brain, messes with your energy, and makes people fat. It rots your teeth and can affect your skin.

 

Aside from the short bursts of energy it gives and the way it sets off the pleasure sensors in your brain, there are really no good things about consuming sugar.

 

But I’m not here to tell you to stop eating it.

 

Because seriously… you’re not going to and neither am I.

 

Not only is sugar added to far more foods than you even realize, but it’s also delicious.

 

And if you know me at all, you know I’m about making fitness and health as easy as possible.

 

If I tell you to stop having sugar, it’s all you’re going to think about (like any other food you’ve ever tried to eliminate from your diet).

 

Is it possible to give it up and go sugar-free? For the small few, sure. But for most, it’s just not realistic in the world we live in today.

 

And since we know it’s really not great for us, and I’m assuming you’d prefer to avoid cancer, diabetes, etc. at all costs, I want to help you set some parameters for yourself today that will enable you to continue enjoying sugar with balance.

 

Here are my top tips for maintaining a loving relationship with sugar in the healthiest way possible:

 

1.     Drink only sugar-free beverages

2.     Avoid artificial sweeteners – you should do this for a variety of reasons. The one I’m addressing here is the fact that artificial sweeteners actually increase sugar cravings, making it harder to maintain moderation.

3.     Avoid UNNECESSARY sugars – if you think salad dressings and tomato sauces, for example, require sugar to taste good, you’re so wrong! Look for or create sugar-free options where it’s obviously unneeded.

4.     Try fruit before dessert. I’m not going to lie to you and say fruit is the same as dessert, because I know there’s a big difference between a strawberry and a slice of chocolate cake. But see if you can use fruit to kill your dessert cravings before you dive into indulgence.

5.     Clean up your environment. It’s common for many homes and offices to have bowls of single pieces of candy lying around or a cabinet stocked with “treats for the kids.” We mindlessly reach for them multiple times per day…and you know how fast that adds up! So, get rid of ‘em!

6.     Plan for massive sugar indulgences. Maybe your mom is making your favorite pie, or it’s your birthday, or a special trip/holiday are coming up. Those are the times to go all in and overdo it. Not a random Saturday on a whim.

How to Control Your Carbs

What’s the Big Deal about Carbs?
 
Starchy carbs get so much attention when it comes to nutrition conversations because they are the biggest double-edged sword our bodies have to deal with. On one hand, all of our energy in the body comes from glucose molecules (carbs in their basic sugar form) but on the other, our bodies weren’t designed to be surrounded by so many readily available carbs.
 
So when our body does get an onslaught of starchy carbs (usually from refined sugars in all of our indulgence foods or simple carbs found in anything baked with flour), it handles them by releasing insulin. Insulin is responsible for a lot of important functions in the body, but by design, it is a storage hormone. So instead of signaling our body to burn fat, our bodies actually get the signal to store fat whenever we eat a lot of starchy carbs.
 
This is why you can expect to make the biggest dent in your weight loss if you begin to control starchy carbs with every meal.
 
Where are Carbs Found?
 
Carbs are found in a lot of different foods but in general you can view them in this distinction:
 
FIBROUS VS. STARCHY
 
Fibrous Carb Rich Foods that Help with Fat Loss:

  • Raw or lightly cooked vegetables

  • Beans and legumes

  • Some fruits (mostly berries)

 
Starchy Carbs that Work Against Fat Loss:

  • All candies, jelly and jams

  • Sodas, fruit juices, fruit drinks

  • Pudding, custards and other sweets

  • Processed refined grains like flour or white rice

  • Bread and pasta made with any refined flour

  • Cakes, cookies and other sweet bakery products

 
What Do We Mean by “Controlling” Starchy Carbs?
 
First, notice that the emphasis is not on eliminating carbs but rather on controlling them. Our brains tend to be resistant to restriction, so we want to add the right foods to crowd out the foods that aren’t serving our interests.
 
