Meal Plan II: My New and Improved Daily Menu

After 4 weeks of my first Meal Plan, I was super excited about the results I was seeing. I learned SO much about myself and what I needed to be successful, and got right into planning the new and improved version.

One of the most important things I learned was how to deviate from the plan while still having success. Now this may differ from person-to-person, but for me, I learned that it was important to be 100% perfect 85% of the time, instead of being 85% perfect, 100% of the time.

100% perfect 85% of the time vs. 85% perfect, 100% of the time. The difference? Instead of eating almost to plan, all of the time – so sticking close to each meal, but maybe a little salt, or a little sugar, or a little taste here and there (which is still healthy!) – I have more success if I stick to plan 100%, and indulge when I am compelled. That means preparing my meals exactly as planned, and carefully selecting my indulgences. So I don’t have to turn down drinks and birthday cake on Friday night, or the best dark chocolate chip banana pancakes (ever) made especially for me on a Saturday morning. (More butter and syrup, please!)

It all goes back to my fit rules, specifically, #1: Don’t half-ass anything. Give deliberately to work and rest. If you’re on meal plan, then be on meal plan, but if you want the pancakes, then eat the pancakes. I just need to make sure I keep a few others in mind, like #2: Examine every choice in the context of your goals, and #4: Make every calorie worth it.

So aside from that important lesson, I learned quite a bit of other things too, all of which are reflected in the new plan. I swapped my carb choices for fruits and vegetables, resulting in fewer grams overall but with more variety in my nutrients. I left some calories available for a snack, specifically fat and carb calories, so I could enjoy a scoop or two of peanut butter in between meals, or one of my meal plan dessert creations (usually some combination of oats, peanut butter, protein powder, egg whites, bananas and cocoa powder).

So here it is:

MY NEW AND IMPROVED DAILY MENU

April 2014 Meal Plan. Finding Your Fit Place.

click image to enlarge

Breakfast:
6 oz. nonfat plain Greek Yogurt
1 small banana
1/2 cup Strawberries or blueberries

Snack:
Green Vegetable Frittata

Lunch:
5 oz. chicken
1 cup broccoli

Pre-workout Meal:
99% Fat Free turkey or turkey cutlets
1 cup butternut squash

Dinner:
5 oz. chicken
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 green bell pepper
1 medium onion slice

Snack:
Staying within calorie goal, and keeping as high-protein, low-carb as possible.

-Michelle
michelle@findingyourfitplace.com

My Best Advice for Dealing with the Negativity of Others

Since starting this blog, my network of friends, family, acquaintances, and followers have shared enough positive energy to keep my heart and soul glowing for a thousand lifetimes.

Whether it is a friend telling me that I’ve inspired her, or a complete stranger asking for advice, not a single day has gone by that I haven’t been thanked, “followed,” complimented, “liked,” or received support and gratitude in some way.

My favorite is (and will always be) when someone compares me to my mother. She was amazing. And there is no higher compliment to me, or the work I seek to do.

And as I share this story and the advice that follows, know how THANKFUL and APPRECIATIVE I am for all of you. XOXO.

Yesterday, for the first time, someone (a person I have actually never met), flung some negative energy my way. So I want to take the opportunity to do what I set out to do when I started – use my own experience to help others.

There is no list. No countdown. Just one, important thing you MUST know.

When someone attempts to put you down, it usually isn’t about YOU at all. My mother taught me that the very first time I was ever teased as a child. I came home crying because some silly kid made fun of me for some silly thing. And my mom wiped away my tears and anger by telling me that this person probably tried to make me feel sad because she felt sad about something herself.

XOXO

-Michelle

Recipe: Lean Green Vegetable Frittata with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Spinach

This super simple egg and vegetable dish is packed with nutrients and protein. So if you want a lean body, on a lean budget, with a lean schedule? Check it out. It’s actually baked (not fried), so I guess it’s not technically a frittata. But with fluffy eggs, whisked and baked together with flavorful vegetables and seasonings, the word “frittata” gets us close enough.

