How to Wake up Early (for real this time)

Does this scenario sound familiar?

You go to bed with such determination to wake early but when that alarm  goes off you either hit snooze 5 times or you groan “nooooooo” as you reach over to turn it off. Not happening today. I’ll start getting up early tomorrow…

How to wake up early

I’m happy to report that I’ve been waking up between 5:15-5:30am most days of the week for the past 3 months! As I write this I have a 6 month old who started sleeping through the night a few days ago so I like to think that gives me a little more credibility since what I’m going to share is what I implemented during a season of being woken up multiple times in the night either by my 6 month old or by the 2 and 4 year olds. I’d love to share what’s been helpful and walk you through the practical things I’ve been doing that have made this a habit.

1. Get to bed on time
When do you need to wake up in the morning? If you subtract 8 hours that’s bedtime. Since I get up around 5:15am that means I want my head on the pillow by 9:15pm at the latest. Often it would be 9pm and I’d realize I have 15 minutes before I need to be sleeping and would rush around the house trying to get things ready for the next day. I ended up going to bed later and my mind and body were racing. This leads me to my next point.

2. Set yourself up to go through the motions
Having a routine for the order of which you do things will help more than you realize. Here’s what I do:

Set EVERYTHING out the night before. I workout clothes, shoes, tracking sheets for my workout, a pen, equipment needed for my workout, filled water bottle, energy bars for my pre-workout meal, Roku remote, the remote to our ceiling fan… everything.

It’s amazing how much time I can waste if I don’t have all of this out the night before. The girls are always using the pen I keep with the tracking sheets to record my weights & reps. The sliders I used for my workout end up as plates in the play kitchen. The Roku remote is somewhere between one of the couch cushions. I forgot my headband in my room. I finally start the workout then after the warm up I have to pause the video to get the remote for the ceiling fan. You get the picture.

3. Follow an order
I’ve gotten into a rhythm where I can get out of bed and start my workout within 15 minutes. Again, this rhythm has been tweaked through trial and error but this is what the order of events looks like:

1. Get up and go straight to the fridge to have my preworkout energy bar
2. Get dressed
3. Pray before starting my workout
4. Press play

I found that I would keep falling asleep while trying to spend time in the Word first so something that has worked well for me is putting a sticky note that simply says SEEK FIRST on the tracking sheet I’m using that day so I’m reminded to simply get on my knees and submitt he day to the Lord before I start my workout. That simple sticky note has been so helpful. My time in the Word comes after my workout.

What’s the hardest part for you when it comes to getting up early?
Any tips you’d add if this is already a habit?

Meal Plan versus Eating Plan


Meal plan

Meal plan or an eating plan? Which is better? What’s the difference?

I’ll briefly define what I mean by each and then share why I think one is helpful  and the other can hinder your health goals.

Meal plan: This type of plan includes pre-determined meals you are to eat each day. You’ll get a grocery list and recipes to make each meal. There is a beginning and end date. If you want to continue using the meal plan you repeat it.

Eating plan: This plan is less specific since it involves a framework that you work with in order to set up a meal. You choose the types of food within the guidelines. There is no start or end date and it can be applied at home, eating out, at social gatherings, on vacation, etc.

Based on these descriptions, which do you think is best?

My answer: An EATING PLAN.

Why?

Meal plans have great intentions but what I often see is that people follow it to a T and then go back to old habits because they’d get bored repeating the meal plan and they never learned how to set up a balanced meal or create a grocery list on their own. People might be initially drawn to this option because it sounds easier & takes away the need to plan or think about your choices. In my opinion, I’d rather teach you how to fish rather than handing you fish on a plate every day.

It may not be good for business but as a dietitian & health coach I am all for working myself out of a job. I want the women I work with to be able to come up with a menu for the week in ten minutes based on the simple eating concept I teach. Pairing a protein with a fat and carb at every meal and snack really helps to simplify meal planning since you just plug a food item into each category. For example:

Taco bowls
Protein: Ground beef (seasoned with homemade taco seasoning)
Carbs: Peppers, salsa, beans, greens
Fat: Avocado

Would you like guidance on how to implement an eating plan? 
I’m putting together a Meal Planning  workshop that will walk you through the simple process of creating a menu, making a grocery list, and plenty of tips and tricks that will help you simplify and streamline the process. If this is something you would find helpful then sign up below to be notified when this free ecourse is available. I’ll send you my balanced eating cheat sheet so you can hang it on your fridge and use it as a quick reference as you put meals together.



