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Hard truths, simple answers

Suggestions and a crockpot recipe to save you from eating like an asshole

The temperatures are rising, summer is on its way, and many of us are starting to panic about our winter bods turning into our summer bods and keeping us warm all summer long. But with the warmer temps comes cleaner, crisper, fresh foods. But I wanted to dig in a little today about planning, and preparing properly for our days and weeks so we don’t make choices we will later hate ourselves for.

Who likes meal prepping? Anyone? Kinda, sorta, maybe? Maybe some of us like the idea of it, and kick some meal prepping ass every once in a while but we don’t stick to it. Or frankly, we just don’t like it.  Maybe we’re finding it’s trickier than we thought. Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s not.

Really. It’s not.

Does it feel hard? Feel impossible? That’s you making it that way. That’s a lazy answer. It’s like saying you can’t do something simply because you have never had to courage to try. To really and truly try. And even fail. In fact, especially fail. Because how else will you learn? Now, I’m not saying becoming the world’s best meal prepper is easy. It’s not. Yes, it’s simple to do. “Prep healthy options so I can stay on track to achieving my goals.” Simple. Yet, not easy. But think of anything in your life that felt difficult. More often than not, I bet those impossible decisions, those I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-it moments and actions turned out to be the most worthwhile.

And like all things that are worth it in life, it’s going to take time and it’s going to take consistent effort.

Consistent effort.

Preparation. Planning. Time.

Yes, time.

You have it, I have it. We make it. And it’s true what they say. You, me, the neighbors, your family. We make time for the things that are important to us. Do a quick mental recap of your day yesterday. How much time was spent on productive, necessary things and how much was spent wasting away on social media or Netflix? There’s a time and place for all of these things. But like the true crime show that matters the world to you, or the workout you know you need otherwise you may in fact rip someone’s head off, we must carve out the time needed to fuel our bodies and help us reach our goals to be the warriors of quick and easy healthy eating we strive to be.

We all know what we should be doing, right? What we should have done on Sunday to set us up for success. What we should have said to that person that pissed us off. Or the project or assignment we saved until the last minute. We all know we should put down the chips and eat the damn broccoli, right? RIGHT?! Should. What a nasty little word that is. Condescending even. But my how it’s normally right. Whatever follows that should is typically on point. And that, dear ones, pisses us off. Pisses us off to point of feeling helpless and to the point that certain things, dare I say, feel impossible.

“Shoulds” are the truths behind the excuses.

Should. It taunts us with its accuracy and makes us feel bad because we can’t change what should have happened.

But. You know what we can change? What we do have control over? We can change what happens from here. And that, my friends, is the damn truth.

Before jumping to recipes or stressing out over groceries and lists. First take a minute and reflect on your days. Being self-aware, understanding your strengths and really understanding your weaknesses, is step one in breaking long standing patterns of dumb eating and poor planning.

Let’s practice a little self-awareness. Here I’ll start.

“Hi, I’m Emily and I know if I don’t prep my food on Sunday, I will spend too much time and money at Whole Foods during the week. Even if it’s healthy options, that time and money can be better spent elsewhere and saved for way more valuable things.”

Your turn. Which of these relates to you:

The hard truth:

I’m normally starving when I get home from work and eat like a complete animal.

Simple suggestions: (what you should do, if you will…) Alright I’m done. Relax.

  1. Have pre-portioned dinners ready to heat up in the fridge.
  2. Have the components of a meal prepped and ready to be thrown together.
  3. For instance: roasted or shredded chicken, roasted vegetables, fresh or frozen vegetables, minute rice, eggs, pantry staples like broths, oils, and vinegars.
  4. Chug a large glass of water. Then have another.
  5. Keep veggies, olives, hummus, and other quick and low carb snacks ready to munch on while you get dinner ready. Because we all do it.

The hard truth:

I can’t stop snacking throughout the day. And when I do, I’m not sure if what I’m having is good.

