How to meal prep for normal, busy women who aren’t trying to land the cover of a fitness magazine

Doing a simple search for  the term ‘meal prep’ is likely to elicit tons of results. Great. Except there was one teeny tiny problem. Most of the meal prep videos or articles that came up  were incredibly detailed and regimented, and had you eating pretty much the same thing all week long.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for sure for that kind of meal prep. But let’s be honest that is not the place that the majority of women live, at least not on a regular basis. Nor should they.

So how do you meal prep like a normal woman with a to do list a mile (link to other post here) long?

You keep it simple. Like so simple it will probably feel like your 10 year old could pull it off.

I’ve been there…ya know the place I described up above. I used to weigh out each meal ensuring my portion sizes were perfect and that I was counting my macros correctly. I ate each meal on a timer and rarely ever skipped a meal.

Eating like that served its purpose while I was prepping for my first and only two figure competitions. Thinking about that kind of meal prep is sort of exhausting these days. And actually quite unnecessary.

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Meal prep like you have a life

If you don’t get paid to look a certain  or  perform a certain way as a job, then likely you don’t need to go through the painful process I outlined above. If however, you are just treading water trying not to drown in all of your life’s responsibilities and you want to start chipping away at some of your dusty ol health and fitness goals then this is for you.

Meal prepping will save you a ton of time throughout the week as well as money (thus helping you stick to your budget), and will make weeknights far less stressful. As if all of those reasons weren’t enough, you will most likely even end up feeling better while moving the needle towards your personal health goals.

No need to get fancy. Simply follow the steps below, and bam. You’ll be meal prepping like a boss.

Steps to meal prep:

  1. Sit down with your calendar and create a meal plan for yourself for the week. Know what meals you’ll have for dinner, lunch, breakfast. Do you have any days you’ll be eating out or exceptionally busy? Mark those down with an ‘x’ or something. The busiest of the busy days will be a day when you want to have something prepped and ready to go so you don’t have to think about it. * Try slow cooker meals or instant pot meals for those days.
  2. After you’ve created your menu for the week, you need to compile a list of things to grab at the store. Pro tip: check your pantry and your fridge so you don’t end up buying too much or too little of an ingredient.
  3. Pick a day to prep. Is it going to be the same day as when you grab your groceries? Will you need to do a couple days of prep?
  4. Prep made easy: Keep it simple. Cook up some smart carbs like rice, quinoa, potatoes/ sweet potatoes, or a pot of beans. Cook up a couple different kinds of protein or prep them ahead of time if for example you plan to eat tuna salad or chicken salad just make a big batch. Have your healthy fats on hand and your fruits and veggies. You can cut those up as well ahead of time, though they do lose some nutritional value if they are left sitting too long before you eat them.
  5. Bonus tip:  you can put your food in smaller containers so you can grab and go or you can just pull it out and pack it the day of.
  6. Extra bonus tip:  only season with salt and pepper. By doing it that way, you’ll be able to mix and match your flavors throughout the week by adding salsa or curry seasoning, etc.

Do you have a meal prep tip that you are crazy about? Share it below in the comments.

 

You can meal prep like a pro all the while being the totally normal and slightly busy woman that you are 😉

 

xo,

Alisha Carlson (8)

Every day can be Taco Tuesday with this easy one skillet meal

I’ve been rocking my single mom status this week while my hubby is out of town for a work conference. One week may seem like a long time (and at one point it was for us too), but being a military family we have gotten used to long stretches of being split up whether for training camps or deployments. Regardless of how long he’s gone, I am a big fan of easy and quick meals that my kids don’t fuss over.

I was scrolling Pinterest last week as I normally do to get new dinner ideas and came across a super simple one skillet dinner that was healthy and delicious. Plus, it took less than 25 minutes from start to finish.. I made a few tweaks to the recipe and here is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it and let me know how you change it up, because there are literally thousands of ways this dish could be made!

 

What you need:
1 lb ground turkey ( I used 99%lean, you could use chicken or beef too)
1/2 white onion
3/4 c salsa (Costco is my favorite one)
1 whole wheat tortilla
1/3 c shredded cheese
Cumin
Chili powder
Sea salt
Garlic powder
1 can rinsed and drained kidney, black, or pinto beans (no salt added)
And your toppings of choice

To make:
Sauté onions until cooked (about 3 min)
Add ground meat cook, breaking apart and season with spices
Add salsa and cheese
Cook until meat is done and warmed through
Cut up tortilla into strips and add it into the mix (optional)

Serve with lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado, and green onion or any other toppings you typically like on your tacos 🌮🥑

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This beet and goat cheese salad is to die for..