What’s the most challenging part about planning your meals for the week? Is it not knowing what to make? How to make a meal healthy? Feeling like you spend the entire day in the kitchen? Staying within your grocery budget? Wasting food you don’t use?

Share below!

Egg bake

We eat a lot of eggs.

I mean a lot. Like, over a dozen a day between myself, Dave, and my 2 toddlers. When Dave and I first got married in 2010 I was eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast thinking it was a healthy option. Cereal has it’s place, don’t get me wrong. I’ll never tell you there’s no one food you aren’t allowed to eat. However, if we are viewing food as FUEL then cereal may not be what you want to grab at breakfast every time. I learned about the eating concept that forever changed me and is what I’ve been following and teaching for about  7 years now. Pairing protein with fat and carbs is the way to go but with the typical breakfast options for the American diet being cereal, muffins, granola bars, flavored (note: sugared) oatmeal, bagels… we tend to go a little carb-heavy. That’s where the fabulous egg bake comes to save the day.

frozen veggies

You never think about having spinach or peppers alongside a bowl of cereal, do you? Eggs are frugal source of protein and they naturally go well with veggies. I started focusing on timed nutrition (what and when you eat pre/post workout) with my virtual accountability group and after making eggs every morning for a looooong time I was looking for ways to be more efficient with meal prep because, well, kids. I was hungry and ready to eat breakfast an hour ago but after I get all 3 of my girls fed I’d find myself hangry and about to fall apart as I finally had a moment to cook up my own breakfast. Egg bake has made breakfast so easy for Dave and me! What a game changer!! I eat mine at home but Dave puts his portions in take-out containers so he can just grab one from the fridge and heat it up at work.

Egg Bake

Egg bake

Ingredients

  • 18 eggs
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 6 cups veggies

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Peel sweet potato and cut into 1/2" thick coins. Lay on the bottom of a 9"x13" pan (spray with non-stick)
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix eggs with veggies and pour over sweet potatoes.
  4. Bake for 1 hour; add 15 minutes if using frozen veggies.
http://www.budgetforhealth.com/egg-bake/

Notes about this recipe:

1. I do “recipes” like my mom. I used to hate that she never followed a recipe because I couldn’t quite replicate her cooking and now I do it. I RARELY measure anything but this recipe is pretty forgiving so that’s okay.

2. We cut this recipe into 6 servings. Use enough eggs so you get about 2-3 eggs, 1/2 cup of sweet potatoes, and 1 cup of non-starchy veggies per serving.

3. Most of the time I get stir fry veggies from the frozen section. It’s totally worth the cost when you consider how long it would take me to prep the variety of veggies you get in it (see photo above). Sometimes I lay fresh spinach and/or kale over the sweet potatoes before I pour the egg/veggie mixture on top. I’ve added some homemade breakfast sausage too. This was a super simple recipe if you want to make your own breakfast sausage. I just cooked up a big batch and froze it so I could add some to my eggs bake each time. My favorite combo was shredded Brussels sprouts, bacon, carmelized onions, and cauliflower. Goodness it was so flavorful!

4. Make sure you add extra fat like cheese or avocado. You could even add some heavy cream when you mix the eggs & veggies.

5. I’ve been told that Trader Joe’s has a lot of great seasoning blends that would be fantastic in this recipe so message me if you live near one and want to send some to me for a Christmas present then go try this recipe out and let me know what veggie and spice blend combo you use!

What veggies & spices would you use in your egg bake?

PS- I’m always adding to my Pinterest boards so feel free to check that out and be sure to follow along on Instagram or my Facebook Page to see what I’m making for my girls and myself on a daily basis. You’ll get lots of inspiration and ideas!