Simple suggestions:

  1. Water. Drink it. And then drink more of it. Many times, we mistake hunger for thirst. Become self-aware. Cravings and mind games happen quick. “I NEED A SNACK NOW.” This a mind game. Real live hunger comes on slowly.
  2. Eat real food. No wrappers, no food that has been forced into a bar shape, no containers. Eggs, nuts, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, olives. Real food = simple, real ingredients.
  3. If you feel hungry throughout the day, you might not be eating nearly enough. Think of snacks as small meals and include protein, fat, and a good carb
  4. When eating a simple carb – like an apple – pair it with protein and fat. An apple alone is not a snack. An apple with a hard-boiled egg or an apple with almonds or nut butter is.

The hard truth:

I don’t eat breakfast

Simple suggestions:

Neither do a lot of people. Including myself.
No, really.
But! I’m in the process of changing that. Truly to experiment on myself, mix it up on my body, and fuel my body properly for the work I make it do on a daily basis.

In general, though, I believe it’s about learning and listening to your body and building sustainable and healthy habits. If your body is not hungry when you wake up and you aren’t in need of fueling a vigorous workout just yet, then take your time. I’ve read arguments for and against eating first thing and personally, I’ve seen better results without it. But another topic for another day, friends. If you don’t eat breakfast and it’s setting you up to eat like a moron later. Might I suggest:

  1. Go with fluids. I’m not one for protein shakes, but smoothies are a great choice for many reasons. If you aren’t one to feel super hungry in the mornings, sipping on a smoothie with a banana, spinach, almond milk, a scoop of clean protein powder, and ice, is a great option.
  2. Eggs. Get ready for a lot of egg talks. I eat hard boiled eggs like a monster. I’m an egg monster. Truly. So, sue me. But hard boiled eggs are such a lil power house. Protein and healthy fat all wrapped into one nice neat little package.
  3. More water. Drink water, listen to your body. Give it protein, then keep listening.
  4. No. Cereal. Nope. Get it out. Simple processed carbs can get the f*** out.
  5. If you go the oatmeal route, again have some sort of egg whites or some nut butter in there.

Bottom line, breakfast is debatable. And I’m not going to tell you one way or the other that you’re a dummy for or for not eating it. Because what do I know? I only know what has worked and helped me stick to long term sustainable habits.

But things that will always be true no matter what diet you’re trying out: Drink water. And eat real food.

Listen, learn, and love your body. Give it what it deserves so you can feel your best.

And if you’re hungry for the love of God, eat.

The hard truth:

There are no healthy options at work. Or I don’t have time to go get them.

Simple suggestions:

  1. Bullshit.
  2. If you order out or debate where you’re going to get lunch that day, consider a grocery store. Yes. It’s my favorite go to. These days, the prepared foods are great. You can find vegetables around the salad bar, grilled chicken, nuts, drinks that aren’t soda (or diet soda or zero soda or whatever the hell soda people drink and call it a healthier option), and you get the added bonus of scooting around a store for twenty minutes. And grab some healthy snacks to sustain you until you get home.
  3. See my rant about “time” above.
  4. Practice fasting. As long as you are disciplined enough to not overload on crap when you get home.

Now. Let’s talk about crockpots.

I adore crockpots.

My days are long. Most days I’m gone around 7a and not home until after 6p, if not even later. When I can I run home to cook lunch for myself, but more often than not I’m bringing all the things with me.

Enter. My crockpot. There was a time I had two. That’s how much I love them. They’re low maintenance, efficient, very forgiving, and always reliable. Like a boyfriend dog should be.

You throw everything in. Let it go low and slow. And boom you have 4-5 servings of a lovely comforting meal ready to go. I use my crockpot weekly to cook up large batches of chicken, ready to shred and then add to a skillet of vegetables when I get home at night throughout the week. I use it to make soups and chilis for when the next polar vortex comes its way. I use it to clean out my pantry of random cans and spices. I know that as long as I have a big batch of a cooked protein ready to go, the random vegetables I can find in my fridge and freezer will help me round out that meal.