Wine in the mail? A few years back I had signed up for one of those monthly wine clubs where they sent you new bottles each month to try out, and one of the extra perks was that you got recipes to go with each bottle of wine. This was an amazing service and is definitely something I would recommend if wine is your jam and you’re also on a budget. Hosting your own happy hour or wine tasting is so much fun and is likely more affordable than hitting the local spots.

Anyway, one of the recipes that came was a beet and pistachio salad. At the time beets were not a regular ingredient in my weekly meal prep as I hadn’t had too many pleasant experiences with them. But I am all about adventure and stepping out of your comfort zone, so I decided to give this salad a try, and as you guessed it by the title of this blog post a version of this salad has become one of my favorites.

I shared a picture of my hubby’s birthday dinner a couple days ago on my social media and had so many requests for the recipe I wanted to share it here too. 28055983_1633104806726074_2528223352529088391_n

Ingredients:

Mixed salad greens (about 1-2 cups/person)

3 large beets (golden or red will work)

1/2 c shelled pistachios (roasted)

Goat cheese

Dressing:

1 T Red wine vinegar

3-4 T Olive Oil

1 tsp stone ground mustard

1-2 garlic cloves pressed or diced finely

pinch of sea salt

(you can play around with the measurements until you get it to your liking, my hubby isn’t too fond of vinegar/mustard so I go easy on it )

 

To make it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees
  2. cut the stems from the beets and wrap in foil, place in the oven
  3. roast beets until done and easily pierced with a fork or knife about 45-60 min
  4. shell and roast your pistachios for about 5 minutes until you can see a little oil release. Remove from heat so they can cool.
  5. rinse your greens and add them to a large bowl, set aside.
  6. while beets are roasting, prepare the dressing and set aside. I like to use a small mason jar, add all the ingredients, seal the lid, and shake until it is combined.
  7. When the beets are cooked through, let them cool, peel them, and cut into small wedges and add to the greens.
  8. Chop the pistachios, add to the salad.
  9. Finally top with goat cheese and a little dressing.

Clean eating for beginners-learn how to meal plan/prep like a pro

Whether you are brand new to the healthy lifestyle or consider yourself a seasoned vet, it can be challenging to stay the course when you are completely confused or bored with your options. I found when it was just me, things were pretty simple. I could just eat the same thing day in and day out, make whatever I wanted, and no one really complained.

However, throw in a husband, a couple of kids, and a business.. the game changes quite a bit. One of the things I think we have done a pretty good job with is exposing our kids to a variety of flavors early on, and we always have the “try it one more time” rule…yes, even I abide by that rule (which sometimes comes back to bite me)  Still to this day (almost 33 years of trying) I can tell you I do not like olives. My kids like being able to pull the card on me when there are olives around. Paybacks.

I remember when I first started my health and fitness journey it took me a while to find a groove with my weekly menu planning and grocery shopping, and it was easy to fall off track if I got lazy or life got buys. One thing I noticed was that not planning when life was busy, just made things feel that much busier and worse.

However, over the years I’ve been tweaking and refining my system, and I feel like I have created a pretty simple system that I am able to use every single week to nail my meal plan all while keeping it healthy and on track with my weight loss/fat loss goals or any other fitness goal I might be pursuing at the moment.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give to you is to keep it simple. If you don’t have a lot of time during the week because your weeknights are busy, then opt for crockpot or instant pot meals, and experiment on the weekends with new recipes to throw in the mix. If you have picky eaters in your family then find some staple recipes that allow you to hide a ton of vegetables in it without being detected (I shared more about picky eaters here).

Over the last six months as my fitness and coaching business have begun to take off I have had to streamline our family’s system even more. We’ve switched over to online grocery shopping almost 100% exclusively–this helps us save money and stick to our budget because we aren’t randomly tossing items into the cart, and it also helps me stick to my meal plan and my portions. If it isn’t in the house, I won’t eat it.

Clean Eating.pngMy current nutrition plan still follows the clean eating principles, but has also introduced timed nutrition (eating certain macro nutrients at certain times, it is a technique that is often used with athletes and/ or body builders/ fitness models.) This has required more focus on my end. Which if you have learned anything about me, you know I am always up for a good challenge! So, what are my biggest life hacks when it comes to meal planning on a budget? Let’s get into it..

