Meal Prep Mastery: 5 Easy Steps to Plan Healthier Meals

Imagine, it’s the middle of the work week and you are completely spent after a long and tiring day at work. All you want to do is relax at home but you still have a laundry list of things to do including picking up your kids and figuring out what to do for dinner. You want to have something healthy, but you can’t bring yourself to cook a homemade meal after the day you’ve had. So, because of the convenience and your physical exhaustion, you decide to hit up the drive through of a fast food restaurant……..does any of this sound familiar? We’ve all been there at some point. Let’s be real, it’s hard to work a full day and then still have the energy to come home and put together a healthy dinner. So more often than not, convenience wins out.

One of the best ways to eat healthy and save money and time throughout the week is with meal prepping. Meal planning and prep involves preparing food up to 3-4 days in advance. The beauty of this strategy is that when you come home exhausted from work, you already have a healthy dinner that’s either fully or almost completely prepared. On average it is almost 5 times more expensive to order delivery from a restaurant than it is to cook at home.

Another benefit of cooking at home is you can control how much salt, sugar, and fat is being added to your food, which is something we have little control over when eating out. This is especially helpful for pre-existing medical conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.  

To help get you started, here are five easy tips to help you become a master of meal prep.

1. Choose recipes or meals that you want to have throughout the week

You can further save money and stay within your budget by trying to plan meals or recipes around ingredients you already have at home. Start with simple dishes that are easy to cook to further simplify the process. For recipe ideas you can check out some of the recipes on The Diet Duchess Pinterest page.

   2. Create a grocery list

Make a list of the grocery items you need for your chosen dishes and recipes. Having focus and a grocery list can help you choose healthier options when going to the grocery store, will limit impulse buys, and can help keep you in budget financially.

3. Pick a day to prepare meals

Ideally you want to choose a day that you don’t have to work and can dedicate some time in the kitchen preparing and cooking your food for the week.

4. Multi-task with meal prep

Cooking multiple dishes at a time on your meal prep day can help reduce the overall amount of time you need to spend cooking. For example- something can be cooking in the crock pot, while another dish bakes in the oven, and you assemble and pack salads or cold lunches for the week. The more prep you accomplish on your meal prep day, the less work you will need to do throughout the week.

5. Wash, cut, and prepare fruits and vegetables

Have fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables ready to enjoy as a snack or add to one of your meals for a boost of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. To save further time, you can even buy produce that is already washed, cut, and ready to cook or eat. Line containers with paper towels to absorb moisture and help prevent fresh fruits and veggies from spoiling sooner.

Another option that you have at your disposal is to use one of The Diet Duchess 7 day meal plans that are officially being launched today. They can be found in the Products section of the website. Meal plans are $29.99 and can simplify your meal prep even further by already having healthy meals and recipes selected for you. The meal plans have different calorie levels so that you can choose the calorie level best fit for you for either weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. The meal plans are also suitable for people with diabetes. 

To determine what calorie level is best for you, visit the following calorie calculator from the American Council of Exercise. It will take into account your age, gender, height, weight, and physical activity level. The calculator will estimate how many calories you need daily to maintain your weight. If your goal is to lose weight, you can either:

  • Option 1: subtract 500 calories from this daily amount (this will allow you to achieve 1 pound of weight loss per week)

or

  •  Option 2: subtract 1000 calories from this daily amount (this will allow you to achieve 2 pounds of weight loss per week)

Healthy, natural weight loss is right around 1-2 pounds a week so I would not suggest subtracting more calories than suggested above. Eating too little calories can also be an inhibitor to weight loss.

I hope you enjoy The Diet Duchess 7 day meal plans and that they get you one step closer to Royally Rocking Your Diet. If you have any questions about them or have questions about what calorie level to choose, feel free to shoot me an email in the Contact section of the website.

Royally Yours,

The Diet Duchess

Homemade Healthy Granola

It’s been a few weeks since I shared a recipe and thought it was time to give you guys a new healthy and tasty recipe to try. Granola is a great option for breakfast or a healthy snack. The only problem is most granola you buy at the grocery store has A LOT of ADDED SUGAR!! That kind of defeats the point of a healthy breakfast. So, with this homemade recipe you can cut down on the total sugar while still enjoying whole grains and healthy fats.

In this recipe you can customize your own homemade granola by picking your favorite nuts, grains, and dried fruit. The prep time should only take around 5-7 minutes, plus 30 minutes of baking, so it’s a pretty simple and easy recipe to execute.