Each serving has approximately 180 calories, 10g fat, 7g carbs, 4g fiber, and 17g protein. (6 servings total.)

Spinach, mushroom, and asparagus frittata. Finding your fit place.

Lean Green Vegetable Frittata with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Spinach

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch asparagus, with ends removed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 10 oz. (about 2 cups) sliced mushrooms
  • 11 oz. baby spinach
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • pepper, garlic powder, and hot sauce to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Spritz large skilled with cooking spray and heat on medium/high. Add mushrooms, stirring occasionally, and adjusting heat so they do not burn. When the mushrooms begin to soften (about a minute or two), add asparagus and toss together. Stir occasionally.
  3. When the mushrooms and asparagus are cooked almost to your liking, add the spinach in a little at a time until it is all or mostly wilted. Remove from heat.
  4. Crack eggs into a large bowl, and whisk together with seasoning to bring some air into them. Next, whisk in some of the cooked vegetables to bring the eggs up in temperature without scrambling them. Continue to whisk vegetables into eggs until they are all incorporated.
  5. Pour egg mixture into a 9×13″ glass baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray, and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked on the top, and no liquid seeps out when it is gently pressed.
  6. Allow the dish to cool for 5-10 minutes, and slice into 6 portions. Each will have approximately 180 calories, 10g fat, 7g carbs, 4g fiber, and 17g protein.

Enjoy for any meal of the day :)

Workout: Glutes & Hamstrings

During the earlier days of my fitness journey, I would frequently think to myself, ‘I just want to run until my butt falls off.’ So I did, and it turns out that it wasn’t really what I wanted at all. So now I am working to build it back just the way I want it.

While my glutes get some action during cardio sessions, plyometric exercises, and other strength or circuit training workouts, I’ve been dedicating one or two days each week to focusing on that area specifically. Here’s the workout:

1. Bodyweight Squats (x24) superset with
2. Alternating Leg Step-up with Knee Raise (x20)

Bodyweight Squat (source: bodybuilding.com). Finding Your Fit Place.

Bodyweight Squat (source: bodybuilding.com)

Alternating Step-up with Knee Raise (Source: bodybuilding.com)

Alternating Step-up with Knee Raise (Source: bodybuilding.com)

3. High Step-up with Dumbbells (x12 on each leg)

Bodyweight workout. Step ups.

Don’t forget to put a dumbbell in each hand!

4. Straight Leg Dead Lifts (x16) superset with
5. Weighted Glute Bridge (x16)

Straight Leg Dead Lift (Source: Bodybuilding.com)

Straight Leg Dead Lift (Source: Bodybuilding.com)

Weighted Glute Bridge (Source: Bodybuilding.com)

Weighted Glute Bridge (Source: Bodybuilding.com)

 6. Stair Stepper – About 20 minutes or intervals in exchange for the treadmill.

This workout was a nice change of pace for me, and I saw results pretty quickly, which is always motivating!

 

Recipe: Cinnamon Raisin French Toast with Sprouted Grain Bread – (NO added sugar or artificial sweeteners)

With 144 calories, 8 g protein, 5 g fat, and only 5 g of sugar per slice, this is a meal you can depend on to fuel your morning. So forget about the love-you-and-leave-you French toast that spikes your blood sugar and plays with your emotions.

Have a slice of this with some fruit, yogurt or scrambled eggs, and start your day off right without having to forgo the joy of Sunday brunch. And if you or your dining partners are looking for something a little sweeter, try a little honey. You won’t need much.

Low Sugar French Toast. Made with Sprouted grain bread and almond milk. Finding Your Fit Place.

Cinnamon Raisin French Toast with Sprouted Grain Bread

Ingredients (per slice):

  • One slice of sprouted grain cinnamon raisin bread
  • 2 Tbsp. egg whites
  • 1 Tbsp. unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tbsp. all-natural peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Spritz nonstick pan with cooking spray and put on medium/high heat.
  2. Combine egg whites, almond milk, and vanilla into a bowl or plate with a flat bottom and low edges.
  3. Lay bread into egg white mixture, then flip to other side until liquid is fully absorbed.
  4. When pan is hot, place bread into it, and turn heat down to medium. Brown on one side, then on the other.
  5. Remove French toast from pan and onto a plate. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with peanut butter. Enjoy!