In addition, “controlling” carbs also acknowledges that it’s not realistic to avoid all of the foods in the “Against Fat Loss” carb lists. We all like to indulge, so it’s important to learn how to enjoy those foods without affecting your waist line.
 
In this context you, can think of carb control as substitutional. The goal is to substitute as many of the “against fat loss” carbs with “help with fat loss” carbs.
 
So in order to achieve the above, you will be required to practice one (or both) of these strategies throughout your day to control carbs:

  1. Substitute the carbs not working for you with more quality carbs

 

  • Fill more of your plate with protein or crowd it out with more veggies (as they are technically a carb as well)

  • Shift from more processed foods to less processed foods

  • Shift from breads and white rice to Ezekiel bread and brown rice

  • Swap pastas for quinoa

  • Potatoes to sweet potatoes (or any root vegetable)

 
2. Eat your “Against Fat Loss” carbs after a workout
 
The intense workouts I design are designed to drain your muscles of as much sugar as possible. Thus, right after a workout, your body is keener on storing any incoming sugars (i.e. carbs) into your muscles instead of into fat. Thus, if you still wish to indulge in pastas, pizzas, breads, sweets etc. feel free to do so ONLY after your workouts. You can even think of it as a way of “earning your indulgence carbs.” This should not be done daily, however. But a few times per week is ok. :)
 
And don't forget your portions! But we can talk about that in our next blog.
 
 I hope this gives you a better understanding of what carbs truly are and how they work in the body!
 

Intermittent Fasting. What Is It? Will It Work For Me?

 

This is one of the most talked about approaches to eating nowadays. It has been widely practiced for millennia across all races and religious beliefs. In the Eastern Hemisphere, fasting has been used for decades to help treat numerous degenerative diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol.  In the last decade the Western World has slowly been catching up with more scientific research on this intriguing topic helping to create new patterns of fasting to help modernize this ancient practice for everyone. So what exactly is Intermittent Fasting, and more importantly will it work for you? 

Intermittent Fasting, or IF, is defined as a pattern of consumption that involves no eating for an extended period of time, then a period of normal eating. It's that simple!  Now the complexity of IF comes in how you approach it. For simplicity I'm going to discuss the two main types and the most commonly used techniques in each. 

There are two main types of IF,  Alternate Day Fasting (ADF),  and Time Restrictive Fasting (TRF).  The first type, ADF, is a pattern of eating involving a  24 hour fast,  followed by a normal day of eating. Some types of ADF involve easier fasting days, allowing for minimal calories on those days. The most popular types of ADF are the 5:2 Diet and the "Every Other Day Diet". The "Every Other Day Diet" was popularized by a book written by Krista Varady. This diet allows 25% of your normal calories on your fast day, then no restrictions of eating on your free day. The 5:2 diet consists of fasting two days a week followed by five days of non restricted eating. Now both of these diets are liberal approaches to IF and are much easier to stick with, but they also could encourage binge eating among certain populations. Therefore, if you're someone who can't easily control food cravings then these types might not work for you.  When following ADF, I always recommend normal eating on your non fasting days.  If you want to have a couple cheat days a month, then that should be fine. 

ADF, in my personal experience, is a temporary pattern of eating. It's an easier approach to fasting for beginners but can be harder to maintain longterm for most people due to its extreme caloric restriction on your fast days. TRF, on the other hand, can be a solution to those who struggle with maintaining a fasting lifestyle. 

The second major type, Time Restricted Fasting (TRF), is a pattern of eating within a a certain number of hours per day. The most common practice is fasting for 16 hours, then eating within an 8 hour time frame. This was popularized by the book,  "The 8-Hour Diet" by David Zinczenko. This diet has no restrictions on the foods you eat during the 8 hour window of consumption, but does emphasize controlling your food portions. My personal experience is that with this diet you can still over-consume on a daily basis. So I would recommend keeping a food journal to make sure you’re still limiting your calories (if your goal is weight loss) and also make sure to  consume healthy foods, not sugary refined ones. Now there are wide ranges of TRF out there today.  Some are more strict, such as eating within a 1 hour window per day, or some have a more relaxed pattern, like eating within a 12 hour window per day. If you’re a beginner, I always recommend starting with a 12 hour window fast first, then increase you fast by 1 hour per week until you get to the 16 hour a day fast goal. 
 