Protein Packed Pumpkin Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

Protein Packed Pumpkin Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Kodiak cake mix (or flour of choice)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2c (15oz can) pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the Kodiak mix, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, honey, greek yogurt, eggs, and coconut oil. Stir to combine.
  4. Fold wet ingredients into dry until combined.
  5. Transfer the batter to either cupcake liners or a non stick loaf pan.
  6. Bake 30 minutes for muffins or mini loaves and 45-50 minutes if you use a full loaf pan.
http://www.budgetforhealth.com/pumpkin-muffins/

Well, I found my favorite recipe for pumpkin muffins. They were good enough that after a maybe 2-year hiatus of writing blog posts I wrote one up because I know you’ll all be asking for the recipe. I’ll get one up for my famous egg bake soon. I made these muffins often and keep them in the freezer but now that I tweaked the recipe I’ll be making them even more!

If you want to spend $7 for a tiny container of pumpkin spice at the store go for it. You can save a few bucks by making your own so I’ll share the recipe I use. I usually double the recipe and keep it in a mason jar so I always have some on hand:

3 Tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 tsp ground allspice
1.5 tsp ground cloves

What’s your preference- muffin or loaf? There’s something I love about cutting a fresh, hot slice and letting a hunk of butter melt over it. What spice blends do you make on your own?

Meal Planning for ONE

meal planning for oneA common challenge I hear from those who cook for themselves is meal planning & how to prep the right amount so you don’t have to eat tacos 5 nights in a row (though I wouldn’t be opposed to that) or see food go bad. Rather than re-invent the wheel I turned to some fellow dietitian bloggers who have already written on these topics to provide plenty of ideas & tips.

Food Prep by The Lean Green Bean
I’ve been following Lindsay for years and she is the queen of meal prep. If you don’t have time to check out all of the articles below then this is your one-stop shop. The link to this particular post is a round-up of posts she’s done on the following topics:

  • How To Food Prep – 5 Tips For Beginners
  • Top 10 Foods For Sunday Food Prep
  • 10 Foods That Freeze Well
  • How to Prep Food on the Weekend
  • Weekend Prep for Easy Weekday Meals
  • How to Eat Healthy in College
  • How to Eat Healthy During the Week
  • Healthy Snack Ideas
  • 12 Ways To Use Leftovers

Need some meal ideas for your toddlers? She’s got you covered:

  • A Month of Toddler Meal Ideas
  • 40 Healthy Toddler Meals
  • 50+ Toddler Meal Ideas (free PDF)

Soup Swap by Smart Nutrition

3 Strategies for Making Quick, Healthy Meals by Whole Green Wellness
This article has a plant-based emphasis FYI.

How to Simplify Meal Planning by Food, Pleasure, and Health

Free E-Book on the first steps of meal planning by Nourish Nutrition Co

Weekly Dinner Meal Plans (Pinterest Board) by The Spicy RD

5 Ways to Eat Less Processed Food by Katie Cavuto
Plus a meal prep cheat sheet

If you’d like additional help with implementing healthy meal prep and planning tips please fill out this form and I’ll help you get started.

What method is helpful to you when cooking for one?

Unit Pricing 101

Unit pricing
Do you know what unit pricing is? If not, this will change the way you grocery shop and hopefully shave quite a bit off of your grocery bill.

What is unit pricing?
Here’s the actual definition of unit pricing: identification of and labeling of items for sale with the retail price per unit, permitting easier price comparisons among similar products in different sized containers.

What does that mean? 
Being able to compare unit prices will allow you to select the best deal. Those brightly-colored SALE stickers may be misleading and, in fact, not be the best deal.

6oz yogurt container 32ozExample: 
You’ll often see a 10 for $10 sale price for the 6-ounce containers of Greek yogurt.
$1 / 6 ounces = $0.17 per ounce

What you want to do is compare it to an EQUAL item of a different size. Let’s say a 32-ounce container isn’t on ‘sale’ but costs $3.99
$3.99/32 = $0.12 per ounce

Even though there was a sale on the individual 6-ounce containers, you still get more for you money paying regular price for a 32-ounce container.