My crockpot chicken carnitas are a staple in my place. A dish typically made with pork, I have found that you can achieve just as delicious results using chicken. The chicken is so perfectly spiced, and the added texture from the classic carnitas crispy broiled edges make it perfect to mix on top of a salad of romaine lettuce, peppers, and roasted sweet potatoes. Or eat it burrito style in a tortilla with salsa and a glob (technical term) of guacamole. Maybe reheat it on the stove with rice and potatoes and make a big hot carnitas bowl out of it.

What’s great about cooking a bulk protein like this in advance is that you are then in total control of how to fix it on busy weekday nights. Feeding a family? Have the cheese, tortillas, and fixings all ready to go. Flying solo? Top that bad boy on a salad, maybe drizzle some Primal Kitchen ranch over the top, and enjoy a quiet night to yourself. Just because there are multiple mouths with varying health goals does not ever mean you need to sacrifice your own. Dress it up, dress it down, and make it work.

One of the many wonderful things about a lot of crockpot recipes are how few ingredients are required. Sure, you can jazz it up. But when it tastes just as wonderful with minimal ingredients, why go through the trouble? These carnitas are made with lots of citrus, a few spices, and just a little amount of effort. I’ve included some ideas as well to help turn it into a meal, whether you’re feeding just yourself or a crowd!

Enjoy and please let me know what you think!

 


 

Crockpot Chicken Carnitas with Mexican cauliflower rice

(paleo, Whole30, gluten free)
Serves 5

For the carnitas:

  • 2 lb. chicken breasts/thighs – whichever you prefer. I normally do a mix of both!
  • juice of 2 oranges
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper
  • couple pinches of cinnamon (my secret ingredient)

Directions:

  1. Throw it all in the crock pot and cook 8hrs on low or 4-5hrs on high
  2. When it’s done, shred chicken with two forks (save all liquid!)
  3. Preheat oven to broil, spread shredded chicken on baking sheet and pour liquid all over
  4. Stick it under the broiler for a couple minutes, mix it around and repeat until most of chicken gets a good crispy color

Boom. Chicken’s done. At this point, you have yourself a big ‘ol thing of really yummy chicken that you could drop in some Tupperware, put in the fridge, and have to add in bowls, salads, wraps, whatever your heart desires.

OR. You can take that chicken you just made, make all the veggies below, and have yourself a party.

Roasted peppers and cauliflower rice:

  • 1 bag of frozen cauliflower rice
  • 1 cup fresh cauliflower rice (optional)
  • ½ green bell pepper, sliced
  • ½ red bell pepper, sliced
  • ½ sweet onion, sliced

Roasted sweet potatoes:

  • 1-2 large sweet potatoes
  • couple tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1-2 tsp of chipotle chili powder

Directions:

  1. Slice peppers and onions
  2. Arrange peppers and onions on baking sheet with cauliflower rice
  3. Drizzle everything with a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin or any Mexican seasonings
  4. Roast together at 375 for about 20 minutes until cauliflower has a little color and peppers and onions are soft
  5. Mix in the fresh cauliflower rice, if using. I like the texture of the roasted rice with the fresh! Add a few spoonsful of salsa as well to give it some moisture.

At this point, you’re done. All that is left is to assemble.

What I do:

In a plastic or glass container, whatever you have, put a layer of the cauliflower rice and peppers on the bottom. Add on a small handful of the sweet potatoes (about ½ cup) and top with chicken. Done and done. When I’m ready to eat it, a lot of times I’ll add fresh romaine on top, maybe a little salsa if I have a jar in the fridge, and almost always Primal Kitchen Avocado Oil Ranch and/or an avocado. Get yo-self some healthy fats.

Additional adds and men/family friendly ideas:

Avocado (duh), cilantro, green onions, romaine lettuce, plain greek yogurt (or sour cream), shredded cheddar cheese, rice, tortillas.

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