The benefits of IF are still being studied, but preliminary data suggest that it can help reduce the risk of cancer, improve immune function, increase energy, reduce inflammation, increase human growth hormone production, and increase your basal metabolic rate! It can also help with degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s , dementia, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.  With new studies being conducted everyday, I'm sure we'll see more positive research being published in the near future.

Now, will Intermittent Fasting work for you? I personally believe everyone can benefit from some type of intermittent fasting in their life, but it's up to you to determine what type of IF works for your lifestyle.  So, experiment with all the different types of IF out there and see what works best for you.

Before you start fasting, always consult your physician before making any major changes to your diet. Intermittent Fasting is not recommended for children, the elderly, and underweight people.

Why don't Resolutions work?

Every year we start with the best intentions of achieving all of our goals. The New Year often breathes new life into our workout routines. Often it’s a chance to start over where we have failed many times before. For many of us it's like turning a new page in our life. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 50 percent of the population makes resolutions each New Year. Among the top resolutions are weight loss, exercise, stopping smoking, better money management, and debt reduction.

Some people say resolutions are a form of "cultural procrastination" using them as a way to reinvent oneself.  They can often be useful in motivating us to get our butts in gear for the New Year. The problem is people aren't willing to change their bad habits, which is why there is such a high failure rate in actual reaching our resolutions. Maybe one reason we don't change our bad habits is because as human begins we would rather continue doing something that doesn't work, than try something new that could work, but could also fail. We are creatures of habit and routine, so we keep telling ourselves this will be the year it works. Unfortunately, year after year this failure created distrust within ourselves. "Why keep doing the same thing if I keep failing at it?" This  distrust in ourselves leads people to quit all together. 

What's the solution then?   Well often goals are unrealistic, not specific enough, and based on willpower, not systems. You can't rely on willpower alone to succeed. If you try and build a house without nails it's only a matter of time before the house falls, right? The same goes for your mindset. Think of the systems you build as your nails and the willpower as the wood.  For example, if you want to lose 10 pounds, then start a food diary, or pre-make your food for the week. You can't simply "will" the weight off, but you can create a system of planning and logging your food. Now let's say you have a goal of walking more this year. Again "willing" yourself to walk more isn't enough, but you can create a system of parking further away from work, taking the stairs more, or walking the dog an extra 10 minutes every day.

The point is your system is the structured habits you bring into your daily routine. This structure will help you achieve your goals much more easily.Creating your own system can be easy. I often create a system using the familiar acronym.

S.M.A.R.T. 

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time-bound

If your resolutions match up with all of these areas, then you’re well on your way to achieving all of your fitness goals. 

Another big technique that can help is having someone to hold you accountable to your goals. Maybe a family member, workout partner, or even your best friend can help. Personal trainers are a great way to make sure you reach your goals. It's there job to keep you on track, implement a system in your daily routine, and keep records of your progress, so you can see your results over time. 

like using mini goals as another technique to help me reach my resolution for the year. These are simple, shot term goals that you can achieve within 6-30days. For example, walk 1 mile, or no sugar for 30 days.  Once you start meeting these goals the positive momentum will carry over and help you achieve the even bigger goals you have for the year. 

Well hopefully some of these techniques can help guide you in the right direction this New Year. Just remember be specific, be realistic, and use a system and you just might achieve that resolution you have failed in achieving so many times before. 

Is 10 minutes of working out, better than none?