Things to note
Compare equal items
Traditional yogurt generally costs less than Greek yogurt. I’ll add an extra sneak loophole- brands like Greek Gods are not actually Greek yogurt; it’s Greek STYLE meaning it’s traditional yogurt that has been thickened to have a texture similar to Greek yogurt. You’ll notice that the unit price of this option is closer to traditional yogurt so it seems like a steal if you compare to other Greek yogurt brands.

You can compare unit prices for equal items AND across similar categories. For example, walnuts have been the cheapest at Costco ($0.20/ounce versus $0.40/ounce at local supermarkets). I buy the big 3-pound bag, roast them, and keep them in the freezer in a Ziploc bag. Walnuts also happen to be the cheapest TYPE of nut at Costco. Almonds come in second at around $0.37/ounce followed by cashews & pecans which run around $0.40/ounce. I opt to use walnuts for our salads and yogurt; cashews and pecans are a more special occasion since they cost twice as much. FYI- peanuts are actually a legume, not a nut, so they run much cheaper than walnuts.

Waste not
Everything comes in bulk at Costco where I shop. I buy a 2-pound bag of organic greens because we will eat all of it. If you buy the big bag because it’s cheaper according to unit price but half of it will go bad before you have a chance to use it then you aren’t really saving much money. Yes, ketchup is cheaper at Costco BUT do you really need three 32-ounce containers of it? We rarely use ketchup so I’ll pay a little more just to have a small bottle on hand.

Consider ‘value added’
Value added is when something is done to a product that makes for less work on your part. This is why pre-cooked chicken is much more expensive than raw or baby carrots cost more than whole, un-peeled carrots. You don’t have to be a superhero and make everything from scratch. Some items I’ve found to be way cheaper and easy to make from scratch are seasonings (here are some of my favorite recipes), salad dressing (my favorite), and whole chicken or roasts in the crockpot.

Don’t sacrifice quality
Set your own standards of quality. I don’t buy deli meat too often but when I do I tend to go somewhere in the middle so I’m not buying deli meat that is one step up from SPAM but also not paying $10/pound for it. Check your ingredient lists and look for unnecessary fillers. Sometimes that’s what makes a product cheaper but it’s not worth it.

Non-food items
Diapers are a doozy when it comes to your budget. Aldi recently came out with their own line of diapers and they are INSANELY cheap. I asked around to hear if other moms had tried the brand and they seemed to be comparable to other brands so now that’s my go-to. I mainly use cloth diapers but buy disposables for when we are gone for more than a day. I had previously been following a coupon blog that told me what coupons to use and pair with deals at CVS to get a good unit price but now Aldi’s diapers are the best deal I’ve seen even without any coupons.

Tips to save
This will take a little extra time but only for your next trip or two: Make a list in your phone notes of the unit prices for products you often get and what store you got it from. This is how I found out walnuts were the cheapest at Costco versus a supermarket. I learned that Greek yogurt and salad greens are often similar or even less at my local supermarket. I suggest limiting your grocery trips to 1 or 2 places; there’s no need to waste gas money or time driving to 5 stores.

Do you pay attention to unit pricing? What items do you pay particular attention to?

“Healthy” foods that aren’t so healthy

healthy foods that aren't healthyThere are countless products that are promoted as “healthy” but could really be holding you back from your health goals. I want to share a few examples with you and offer suggestions to swap for better options.

Yogurt
Activia has a great marketing strategy: their advertisements and packaging talk about probiotics, how good they are for you, and that Activia is full of them. Their clever advertising has led consumers to think that only certain brands of yogurt contain probiotics when in reality all yogurt has probiotics in it. The cultures are what make yogurt yogurt!

With that knowledge, the down side to flavored yogurt (not just Activia) is that they are full of added sugar. To be clear: the naturally occurring sugar in milk is called lactose. I’m taking about there non-naturally occurring sugar that is ADDED to the yogurt. When you look at the ingredient list which is listed in order of most to least weight you’ll find that sugar is often the SECOND ingredient behind milk, not fruit. The amount of sugar in yogurt in many flavors yogurt brands is pretty close to the amount you’d consume in a can of pop as we call soda in the Midwest. You don’t do yourself any favors by buying light/lite yogurt since artificial sweeteners ironically promote fat storage, not fat loss.

