Healthy lunch ideas for the corporate worker

Because is that tiny Tupperware container of straight Spinach really cutting it?  I couldn’t help but notice an abnormal amount of “salads” in the office fridge last month.  If that cup of lettuce with nothing added to it is really cutting it for you and you are truly satisfied then props to you but I am going to bet my money that you have been spending your afternoons unsatisfied and hangry.  Getting back on track for the new year doesn’t have to involve packing miserable salads every day for lunch.  In fact, there are a lot of healthy and easy to pack lunches that won’t leave you day dreaming about having a second lunch at 12:05pm.  I’ve decided to share 5 of my favorite healthy lunch ideas below:

 

1. Low carb sandwiches

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I am a huge advocate for sandwiches or wraps!  Unfortunately the majority of restaurants use higher carb breads or wraps so the calories can add up (even whole wheat).  For example, whole grain wheat bread from Au Bon Pain is 280 calories, whereas 2 slices of Sara Lee multigrain bread is 90 calories (45 calories each!).  There are several brands out there that make low carb breads such as Sara Lee, Pepperidge Farm, and Joseph’s (pitas and wraps).  While these brands are healthy, if you want to keep it 100% clean Ezekiel sprouted grain bread is also a great option!  The simple decision to switch to low carb bread can make a difference of hundreds of calories in your lunch while keeping you just as satisfied.

 

2. Burrito Bowls

fullsizerender-20 Let’s just be clear that I am all for a Chipotle or Boloco lunch and there are plenty of healthy options when ordering out (perhaps a new blog post topic) but if you want to save yourself some money and a few extra cals a homemade burrito bowl or taco salad is my personal favorite lunch!  I typically will use a generous base of lettuce cause #volume and then add either brown rice or riced cauliflower, black beans, salsa, tomato, low fat cheese and either ground lean beef or turkey (cooked with taco seasoning) topped with Bolthouse ranch yogurt dressing.

 

3. Salads with more than spinach

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I might have taken a page out of Sweetgreen’s book here.  My point is that a salad doesn’t have to be just lettuce grilled chicken and veggies!  Pictured here is lettuce with turkey bacon, sweet potato, fruit, and grilled chicken.  Sounds like an odd combination but top this with some vinaigrette dressing and you got yourself a nice harvest salad!  A few other game changing salad toppings include sliced apples, slivered almonds, avocado, or tortilla strips (portion within reason)!  Speaking of portions, another thing to keep in mind is choosing your dressing wisely.  A lot of dressings are high in fat so be aware of your portion size and either make your own dressing, or choose a brand lower in fats.

 

4. Burgers

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I actually wrote a blog post over the summer full of healthy burger recipes . Choosing lean beef and cooking your own burger at home, even if it’s on a “normal” roll, will still save you a lot of calories from fat.  Pictured here is my breakfast burger made with a lean beef burger (96%) topped with an over easy egg, turkey bacon and laughing cow swiss cheese sandwiched between two slices of Ezekiel Sesame toast.  This entire burger is only 13g Fat, 30g Carbs, and 38g Protein. Compare this to a Five Guys bacon cheeseburger: 62g Fat, 40g Carbs, 50g Protein, essentially 3x the amount of calories and 3x more likely you’re going to need an afternoon nap.  I am also a big fan on burger salads or using lettuce wedges or portobella mushroom caps for your sandwich base.

 

5. Crock pot meals

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It’s crock pot season, at least here in New England.  There’s no easier way to prep food than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and letting it do its thing.  I am a huge turkey chili fan but other easy meals to make in the crock pot include chicken noodle soup, stuffed peppers, or even a lean meatloaf!  The crock pot can even come in handy just to prep your protein for the week.  I recently made lean turkey meatballs with whole wheat bread crumbs, reduced fat parmesan cheese, onion and garlic tossed them in the pot with low salt tomato sauce and let them cook on low for a few hours.  I’ve also made pulled chicken in which I literally just threw a few chicken breast in the crock pot with water and seasoning and let it cook overnight on low (7-8 hours), drained, then pulled apart with 2 forks, put back in pot (I sometime add buffalo or low sugar bbq at this time) and let cook on low for another 30 mins.  I also swear pulled chicken stays fresh longer than grilled or baked chicken.

So there you have it!  Added a few more than 5 meals here but the point I am trying to make is that you can recreate healthy alternatives to a lot of typical lunch foods and don’t need to stick to plain spinach or plain grilled chicken and veggies every day.  Yes you may have to take a few extra minutes to prepare your meal the night before but those few extra minutes are worth it.  If you have a go-to healthy and satisfying lunch idea I would love for you to share in the comments below!