Build Your Own Healthy Granola:

Dry Ingredients:

  • 4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon of your favorite spice
    • Ex- cinnamon, pumpkin spice, or cloves
  • 1 cup raw nuts/seeds
    • Ex-chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup of coconut or more oats, quinoa, or nuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit
    • Ex- cranberries, raisins, apricots, apple, or pineapple (*Dried fruit usually tends to have a lot of added sugar. To cut down on sugar look for a reduced sugar option of your dried fruit, or look for dried fruit with no added sugar.*)
  • 1 pinch of salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup of oil
    • Ex-olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup of honey or 100% pure maple syrup

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients
  • Spread ingredients onto a baking dish/baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper
  • Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown
Granola dry ingredients - Edited
Dry granola ingredients
Pan of granola - Edited
Granola ready for the oven
Granola up close
Finished granola

If you have diabetes, you can always use less honey or dried fruit for better blood sugar control and be sure to include some protein with your breakfast (for example eggs, peanut butter, or cottage cheese). Also, keep in mind that with granola you don’t need as large of a portion as your typical cereal. A single serving of granola is only ¼ Cup. This serving should be appropriate for a snack. For breakfast, ½ Cup, should be reasonable for most people, but this of course will depend on your individual daily calorie needs.

If you would like to recreate the granola I made that’s pictured in the post, you can find my chosen ingredients below (the combination came out delicious):

  • 4 C old fashioned oats
  • 1 Tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1 C raw chopped almonds
  • ½ C quinoa + ½ C unsweetened coconut flakes ( I added the coconut halfway through the baking process so that it wouldn’t brown too much)
  • ½ C reduced sugar dried cranberries and dried apricots with no added sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • ¼ C of canola oil
  • 1 ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • ¼ C honey

You can try enjoying your granola solo, with milk, over plain unsweetened yogurt, or cottage cheese. I hope you find this week’s recipe as tasty as I did. Be sure to store your granola in an air tight container (I like to use a Mason jar) and it should last 1-2 weeks.

Like and comment below, letting me know how your granola came out. Also be sure to stay tuned for next week’s post that will feature the official launch of The Diet Duchess 7 day meal plans that will be available for sale in the Products section of the website.

Royally Yours,

The Diet Duchess

Weight Worry: Who’s Really Benefiting from Regular Weigh-ins?

Let’s face it, one of the most notoriously dreaded parts of tracking weight loss progress for many people is stepping onto the scale. It’s a truth tell all moment where you get to see if all your hard work to lose weight is starting to pay off. I’ve had so many clients report in my office that they’re weighing themselves daily or even multiple times a day in the hope that they will see their weight moving in the downward progression. The real question though is, how often should we be weighing ourselves?

Don’t panic if you step on the scale twice in one day and notice the numbers don’t match

The first most important truth to realize is that our weight changes throughout the day. We do not weigh the same in the morning as we do later on in the day. There are many things that affect the number on the scale as the day progresses such as the foods we eat and our hydration status (for example, how much water or fluids we are drinking and whether or not we have recently gone to the bathroom or lost fluids through sweat). So don’t panic if you step on the scale twice in one day and notice the numbers don’t match.

Not all scales are created

Another important truth to realize is that not all scales are created equal. You can weigh something completely different at the doctor’s office than you do at home. Your best bet is to track your progress on the same scale for better accuracy. Additionally you want to avoid weighing yourself on carpet because it can give you an incorrect reading. Always make sure your scale is on a flat hard surface and that your weight is evenly distributed.  My general rule of thumb and recommendation is to check your weight once a week. Aim to check your weight the same day of the week, at the same time (in the morning when you first wake up after using the bathroom is best), and try to wear the same clothing (if any at all). Following these guidelines can help give  you a more accurate picture of what your weight is and which way it is trending.

Now you may be thinking, let’s just avoid the scale completely. I never want to weigh myself again! Before you make that decision, it’s important to know what some of the research says. A study done by the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2012 found that people who lost weight were more likely to keep it off if they weighed themselves regularly. In addition the National Weight Loss Registry found that 75 percent of people who lost weight and successfully kept it off were weighing themselves at least once a week. Using the scale as a tool for weight loss and weight management therefore has the ability to help keep you on track.

Say goodbye to scale anxiety

There may be a group of us though that have had some negative experiences with stepping on the scale and may actually have serious anxiety at the thought of even doing it. If you fall into this category, and the number on the scale has the ability to drastically change your mood or the way you feel about yourself, then consistent weigh-ins may not be your friend and can potentially cause more harm than good. I myself fell into this category and gave up routine weight checks years ago. Instead I keep my focus on staying active, eating right, and the way I feel. It’s important to remember that the number on the scale is just that, a number. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t define who you are.