Recipe: Easy Rosemary Garlic Roasted Chicken

This is an incredibly simple and affordable recipe for roasted chicken breast that I usually make on Sunday, then portion for the rest of the week. I’ve been eating it with sweet potatoes and broccoli, but you can put it in sandwiches, on salads, or with any other side for a quick and healthy meal.

Ingredients:

  • One large split chicken breast, with bone and skin
  • 4 cloves fresh garlic
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a glass baking dish with tinfoil (for easy cleanup) and give it a thin coat of cooking spray.
  2. Place the chicken on the foil, in the pan. Prepare chicken by making sure you can lift the skin away from the meat.
  3. Peel garlic, and either chop it, or cut each clove in half to save time. Slide half of the garlic and 2 sprigs of rosemary in between the skin and meat of each chicken breast. Rosemary Garlic Roasted Chicken. Finding Your Fit Place.
  4. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is cooked all the way through. Cook time will depend on the size of your chicken breast.
  5. When the chicken is cooked, let it rest until cool enough to handle, then remove the skin, garlic and rosemary. Cut each breast away from the bone, and pull any additional meat off as well. You can use it right away, or portion and refrigerate it for meals all week.

Here is another recipe idea using the chicken: Roasted Chicken and Vegetables with Angel Hair

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables with Angel Hair. Finding Your Fit Place.

Recipe: Fudgy Chocolate Protein Cupcakes

So a chocolate craving walks into Trader Joes with a girl who hasn’t eaten sugar all week. Have you heard this one? Wait for the punch line. 85 chocolatey calories, with 4g protein, 1.5g fat, and only 5g sugar. Oh, and no fake sugar either.

I made a few batches before I discovered just the right recipe, and in the process made a few other yummy treats. I’ll share those later. But for now, I’ll just get right to it…

Fudgy Protein Cupcakes. Low Sugar. Low Fat. Finding Your Fit Place.

Fudgy Chocolate Protein Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained very well
  • 6 oz. nonfat vanilla Greek Yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp. liquid egg whites, or a single large egg white
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 4 scoops chocolate whey protein powder
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder, unsweetened
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Directions:

  1. Set oven to 350F and prepare 16 cupcake tins with liners and a light dusting of cooking spray.  You could also use an 8×12” pan, or two 6×8” pans instead.
  2. Combine cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Soak and rinse black beans in hot water to remove most of the salt and soften the beans a bit. I find that Goya low sodium black beans work best. After a few soaks and rinses, press black beans through a mesh, metal strainer to make the texture as smooth as possible.
  4. Combine the beans with Greek yogurt, then egg whites, honey, vanilla, and finally the almond milk.
  5. Whisk the protein powder into the wet ingredients until it dissolves, and then add the dry ingredients a bit at a time.
  6. Pour into prepared cupcake tins or pans and bake for 19-22 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch.

Nutrition Information
Each cupcake (16 total) has 85 calories, 4g protein, 13g carbs, 1.5g fat, 2g fiber, and 5g sugar.

And now the best part: FROSTING OPTIONS
Yes, you have frosting options, but try to limit yourself! They are as pure as it gets, but still add fat and calories:

  • All-Natural Peanut Butter. This one is easy, just spread some on and enjoy.
  • Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Frosting. Almost as easy as plain peanut butter. Just combine one Tbsp. each of all-natural peanut butter and unsweetened cocoa powder, plus 1 tsp. of honey, and enough almond milk to bring it to the right consistency. This will frost 2 cupcakes and add an additional 65 calories, 2.5g protein, 5g carbs, 4g fat, 1.5g fiber, and 3g sugar to each.
Protein Cupcakes with PB frosting

Protein Cupcake with all-natural Peanut Butter

Protein Cupcakes with PB Fudge Frosting

Protein Cupcake with Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Chocolate Protein Cupcake. Finding Your Fit Place.

