Meal Prep Sundays | Easy and Healthy Recipes

Happy Sunday! I wanted to share some recipes that I’ve been loving the past few months that are healthy, easy to make, and a great start to the New Year! Part of changing my diet and eating healthy was starting with Meal Prep Sundays! The idea is that on Sundays, or whatever day works for your schedule, you prep all of your meals for the week. This way you have healthy meals already made so you don’t have to think about what to cook or worry about making a healthy meal. I tend to prep only my lunches, and if I’m being really good I prep some healthy snacks to eat throughout the week, then I like to have an idea of what I’ll make for dinner during the week.

I get most of my recipe ideas and inspirations from Pinterest and tailor them to my diet and liking. I just went through my recipes board and removed all the cookie recipes I had added for the holidays. In the future, I think I’ll create a holiday board so that I can keep the yummy holiday recipes separate from my healthy, everyday recipes. I also keep a separate recipe board with meat recipes in case I want to make something separate for Jake. Generally, I don’t eat meat or fish, but go through these periods of time when I really crave a shrimp taco or broiled salmon, so I have them. For the most part, however, I stick to a vegetarian diet. I also try and stay away from carb loaded meals as much as I can. For me, I’ve found that not eating carbs as much as I can avoid them is the real trick to keeping fit in terms of my diet.

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Photo Courtesy of PicJumbo.com

Meal Prep Lunches

Quinoa Bowls | Quinoa is a great staple and alternative to other grains and it should be kept in the kitchen pantry at all times. It’s great as the base for cold salads, in casseroles, or used to replace rice and sometimes even pasta depending on the recipe. I love making fried quinoa, in place of rice, and adding in a lot of veggies – try this Very Veggie Fried Rice from Cooking Classy! One of my favorite recipes for quick and healthy meal prepping are quinoa bowls! There are endless possibilities depending on your favorite vegetables and what protein you add in. Cook quinoa to your liking, I use a slow cooker on high for a few hours, and cool in the fridge. Once cool, divide quinoa into microwave safe containers, add in black beans, add vegetables or your choice – I like using fresh carrots and broccoli, and sprinkle seasoning of your choice on top. All you have to do is pop it in the microwave for two minutes, and your lunch is done. It may not sound exciting, but I love this! This recipe was inspired by a vegan lunch ideas post found on Vegan Runner Eats. I also found a recipe on Lemon Tree Dwelling for quinoa taco bowls that I’d love to try! I can see this being a great alternative to traditional taco salad during the spring months. Not only are these great recipes for eating healthy, but they’re cost effective to anyone on budget!

Lunchables for Adults | Making a Lunchable type meal is another easy way to prep meals. You put together your favorite meals that you want at lunch and you can measure them out so you know the nutrition facts if you’re tracking calories. You’ll need a larger container for this one, I have these EasyLunchboxes from Amazon that have three divided areas for different foods. They only come in a 4-pack, so you’ll have to reuse one for later in the work week. Other than that, these are great! I’ve had them for a few years now and I really enjoy them! Perfect for portion control, children, and stacking in the fridge. My two staple meals for these are a brown rice, broccoli, mashed sweet potatoes lunch and a Mediterranean salad, cottage cheese, hard boiled egg combo – try this Mediterranean quinoa salad or use garbanzo beans instead of quinoa! These containers are also great for reheating leftover chicken or fish at work. If you’re not a fan of plastic containers in the microwave, invest in a glass storage set, like this Pyrex 20-Piece Set I just got for Christmas!

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Soups | If I could make all my meals in a Crock Pot, I would. It’s the best for making nearly any meal and it’s almost impossible to fail at the recipe. So many coworkers have been impressed with my prepped meals, but the secret is throwing all the ingredients into the Crock Pot and letting the magic happen. Soups are perfect for the winter months, and for the most part pretty healthy. Try and avoid cream based soups if you’re looking to cut calories, stick to soups with a lot of vegetable and proteins, and use sodium reduced products if you’re concerned about the salt content.

Some great recipes to try out are this Fall Vegetable Crock Pot Barley Soup from Better Recipes, which includes sweet potatoes and barley, so be careful on your serving size or lower the amount of those two ingredients. It’s super filling and tasty – I love the seasonings in this soup. There’s also this great cannellini bean soup from Martha Stewart. This recipe doesn’t specifically say it can be cooked in a Crock Pot but I’ve done it in the past and it works out fine. It’s been a while since I did a Crock Pot soup – I’m thinking it’ll be next on my list of meal prepping.

Tacos | Jake and I have not been able to get enough tacos this past fall and winter. Even though you can’t really prep tacos for lunch, they are easy to make and you can pretty much add any toppings that you want. The basics of our taco recipes are a tortilla, cabbage, a protein, shredded cheese, cilantro, pice de gallo, and a bit of sriracha mayo. A few great recipes to try are this chipotle lime shrimp tacos from Closet Cooking that calls for a creama lime sour cream, that can of course be omitted. For an vegetarian alternative, I sometimes use chickpeas and let them marinade the same way the shrimp would. For when I don’t feel like cooking, I’ll use my Crock Pot and make these black bean, sweet potato tacos from Kayln’s Kitchen. All I have to do is add in a can of black beans, two sweet potatoes, cumin and coriander seasonings, and let it cook on low while I’m at work. Super easy, super delicious, and a great fall and winter recipe. Always add extra cilantro on top!