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How to combat motivation slumps

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In my last blog post (written months ago) I discussed my struggle with staying motivated and how I simply felt burnt out.  Since then I have taken several steps to work myself out of that slump.  At this time of the year a lot of people decide to throw in the towel and “start fresh” in the new year.  New year new you right?  Maybe this is true for those who are truly, internally motivated to change but perhaps not for those who are externally pressured to “get fit”.  Or maybe you are someone like me who was in love with the grind but lost that spark somewhere along the way.  Wherever you may be in your journey, below is a list of things to consider as you work to revive that love for the grind:

 

1. Reevaluate your priorities

Working out has been a numero uno priority for me for years and this year it finally hit me that I needed to prioritize other things in my life aside from the gym.  I still kept working out as a top priority, just not number one.  Perhaps you have other things going on in your life that are more important to you right now and the gym may need to get stood up an extra night or two.  And that’s okay!  Being realistic with your priorities can at least help you justify why your gym visits have slowed down.  Maybe you’re not motivated to go to the gym because you just simply don’t want to be at the gym!  You’d rather be helping your best friend get ready for her wedding, or working an extra couple of hours for that raise.  Whatever it is, just be honest with your priorities and own it.  When getting fit is truly a top priority you’ll make the time and you’ll make the visits worth it.

2. Switch up your routine

Having the same lifting routine, using the same cardio machines, and even going to the same gym can get boring.  I had been doing the same lifting split for months and just simply got bored.  I decided to actually write down my new split and plan to change it every 4 weeks.  This kept some structure in my routine (which I need) but it was a new structure and knowing that I was going to switch it in 4 weeks gave me that sense of deadline like “hey next month you may not be doing kettlebell swings so you better swing the shit out of that kettlebell”.  Maybe (definitely) I am the only person who thinks that way.  Either way, even just writing down my plan gave me a sense of direction and goal which motivated me to follow through.

3. Ditch the cardio machines

Maybe you are one of those people that loves cardio machines and props to you if you are but I honestly get bored AF most of the time.  I’ll still do the stairmaster every once in a while but the thought of getting on the treadmill, bike, or elliptical… snooze city.  Here is a list of ways that I have been getting in my cardio that doesn’t involve a machine:

-Real stairs: Pick up 25lb plates and go up and down the stairs at your gym a few times.  If your gym doesn’t have stairs use a step and do a few rounds of step ups

-Sleds: Throw a couple of plates on a sled and give that baby a push in between your lifting sets.  This is by far  one of the quickest ways to get your heart rate up fast.

-Bodyweight HIIT circuit: You can literally make up your own circuit and just go hard for 30-60 seconds and rest for 30-60 seconds.  An example would be burpees for 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds, box jump 30 second, rest 30 seconds. 20 mins of HIIT is a quick and effective way to burn dem cals.

-Battle ropes- Pick these up and slam them on the ground a few times, feel the burn and repeat.

…Jump rope, boxing, supersets, medicine ball slams, swimming, tire flips.  You get the gist.

 

4. Try a new gym or activity

In addition to switching up my lifting split I also switched back to my old gym.  You’d be surprised at how much just a change of scenery can make a difference.  And if it’s just the whole idea of a gym that makes you want to puke, try a yoga or tabata class with a friend, go for a hike, try something new that’s active!

 

5. Give your body a rest

Maybe you feel unmotivated because you are just as exhausted physically as you are mentally.  Sometimes you just need to take a step back.  You’re not going to *lose all of the gains* if you take a little gym vacation.  You may be surprised with how your body responds to rest.  Even if you get a little fluffy after some time off, that time off may be just what you need to reset and refuel that energy.

If you have struggled in the past with staying motivated, please share in the comments below what steps you took to gain your motivation back!

 

Finding balance: Where I am at

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After competing in two bodybuilding shows last year I set a goal for myself to hang up the heels for a while (most likely indefinitely) and focus on finding a healthy balance in my life.  For those who aren’t a regular follower, I have been a bit more active with blog posting and Instagram lately, particularly with the “fitstagram” posts.  I have been a bit more active for two reasons. The first reason is to motivate.  More people have been asking me for workout advice or healthy meal ideas and while I am no PT I love to share whatever I can!  The gram or my blog are both great ways for me to keep track of my recipes and have reference points to share with others or to even revisit myself!  The second reason is to hold myself accountable.  If I have a certain “fitness” goal in mind it is often helpful for me to share my journey with the public (aka like my mom and 3 friends).  So aside from this larger goal of *balance*, I recently set a mini goal for myself to cut down for an upcoming fitness workshop and photo-shoot + my trip to Vegas where Mr. Olympia is hosted, but I have found myself slowly losing motivation.