Chocolate Protein Cupcake

Questions and feedback welcomed in the comments! Enjoy :)

-Michelle

A Week in the Fit Life: March 24 – March 30 Food and Exercise Journal

I really started to get the hang of my Meal Plan this week (week 2), and about midway through I was seeing exciting changes in my body that kept me motivated to stay focused.

Finding Your Fit Place

In addition to these significant changes in my diet, I also switched up my workouts. For the past few months, I had been doing mostly circuit-style training with exercises that engaged large and small muscle groups. And, of course, lots of running.

This week, I was focused more on targeting specific muscle groups, and on lifting heavy weight. I also shortened the length of my cardio sessions while bumping up the intensity.

It was a busy week outside of the gym, so I only made it 4 times instead of the usual 6. But it helped to keep me pushing hard while I was there. I also spent 20-30 minutes after each gym session rolling out my legs.

MONDAY, MARCH 24: CARDIO
30 minutes of running (intervals, averaging 8mph)

TUESDAY, MARCH 25: BACK, BICEPS, CARDIO

  • Assisted pull-ups
  • Row
  • Alternating seated incline bicep curls
  • Alternating hammer curls
  • Lat pulldown
  • Stair stepper (10 minutes)
  • Treadmill (10 minutes intervals)

WEDNESDAY: GLUTES, ABS, CARDIO

  • Step-ups
  • Hip adductor machine
  • Dead lifts
  • Weighted hip thrusts
  • Smith machine squats
  • Plank, side planks
  • Wood choppers
  • Stair Stepper (20 minutes)

SATURDAY: TRICEPS, SHOULDERS, ABS, CARDIO

  • Assisted triceps dips
  • Arnold press
  • Skull crushers
  • Push-ups
  • Triceps kickbacks
  • Plank, side planks
  • Reverse crunches
  • Scissors kicks
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Treadmill (5k intervals, 24:30 total)

I stuck to meal plan pretty much perfectly Monday through Friday, with the addition of some protein brownies and a couple of harmless substitutions. Then on Saturday I had two beers, and on Sunday I had chocolate chip banana pancakes for breakfast, some pasta and homemade meatballs for dinner on Sunday night, and lots of samples of protein brownies – I am trying to perfect my recipe!

Real answer to a real question: Incorporating dessert into healthy eating

20140329-092938.jpg
(Photo by Sam Rosenholtz)

How do you incorporate dessert into healthy eating?

I came across this question on a message board, with the originator of the thread having asked how to alter a diet or exercise plan to accommodate the occasional dessert. But I propose that that’s a flawed approach.

There is no need to alter your diet and exercise program to account for dessert if you’re truly eating it in moderation. But what about the underlying challenge of having the ability to do that? I think that the key is to feel in control of the decision to indulge, and not feeling like you’re being dragged around by a craving or impulse.

Moderation is key, but only if you have the ability to moderate. So if enjoying the occasional dessert is steering you too far away from the direction of your goals, then it may be helpful to examine your ability to remain in control of your urge to indulge.

The approach may seem radical, but stick with me. Sometimes, a new angle is all you need to solve a persistent challenge. It won’t be easy at first, but it will be worth it. I promise.

  • First, stop eating dessert. For now. (Check out my article on how to skip dessert for some tips). Don’t just stop eating rich desserts like ice cream, and chocolate, and cupcakes with piles of frosting that make them twice as tall. Stop eating anything that satisfies that “dessert” craving. This gets a little tricky, so let’s look at it in context of the larger goal.
  • The goal is to free our minds from the conditioning that has us reaching for something sweet after a meal. This means that while you put some foods off limits (you know, real desserts), some will only be off limits if used to substitute a full-sugar, full-fat version. So, for example, oatmeal with a banana and some honey mashed into it might be a totally healthy meal, and even a healthy dessert substitute, but think back to the goal.
  • So, no dessert, no “healthy” versions of dessert. But for how long? Simple. Until it gets easier. At first, you’ll be pushing yourself way out of your comfort zone. Then, just after it gets so uncomfortable you want to quit, it will feel better.