In this blog I want to cover a topic that i have discussed with many of many clients of the years. How can I workout on my own if I just don't have the time?  Over the years I have had this discussion many times with clients and the response is usually the same. I would say "Did you find time to workout this week? They would say, " Kevin I just don't have the time to workout with my crazy schedule." I would then tell them the usually response, " You have to make time for your health.", or " "A little bit of fitness goes along way."  But a lot of them still just couldn't find the time. I started to ask myself, "Why is this lack of free time so common among most of my people I meet? Then I started to notice this commonalty of Americans in general, regardless of their occupation,  everyone seem to be working more and focusing on their health even less.  In fact in a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says,  "over 20 percent of the total work force reported working over 49 hours a week." "Eleven million of those said they worked more than 59 hours a week."  This can be seen by the increasing demand of after care school activities, and the rise in number of children in day care.

Now you can probably blame it on our extreme work ethic, increasing stress to provide for our family, or the pressure just to keep our jobs.  Either way Americans just can't seem to stop working more then they should. 

After thinking of a solution to this problem I came up with little experiment to try. I would try working out for just 10 minutes a day for 2 weeks and see if I could get any results. Now at first I hypothesized that I wouldn't see any results, because I have been an active athlete all my life and I'm used to working out 1-2 hours a day. But to my surprise after the 2 weeks were up I did a notice a couple things had changed. I had more energy and my mood had changed as well. I believed the positive mood was do to having more time to get my work, family obligations, and daily errands done. Now this means I was working more, so I don't think that was an overall good thing, but the added energy I got from the shorter workout periods helped me stay more focused mentality and physically through out the week. Now I'm not saying 10 minutes workouts are the only thing you need to stay fit, but for the workalcholics, busy parents, or entrepreneurs out there it's better than doing nothing at all.  Now most of you have heard about HIIT or High Intensity Cardio, but few of you actually have try it out. The objective is to perform a  certain group of exercises (5-10) with little to no rest for 10 minutes straight. It seems simple enough, but it actually is pretty challenging. The best part is that you decided how hard to push yourself. The goal is to do 90-100% intensity, but I would recommend starting slow for the first couple weeks, then increase the intensity accordingly. Below are some sample workouts to try.

HIIT Sample Workouts

Workout #1

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Burpees
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Push-ups
  • Planks
  • Jumping jacks

Workout #2

  • Squat Jumps
  • Ice Skaters
  • Dips
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Sit-ups
  • Planks
  • Lunge Jumps

Workout #3

  • Burpees
  • Box Jumps
  • Crunches
  • Wall Sits
  • High Knees (Running in Place)
  • Shoulder Presses

 (20 sec on,10 sec rest)- Perform these exercises in a row until the 10 minutes are up.

So my observations with my clients were correct. People are working more and working out even less. It's no wonder the rising number of overweight and obese people in America is reaching over 70%. Now I know some of you are thinking, "This HIIT thing is just too intense for me." Which for a lot of people could be true.But don't start giving up on staying fit just yet.  If you have 10 minutes, then you have time to be fit no matter what you do, so just do something! It may not seem like much, but here is a list of some other things you can do in 10 minute, or less. 

  • Take the Stairs
  • Get Up and Move Around-Sit Less and Move more!
  • Mediate
  • Yoga
  • Jump Rope
  • Run Sprints
  • Dance
  • Roughhousing with your kids
  • Line Time Workout-The next time that you're standing in line at the grocery store–or anywhere, for that matter–use the time for a little fitness. Try some calf raises, lifting up onto the balls of your feet, then returning to flat feet. Contract your abdominals by gently drawing your navel towards your spine.

The list of exercises is endless and there are so many resources on the web today to help give you some ideas of what to do for a great 10 minute workout. Just remember like I always tell my clients,  "you get out of it, what you put in". So work smart and hard for those 10 minutes and you'll see the benefits.

So in conclusion the question remains is 10 minutes better than none? The answer is yes.  You bet your soon to be skinny ass it is! 