Alternatives to stepping on the scale

If you decide that routine trips to the scale aren’t for you but you want other methods to track your progress, I have a couple of suggestions for you:

  1. Measure your weight loss in inches
    1. Use a measuring tape to track the inches you lose (for example measure your waistline, chest, hips, thighs, and arms and re-measure every three to four weeks to track your progress )
  2. Track your body fat percentage
    1. Use a handheld body fat analyzer to observe the trend of your weight loss and fitness level through your body fat percentage. Many body fat analyzers can be bought online for under forty dollars.
  3. Monitor your weight loss by clothing size
    1. Size unfortunately is not standardized, so I would recommend picking one brand of clothing that you already wear and celebrate when you achieve the victory of making it down to a smaller size.

I hope this week’s post answered some of your questions on weigh ins and weight loss, and how often (if at all for some of us) we should be stepping up onto that scale.  I encourage you to consider yourself and whether or not a weekly weigh-in or one of the alternatives I suggested will be the most productive tool for you in your weight loss and weight management journey. Make the decision and start implementing whatever is going to work best for you.

Until next week,

The Diet Duchess

Workout wisdom: A dietitian’s guide to healthy eating after workouts

Have you ever wondered what the best thing to eat or drink after a workout is? Have you ever thought ok, now that I’ve spent time at the gym I can go eat some junk food? Maybe you want to choose the right foods for yourself after your workout but just aren’t sure what to eat. Well, today I am going to give you the inside scoop on the three most important things your body needs after a workout.

The foods we eat and drink play an important role in giving our body the energy we need before a workout as well as the nutrition needed for recovery afterwards. Whether you train rigorously as an athlete, or do the occasional workout, this article will give you some helpful tips on what to choose for your post workout nutrition.

The first thing you want to make sure you do is replace fluids lost during exercise…..in other words hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Water is always a great option for staying hydrated and replacing the fluids you lose during a workout through sweat.

IMG_7240

Replace Fluids Lost

When you are doing a light or moderate exercise session, water alone can meet you re-hydration needs. The average person does not need more than this. Sports drinks such as Gatorade that have carbohydrates and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) are only indicated  for athletes doing vigorous and sustained physical activities lasting 90 minutes or more.

If you are exercising for general health and/or to lose weight or you are exercising for an hour or less sports drinks are not an appropriate option for you. In addition they are not a good choice as a day to day beverage because they provide an unneeded amount of sugar and sodium.

Consume Carbohydrates and Quality Protein

Glycogen is the energy stored in your muscles to help fuel your workouts. When you exercise, these stores are used and eventually depleted. Carbohydrates are therefore needed after a workout to help replenish the glycogen that was used. Some examples of carbohydrates include fruit, grains such as bread, rice, cereal, pasta, and milk.  

In addition to carbohydrates, you also want to consume a quality protein source to help repair and build muscle tissue after your workouts. Examples of a quality protein include meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and soy. For adults, 10 to 35% of your daily calories should be made up of protein. After a workout, protein needs can be met by using the equation of 0.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

0.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight = your post workout protein needs

*Athletes and people at extreme ends of the weight spectrum may not fit this equation*

For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to convert it into kilograms (150 lbs divided by 2.2 = 68.2 kilograms). Then multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.3 grams of protein to get the total grams of protein you need for your post workout recovery meal (68.2 kg x 0.3 grams of protein = 20 grams of protein).

Most people are able to get their protein needs from diet alone, but protein powders can be a good alternative when you aren’t able to prepare a balanced meal or snack after your workout.

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To help get you started, here are some ideas on what to eat after a workout.

Post workout nutrition examples:

  • Plain yogurt or low fat cottage cheese with berries
  • 1 cup of chocolate milk
  • A turkey or tuna sandwich wrap made with a whole wheat tortilla, cucumber, spinach, and tomato
  • A smoothie recovery shake made with low fat milk and frozen berries
  • Black bean, tofu, and vegetable chili with a slice of cornbread
  • Stir fry chicken with mixed vegetables and brown rice
Workout Recovery
Chocolate Milk

 

 

Vegetarian Chili and Cornbread
Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread

Timing Is Key

Try to get your post recovery nutrition, whether it is a meal or snack within 2 hours of your workout. If your goal is to build muscle and increase lean muscle mass, aim to have your post workout meal as soon as possible due to current studies suggesting protein consumption for the purpose of increasing muscle mass is greatest immediately after your workout. Keep in mind that higher intake of protein after workouts, for example, greater than 40 grams of dietary protein have not yet been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis.

The next time you workout, remember the three most important things you need afterwards: fluids (water), carbohydrates, and protein. Over the next week, I challenge you to try at least one of my post workout nutrition meals or snacks. Comment below and let me know which ones work best for you.

Until next week.

Royally Yours,

The Diet Duchess