And in no time, you’ll be ready to begin enjoying dessert in moderation. So here are a few tips. Not rules, but just a couple of suggestions.

  • Fuel properly first. Don’t “save” too many calories. If it is truly a moderate indulgence, then it won’t require any rearranging of your day and nutrients.
  • Don’t replace or skip meals, because, well… think about it. Is a dinner’s worth of ice cream really a moderate indulgence? hmmm probably not.
  • Don’t make it a habit. Didn’t you see how much easier it was to skip dessert once you broke the conditioning?
  • Make it special. Enjoy something that’s unique to the season, or something homemade by someone special who is the only person in the world who can make it taste so good.
  • And be intentional. Feel good about your decision, and enjoy it.

And one more thing to consider. Part of the reason we allow ourselves to enjoy things in moderation is so we don’t miss out on special moments, opportunities, or feelings. Basically – so we don’t miss out on enjoying life. If you spend time in regret for certain behaviors – whether you neglected to participate, or maybe you participated TOO much – then examine what you’re doing, get to the heart of the challenge, and fix it.

Meal Plan: My Daily Menu to Support Fat-Burning

“Burn fat and build muscle.” It really isn’t fair that this concept has been marketed to seem SO simple. But if you think about what is required to do each, the challenge of doing both together becomes painfully obvious.

In order to lose bodyweight (burning fat) you need a calorie deficit, and in order to gain weight (building muscle) you need a calorie surplus. This is another oversimplification, but at least it begins to expose the challenge. At a certain point, it is incredibly intricate, and you need to rely on your own self-awareness to succeed.

Which is part of the reason why I feel so powerful having figured out how to do it.
As I’ve watched my body change while the scale has remained relatively stable, brought my 5k pace under 8 minutes per mile, and started lifting weights 4-5x heavier than when I began, I feel pride and excitement in my ability to “burn fat and build muscle.”

I’ve spent about three months fueling my body daily with 1800-2200 calories of healthy nutrition for 4-6 weight-training and cardio sessions per week. I’ve gotten faster, stronger, smaller, leaner, and overall much fitter.

Which makes continued progress even more challenging. But I’m up for it. If you’ve seen me or talked to me in the past week, then I’m positive you’ve heard me reference my “Meal Plan.” Coupled with a fitness plan that is focused on circuit-style weight training and intense cardio, I am confident that I can continue to make the changes I want to see in my body.

Fat Burning Meal Plan. Finding Your Fit Place.

click image to enlarge

You can check out the one-page summary of my meal plan (above), or read the text version here:

SEVEN-DAY FAT BURN MEAL PLAN

Meal One:
8 asparagus spears
6 Tbsp. egg whites
2 slices ezekial bread
8:30 am

Meal Two:
Small banana
Whey protein shake
12:00 noon

Meal Three:
½ large sweet potato
3 oz. chicken
1 cup broccoli
3:00 pm

Meal Four (pre-workout):
2 slices cinnamon raisin ezekial bread
1 Tbsp. peanut butter
6:00 pm

Meal Five (post-workout):
Whey protein shake
8:30 pm

Meal Six:
3 oz. ground chicken
2 Tbsp. diced red and green bell peppers
2/3 cup brown rice
9:30 pm

**It is important to keep in mind that the caloric content of this plan has been determined based on my weight, activity level, and goals. At this stage, it becomes more important than before to pay attention to the number of calories you are taking in.**

I’ve stuck to this plan for an entire week, and I feel and look fantastic. I am already seeing results. And I’m really looking forward to sharing then with progress pics, and also share more about the challenges and logistics of sticking to a meal plan like this, and how it has played out in my life.

-Michelle
michelle@findingyourfitplace.com