Alternative: Have you tried plain Greek yogurt? It’s the better option but has a bit of a sour taste to it. Some might suggest adding fresh fruit to it but to me it still tastes like a scoop of sour cream with a strawberry on top. Add frozen fruit instead. Throw some cinnamon & nuts in there for good measure. As the fruit thaws there juices ooze out so when you stir your yogurt at lunch time you’ve got strawberry flavored yogurt with strawberries in it.

Nut butter
Check the ingredient list because the term “natural” has no definition tied to it. Processed nut butters have added sugar and added cheaply made oils.

Alternative: Look for two ingredients –> nuts and salt. A little trick you can try: after you get your arm workout stirring your nut butter after opening the first time, store it upside down in your pantry. No need to refrigerate. This way you won’t have to stir it every time you open after that initial stir.

Dressing
Costco has this beautiful, delicious salad mix that comes with a blend of kale, shaved Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, and a poppyseed dressing. What starts out as a nutrition powerhouse is brought down by dressing loaded with, again, cheap oil and sugar. You’ll find the same in store-bought dressing, even the kind that say “made with olive oil.” If you look at the ingredient list, olive oil is often AFTER the cheap oil like canola. A company can say a product is made with olive oil to sound healthier but there could be a teaspoon of it in the entire bottle and technically they could still say it’s made with olive oil.

Alternative: make your own. Don’t be intimidated; a mixture of balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil takes seconds to pour. Use a 1:3 ratio of vinegar to oil and store in a used dressing bottle or buy one of those dressing shakers with a pour spout.

Protein cereal/granola bars/drinks
Companies found a way to sell products by adding protein to it making it “healthier.” Three products that comes to mind are Kashi Go Lean Protein cereal, Nature Valley protein granola bars, and Bolthouse Farms Protein Plus drinks. More often than not, products that promote a high protein content are soy-based.

bolthouse protein plus ingredients

If you look at the ingredients of Bolthouse Protein Plus drinks you will likely find the starting line up of ingredients: low-fat milk, sugar, another kind of sugar, and a blend of whey & soy protein. They put a big sticker on the front bragging about the 30g of protein in a 15oz bottle but they forgot the bigger sticker that should say “AND 60 grams of sugar.” That’s almost a 1/3 cup of sugar.

If you are familiar with the balanced eating concept I refer to often you know that both cereal and milk both count as carbs in my book. With Kashi cereal, you get 6-9 grams per serving (3/4 cup) but that’s not enough protein for a meal (our protein needs vary but this is still too low for most adults) and you get 38g of carbs which is typically more than I’d recommend at a meal. Plus, who really only pours a 3/4 cup serving of cereal? Overall; you go under on protein and over on carbs for a meal. Instead of pouring milk over this and eating it as a cereal you could sprinkle 1/2 cup over plain Greek yogurt and add a handful of nuts for a more well-balanced PFC meal. That’s an option but I’m still a big advocate for getting your carbs from naturally nutrient-dense veggies which I assume you wouldn’t top on your bowl of yogurt… another reason why I’m such a fan of eggs for breakfast 😉

Alternative: Eggs, cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt made as suggested above. These are all great, budget-friendly protein options to add to breakfast. If you claim you don’t have time to make eggs for breakfast, make egg muffins to keep in the freezer so you can pop one it two in the microwave before you run out the door. Simply crack an egg, cheese, and add chopped veggies to a muffin tin (or these silicone liners for super easy clean up) and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Think of cereal as a side dish if you choose to have it and prioritize colorful veggies for your carb choice most of the time.

Don’t feel like you need to do a complete overhaul and start making everything from scratch. You’ll get overwhelmed and feel defeated you can’t keep up. Instead, pick one change you want to make this week. When that becomes a habit and you don’t even think about doing it anymore, add another swap. No need for overkill and refuse dressing at a party because it’s the processed store-bought kind. It’s the majority of what you do, not the minority, that will lead to a LIFESTYLE of healthy choices.

What other swaps have you made?

If you would like help making swaps and upgrading your pantry while respecting your grocery budget I’m just a message away. Contact me budgetforhealth@gmail.com with the subject line “healthy food swaps” and we can chat.