  1. Pick one day to do all of your shopping for the week (I order and pick up my groceries on Saturday). Schedule this on your calendar. If you are serious about creating a healthy lifestyle, you’ve got to treat it like it matters to you.
  2. Meal plan. Again, I sit down Saturday morning with a cup of coffee and plan 6 dinners. I think about breakfasts, lunches, and make sure I have healthy snacks on hand (Shakeology is one of our daily staples) for the whole family. My go to places for healthy recipes are Pinterest of course, or I use the Beachbody blog (beachbodyondemand.com)
  3. Set aside some time to do a little prep when you get home from the store. I typically will hard boil eggs, make egg cups, and pull out any protein that needs to thaw for dinners that week. If you are super short on time throughout the week, I would suggest making up a big salad and portion it out or at the very least cut up some veggies for quick and healthy snacks. You can also cook up some chicken breast on the grill or in the broiler. If you only season with salt and pepper you can use it in a number of recipes. You can also cook up some rice, quinoa, or sweet potato for some easy to grab carbs. *Whether you are on a low carb diet or not, having these slower digesting carbs will help regulate your blood sugar throughout the day.
  4. Keep it fresh by incorporating new recipes throughout the week/month. I usually eat the same thing throughout the week, but try to add variety throughout my days. For example, I don’t eat the same vegetable or fruit all day, but may have the same vegetable over a few days that week.

There are tons of apps available now to help you get organized with your grocery shopping. A lot of them will even keep your previous lists which can be helpful and make grocery shopping even more simple. I know how overwhelming it can be to make changes. I’ve been there! Believe me though, it is absolutely worth it to create these good habits. If you are new to clean eating or even just want to refresh your skills, I’ve created a FREE 5 day challenge. I’d love to see you there! Each day you will get some of my tips sent right to your inbox and you will be able to hang out with me and many other ladies just like you in our Facebook group.

Creating changes can be hard, but not impossible! Especially if you do it with your tribe..For more details on the 5 day challenge or on working with me fill out the contact info and just indicate how I can best serve you!

 

xo,

Alisha

What to cook when you’re feeding picky eaters

I remember when I first started my clean eating journey over ten years ago it was hard enough to make some necessary changes in my and my husband’s life when it came to our nutrition and healthy habits let alone even thinking about what and how we would feed our kids healthy food without a ton of resistance. I’ll admit maybe I had a slight edge in the fact that I had already changed a lot of my habits around food before having my daughter. I was already swapping  healthy{ier} ingredients into some of our go to recipes. And the kind of food I would keep in the house had changed so much from the food that I grew up eating.

However, since I like cooking and like to pretend I’m a foodie on the Food Network there were of course things I would make or try to get my kids to eat and they weren’t having any of that. For the record, regardless of whether or not your kids came out of the womb munching on kale or other superfoods or not, you CAN always change their habits. If we can do it as adults, then so can our kids. The hardest part honestly is probably just sticking to your guns and not giving in or giving up when your kid refuses to eat what you have made.

One of the things that has really  helped is creating an arsenal of kid friendly dinner ideas that are easy enough that your kids can get involved with too. I know that life is crazy with kids– whether it is play dates or after school activities it seems like our schedules are jam packed. So easy and quick recipes are always welcome!

Besides, when you involve your kids in the  meal planning, grocery shopping, and cooking you are teaching them how to eat, rather than just feeding them. You know it’s that whole analogy of teaching a man to fish vs just giving him a fish. Because whether you’re ready to see your kids leave the nest or not, they will one day, and I know that you want to see them fully capable and able to take care of themselves. Does it sometimes take more time having them in the kitchen? You bet. Does it sometimes get a little messier? Yes! But it can also be such a great time to bond with your kids.

Some of my family’s go tos are: tacos, spaghetti, breakfast foods, or hamburgers. The good news is that these can all be tweaked to be healthier for them and for you. And if you are wanting to watch your weight a little simply focusing on your portion sizes and cleaning the recipes up just a bit can go a long way in your efforts.