Trainer of the Month-Sam Hoops

TB.S. Exercise Science University of Texas at Arlington

STOTT PILATES® trained in Mat, Reformer, Cadillac

TRX Suspension Trainer, Group Suspension Trainer

My passion for movement began many years ago with a Pilates Reformer class taken at the local gym in Dallas, Texas. I was hooked from the moment I pressed the carriage out for footwork, so much so that I began to explore other types of movement, specifically ballet. Pilates reinforced many grueling hours of dance training by allowing me to move freely from an impeccably stabilized core. Not only did Pilates improve my dance, it also helped me discover how to use my new found core strength in everyday movement. While searching for other types of core fitness, I stumbled upon a TRX Group Suspension Trainer class which sparked my interest. This simplistic design of anchored heavy duty straps exposed the imbalances in my body. With my keen eye for movement and a strong background in functional fitness (i.e. Pilates, TRX Suspension Trainer), movement of any kind can be fluid, efficient, and intentional.

Extreme Workout of the Week

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Ok here is another great High Intensity Workout to try this week.

Caution: This workout is for advanced athletes, and lifters only. 

1. Suicide Runs- Make sure you have at least 25 yards, or the length of a basketball court. Mark 5 spots each at least 5 yards apart. Sprint at 90% intensity to each line then sprint back to the beginning. Repeat this until you hit all lines. Then immediately perform exercise 2.

2.Weighted Sled Pushes- Recommended weight-45-100 pounds. Space-50 yards. Push the sled running as fast as you can for 50 yards. 

3. Burpee to Push-up Arm Curl- Recommended weight 10-25 pounds- Perform a Burpee followed by 2 full push-ups (knees, or toes), then stand up and perform an 1 arm curl. Repeat this for 15 reps total. 

4. Kettle bell Power Swings- Recommended weight 10-40lbs. Stand with feet little more than should width apart. Grab the kettle bell and squat down swinging the weight between your legs and back up explosively to eye level. Use the momentum and repeat this motion for 20 reps. 

5. Kettle bell Single Leg Deadlift to Row- Recommend weight 10-40lbs-Stand on 1 foot with the weight in the opposite hand. Begin by bending over at the waist, keeping both knees straight, until you torso is parallel to the floor. Row the weight up to the torso then back down. Stand back up and repeat for 12 reps each leg. 

6. Planks- Hold a plank position for 90 seconds. Make sure your core stays tight and hips are neutral. You can do the plank on your knees, or toes. 

7 .Finish this round with another Suicide Run

*Only allow 15 seconds of rest in between each exercises if necessary. Rest 1 minute after each complete round. Perform 3 rounds of this routine. 

7 Great Balance Exercises To Start Your Day

Perform each exercise for 1 minute on each side, or 2minutes total

1 . Single Leg Nose Touches- Stand on 1 foot with both arms extending out in a T formation. Begin by bringing 1 arm in bending at the elbow to touch the front of your noise. Repeat this motion for the other side.  Do this for 2 minutes, alternating arms.

*Try closing your eyes to make this exercise harder. 

2. Toe Raises-Stand on your feet with your body straight. Begin by lifting your toes up, balancing on your heels, then drop them back to the floor. Repeat this motion for 2 minutes

3. Toe Curls- Stand on your feet with your body straight. Begin by curling your toes in, without lifting your foot. Repeat this motion for 2 minutes.

4. Single Leg Balance or (Heel/Toe)- Stand on 1 foot for 1 minute each side. Make sure to keep your core tight. If this is too difficult, then you may try standing heel to toe for 1 minute each position. 

5. Single Leg Balance to Overhead Arm Raises- Stand on 1 foot. Raise arms all the way up above your head then back down to your sides. Repeat this motion for 1 minute each leg.

6. Single Leg Balance with Leg Kickbacks- Stand on 1 foot and extend your opposite leg behind your, squeezing the hamstrings and glute. Repeat this motion for 1 minute each side.

7. Single Leg Knee Raises- Stand on 1 foot while raising the opposite knee up and down. Repeat this motion for 1 minute each leg. 

*You may use a wall for added support if necessary