I want to look dope AF at this workshop and in Vegas where I will be surrounded by some of the most well known athletes in the industry, but at what point will I just be happy with where my body is at?  I have come a very long way this year when it comes to self image/ self love/ balance/ whatever people want to call it these days but it’s weeks like these that I realize I am not quite there yet and that this isn’t just a situation where I am going to wake up one day and be like “Fuck yes I will never have a negative thought about my body ever again”.  Lately I’ve just felt tired.  Tired physically.  Tired mentally.  My 5am lifts have turned into 9am lifts, or no lifts.  My daily cardio has significantly dropped (side note I don’t need to be doing a ton of cardio I just used to really enjoy doing it).  And my “diet” is starting to feel like a diet and well, I am just tired of feeling like I am always on a diet.  For anyone who has ever tracked macros before, aka “flexible dieting”, you’ll realize that once you know the science it is always ingrained in your head even when you try not to track.  Can’t a girl just get a healthy acai bowl for breakfast which is filled with superfoods and micronutrients and not worry about the fact that half of her suggested carb intake for the day will be used up?  Maybe it is the heat, or maybe it is the fact that I haven’t started my new job yet and my usual routine is off, but right now my motivation is in hideout.  I know if I were to just throw in the towel, stop working out, and eat like shit I would feel 100x worse after about two days so that is not going to happen.  However, this lifestyle is tricky and the motivation isn’t always there for me.  Hoping once I get back to my regular routine this week I will feel refreshed but in the meantime I would love to hear if other people trying to live the healthy grind have went through this same type of funk, and how they decided to handle it 🙂

Tips and Tricks: Savory Edition

I recently wrote a “tips and tricks” post for people with a sweet tooth so I thought I would do a part two for those who are more into savory.  A lot of my “mindless eating” used to be from savory snacks such as chips, crackers, etc.  I would find myself at work snacking on pretzels in the middle of the day just because they were convenient.  Unfortunately that mindless snacking will add up.  Here are a few tricks and alternatives to help satisfy your savory craving:

 

1. Condiments/Seasonings

Finding the right condiments or seasonings are total game changers.  There are a lot of great low sodium seasonings (ex: Flavorgod, Mrs. Dash) that can transform your meals. Trying to choke down plain veggies and chicken all week just sounds miserable.  I’ll typically add hot sauce or reduced sugar ketchup if I go with a “basic bro meal”.  Other condiments or toppings that I like that are super low-calorie include mustard, salsa and laughing cow cheese wedges!

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2. Rices Cakes and Almonds

Rice cakes come in a variety of flavors both sweet and salty.  These are great lower carb options if you are looking for something crunchy that isn’t loaded with fat.  I typically enjoy rice cakes with peanut butter for sweet or laughing cow cheese wedge for salty.  My favorite flavors are white cheddar and apple cinnamon!  Almonds on the other hand are a great source of healthy fats.  Like rice cakes, almonds also come in a variety of flavors both sweet and salty.  My favorites are Blue Diamond Wasabi Soy and Toasted Coconut!

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3. Low Carb breads

If you haven’t tried Joseph’s pita bread or whole wheat lavashes you are missing out!  Joseph’s makes 60 calorie pita and 120 calorie wraps.  These are not only great for wraps or sandwiches but also make a perfect low carb base for homemade pizzas!

Other low carb bread brands that I like include Sara Lee and Pepperidge Farm (45 cals/slice!).

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4. Get creative with your veggies

This kind of overlaps with condiments/seasonings but you don’t have to load your veggies with olive oil to make them taste good!  I have recently been snacking on veggies dipped in low-fat garden vegetable cream cheese.  As long as you don’t eat the entire cream cheese container this is a great alternative to chips and dip.  Veggie chips are also an easy way to get those micronutrients in with the same crunch as chips!  And give me all the salsa with that because there are basically no cals in salsa.  Lastly, apparently cauliflower can do anything you want it to from pizza crust to rice.  I have never tried cauliflower crust but I have tried riced cauliflower, mashed cauliflower, and buffalo cauliflower and I was very impressed with everything!

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5.  Just eat the damn chips

Finishing my list the same way I finished my Tips and Tricks on Satisfying that Sweet Tooth post.  If your cravings are that bad just allow yourself to have the chips and guac.  It’s about moderation, balance, and portion control.  As I mentioned before, totally restricting yourself from certain foods can potentially lead to further problems down the road so try not to completely deprive yourself.  Be mindful and ask yourself do I really need another handful of chips or am I just eating them because they are there?  This is something I still struggle with!