Not quite sure what kinds of swaps or upgrades you can make to make these healthier how to.pngwithout adding difficulty…I’ve got you! Here are a few of my ideas:

Tacos:

  • swap high fat ground beef for leaner beef, venison, elk, or ground turkey/chicken
  • make your own taco seasoning with cumin, ground chili powder, salt, pepper, dehydrated garlic
  • opt for black beans over refried beans
  • make it a taco salad with a few tortilla chips on top to get more veggies in

Spaghetti:

  • whole grain noodles over white noodles
  • boost the veggie content with greens, canned tomatoes, shredded carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms
  • sub noodles for spaghetti squash

Breakfasts:

  • incorporate protein, veggies, and fruit if you can
  • sub chicken sausage over pork sausage
  • can use a blend of egg whites and whole eggs (the yolk is where the bulk of the nutrients are)

Hamburgers:

  • go for ground turkey or chicken or lean ground beef
  • skip the bun
  • serve with home made fries instead of chips

 

Since I’ve made it a personal mission to not get stuck in a rut, making the same things week after week, I’ve started using Pinterest more (and actually making the things I’ve pinned). Last night we made this and it was a winner! It really is just a spin on a quiche, and is super versatile.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups Kodiak Cake Protein Mix (we get ours at Costco)

4 T butter cut into the Kodiak Cake mix

1/2 cup ice water added slowly

2 eggs per person (we used 8 total)

Cooked and chopped bacon (could sub chicken sausage or Canadian Bacon)

Any veggies you have on hand (onions, bell peppers, broccoli, garlic)

Cheese of choice shredded

To make it:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add the Kodiak cake mix to a bowl and cut the butter in until it makes small crumbs, then slowly add in the water. Mix until dough forms and then lay it out between two pieces of wax or parchment paper. Then roll it out to make a crust. Pinch the ends to make a well/crust to prevent eggs from running off. Place it on a cookie sheet (on parchment paper for easy clean up). Then crack the eggs on the dough, top with bacon and veggies and the shredded cheese. Cook for 10-12 minutes until dough and egg whites are done. Then cut it up dividing it among different plates and serve.

*This can be used for breakfast or like us for dinner. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did, it will certainly make its way into the rotation. And of course as always if you have any questions or requests for things you want to see more of drop me an email at findyourthrive@gmail.com or leave it in the comments!

Cheers to creating healthy habits for you AND your sweet family!

XO Alisha

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Healthy Chicken Alfredo

 

When I started my clean eating journey I remember there were a few foods I was going to be very sad to see go (at least on a regular basis), and Alfredo sauce was definitely one of them. Since I am always on the mission to satisfy my inner foodie and experiment with healthy swaps for my recipes, you can imagine my joy when I found this recipe.

Cauliflower seems to be such a hot ingredient these days. I love how  versatile it is as an ingredient, and it seems that you can use cauliflower as a substitute in so many recipes  (including pizza crust). For this particular recipe, the combination of cheese,  cauliflower, spices, and milk gave this sauce all the high notes without any of the guilt or bloating that might come from eating the real thing.

And because I am always looking to boost the veggie content of most meals, I served it alongside some steamed broccoli.

What you will need:

  • 8 oz . dry whole grain fettuccine
  • 3 cups low-sodium organic vegetable broth
  • 1 medium cauliflower , chopped (about 1½ pounds) or one 16 oz bag of cauliflower rice (this is what I used)
  • 2 tsp . olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic , finely chopped
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg or all spice
  • Sea salt (or Himalayan salt) and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk or regular milk
  • ½-3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp . chopped flat-leaf parsley (for garnish; optional)
  • 1 pound chicken breast grilled
  • 1 pound of broccoli floretsHealthy

Here’s how:

  1. Cook fettuccine according to directions on package.
  2. Bring broth to a boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower. Reduce heat; cook, covered, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until soft.
  3. While cauliflower cooks, heat oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add garlic; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute, or until garlic is soft.
  5. Place cauliflower + vegetable broth in blender (or food processor) with garlic and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Blend in two or more batches if necessary; cover with lid and kitchen towel. Blend until very smooth.
  6. Heat cauliflower mixture in same medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
  7. Add  milk; cook, stirring frequently, 5 to 7 minutes. Consistency should be that of a thick soup. (Meanwhile, steam broccoli)
  8. Add fettuccine; mix well.
  9. Divide fettuccine evenly between four bowls. Top evenly with cheese and parsley (if desired); serve immediately.
  10. Grill chicken until it is cooked through, slice and serve with fettuccine.