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If you have additional tips and tricks I would love to hear them in the comments below 🙂 

Bikini Competition Prep, What I Have Learned So Far.

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So as a lot of you may know at this point, I have decided to compete in a bodybuilding show.  No, I am not trying to transform myself into Hulk Hogan.  I am competing in the bikini division.  Give “bikini competitor” a Google if you don’t know what that means.  I have always been focused on being healthy and took the next step to change my lifestyle about a year ago.  As I started to really change my diet and pick up those heavy weights, I noticed a big difference in how I looked and felt.  I decided I really wanted a challenge and to see just how far I could push myself.  I made the decision last summer that I wanted to compete.  And after several months of building muscle, here I am, half way through my contest prep diet.  So, here are a few things I have learned throughout this whole process:

1. It is a lot easier said than done to have a balanced social life while on contest prep.

It just is.  I can’t drink and it is really difficult to go out to dinner if the restaurant does not provide nutritional information.  Even if the restaurant does provide nutritional information, there is a good chance that the information is not 100% accurate.  I am sorry but if I am spending thousands of dollars (yes thousands) to bring my best package to the stage there is a good chance that I am going to do everything that I can to make sure my diet is on point.  Yes, there is the possibility of me taking my tupperware container to the restaurant but I have to admit I feel slightly rude doing that.  And let’s backtrack to the part when I said I can’t drink.  This is probably the most difficult part of prep for me.  And I say that in full confidence that I am not an alcoholic.  I am however, a 25 year old woman who enjoys a night out with her friends in the city every once and a while, or a wine night here and there.  But can’t I still have fun going out to the bar and not drinking? Yes, sometimes, but when you workout at 5am everyday it’s hard to put on your “turnt up” face on a Saturday night as you wait for last call.  I will say, if I ever decide to compete again, this is an area that I certainly need to work on.

2.  Not everyone will understand what you’re doing, or why you are doing it, and that is perfectly okay.

I try to avoid explaining why I am not drinking or why I am avoiding the cookies in the office as much as I can but I am truly bad at lying.  So I have had to explain to a lot of people that I am on a contest prep blah blah blah and there are two common reactions I have received. First, “wow that’s awesome good luck”.  Second , “so, you can’t just have one cookie? one drink?”.  I used to get super frustrated with response number two.  I quickly realized that they aren’t trying to bring me down and that they probably just realize that I do in fact want that glass of wine and they just really wish I could have one with them.  I am still learning all the ins and out of prepping for a bikini competition, so why should I expect that others understand what I am even doing?  I have received a ton of positive feedback throughout this entire journey from family and friends and I know they want nothing but the best for me.  I’ve concluded that my lower carb intake bitch is just taking over from time to time and it will eventually pass. 🙂

3.  It is important to engage with other competitors or people within the industry.

A lot of competitors will work with a local coach, be a part of a local team and have teammates by their side throughout their entire prep journey.  I on the other hand am working with an online coach who is located out of the state.  Now, I wouldn’t change my coach for anything but I realized quickly that this meant I would really have to go the extra mile to do a little extra research in finding out what the right show was for me and getting additional in person posing help.  More importantly, I feel like having people that you can connect with about the process is really important.  This really goes back to my first and second points listed above.  Not everyone is going to fully understand what you are going through, and that is okay.  In fact, even your fellow competitors will most likely have a totally different prep journey than you.  However, despite the slight differences in your diet and exercise leading up to the show, you’re all reaching for similar goals and will most likely all be spending more Saturday nights in chugging BCAAs and protein shakes.  At least if you choose to spend most of your weekends in you’re going to want someone to bond with over your mutual grandma-ness.  It is also important to point out that this prep feels like a second full time job (a very expensive second job), so I can’t help but talk about it more than I would like.  I am sure people are sick of hearing me talk about food and the gym which is why having others in the same boat to vent to that can directly relate makes things a little easier.  This is actually part of the reason that I started to blog, so that I had a platform where I could share all of my thoughts throughout my fitness journey and whoever wanted to read it can and those who don’t care don’t have to read it!  My last point here is that you may actually learn something from speaking to someone else.  There are A LOT of opinions out there when it comes to bodybuilding, dieting, what to eat, what not to eat, and you may not agree with everyone but you can gain some valuable knowledge by talking to people that have either competed in the past or are involved with the industry somehow.

Now, if you’re still reading this then I am thoroughly impressed.  I’ll be sure to follow up after my show in 5 weeks to give a full reflection of the experience.  My opinions that I stated above may even completely change by the end of this week 🙂  That’s just what this prep has done to my brain!