Today I’m prepping the brown rice, broccoli, and mashed sweet potato meal and packing up some leftovers. I hope this helps a few of you trying new recipes for 2016 or getting into meal prepping. If you’re really interested in meal prep Sunday’s be sure to check out the subreddit for it on Reddit. People are always posting their preps, container options, and great recipes to try! Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter to see daily updates throughout the week to see what I’m up to!

Gym Accessories I Love & Recommend

The New Year is nearing and many New Year’s Resolutions include being more healthy and getting active! I can already tell that people are starting in on these resolutions as the traffic at the gym has picked up a lot since November – but that’s good! I’ve been a gym goer now since about fall of 2012. It’s a hobby that I love, and I share with others to encourage them to give a new activity a try. I was not into running when I started, so instead I stuck with lifting weights. In 2013, my New Year’s Resolution was to start running and it took me until this past year to really feel like I was good at it. I actually enjoy getting in a good run, especially when I can get a run in outside during the fall – my favorite!

If you’re just starting out at the gym life, go for it! Do what you can and work towards your goals. If you’re like me and work better when you have certain accessories, like having a cute desk organizer at the office, then having some fun gym accessories will make going to gym that much more exciting. Now, I’m saying that all of these items are necessary. In fact a lot of these are things that you can forgo for a long time, but they’re are add-in to your gym bag that I love and totally recommend purchasing if your goal is to stick to the gym and become more fit.

Gym Bag 
So you’re going to need a gym bag to put all of these cool items in. You can use whatever you have around the house or what’s easiest for you to carry around day-to-day. I head to the gym right after work so I bring everything I need and leave it in my car. A backpack works great and can be easily carried so you can carry a briefcase or purse if you’re going to the gym directly from work or school. I got a basic gym bag on Amazon when I started going to the gym, but it only lasted a year before starting to tear. If you’re going to buy a new bag, I recommend getting a good quality one right away to carry the weight of clothes, shoes, water bottle, etc. I purchase a basic Adidas bag on Ebay, new with tags, for a deal around $15, similar to this one here. And it’s purple, my favorite color! It doesn’t have a lot of pockets, but it’s roomy and I can fit all of my gym clothes and shoes then all my work clothes when I’m heading home after my workout.

Fitbit
I’ve already raved on about how much I enjoy my Fitbit in a previous post, but I’m again going to tell you that I’ve had my Flex since August and it’s my favorite gym/fitness accessory. If you’re someone who likes to make to-do lists or likes planning tasks on paper, then you’ll probably benefit a lot from having a Fitbit as you go through your fitness journey. I love seeing how many calories I’ve burned throughout the day and doing the Workweek Hustle challenges with my friends. Since I switched to my new job about a month ago, I’m very happy to report that I’m getting A TON more steps in than I used to! Seriously, go get one!

Blender Bottle
Some may not think that a Blender Bottle is essential to keep in a gym bag, but in my opinion it’s the best option for a water bottle. I personally own two Blender Bottles so that I have a back-up if I leave one at work or it still needs to be washed from the day before. Mine also come with a loop on the top which is handy for a carabiner.  I shared my go to recipe for my breakfast protein shake a few posts ago and I always use my Blender Bottle to make mine. I also like to use it when I’m taking Emergen-C or those Crystal Light packets to shake everything up. It’s also the water bottle that I bring on vacation, hiking, or throw into a (large) purse because I know it doesn’t leak. A few years ago, I purchased a Camelbak because it’s claim is that it’s leak-proof and it has a lifetime guarantee. While I still prefer my Camelbak for the straw on days I’m running at the gym, I have had three caps that have all leaked when I’ve put the bottle in my gym bag after a workout.

Athletic Clothes and Shoes
While I don’t think going out and purchasing all new gym  clothes in totally necessary, I do think that a few good items makes getting dressed for the gym a lot more fun. For the ladies, investing in a comfortable sports bra that works for your body is key. My favorite are the ones with thinner racerback straps – they put a lot less pressure on the upper back and shoulders. I also really enjoy athletic running shorts that are made from the wicking material. Any old tees or tanks are perfect for working out, so no need to invest in those.

Investing in a good pair of cross trainers or running shoes, depending on your fitness routine, is definitely worth it. I went about a year without investing in good shoes because I didn’t think they were needed. Once I challenged myself to start running, I bought basic Asics for around $40 – a great investment then upgraded when I started getting better. As for lifting shoes, you generally want something that more flat and stable. For my lifting days, I also have the Asics Gel Fit Tempo Cross-Training shoe which I love! I got these on sale in early 2015 and I don’t want have to ever replace them – great for lifting too!

Other Basics
In addition to all the fun gadgets mentioned above, it’s a great idea to always have an extra pair of socks, headphones, antibacterial wipes, a mini Febreze, and a small towel in your bag. If you’re someone who likes to shower right after a workout, then you’ll want to add your preferred toiletries and a towel to dry if your gym doesn’t provide them. In the three years I’ve been a gym goer, I’ve never showered at the gym so I don’t keep any of that in my bag. That sounds a little gross, I know, but I use to live a block from my gym and I usually never plan anything too close to when I have a gym date scheduled.  If you plan your gym dates after you leave work and you live in a colder climate, then I recommend bringing your gym bag into your job or office from your car to keep your clothes warmer. There’s nothing fun about putting clothes on that have been in a 20 degree car all day. I usually grab my bag at lunch and let it sit in my office.

Of course accessories aren’t going to be the reason you start a fitness routine or become more fit as the year goes on – that’s all about you. But you can do it. Once you have your reasons for your fitness routine, you’ll have your motivation! I know it sounds crazy to some that I love going to the gym, lifting weights, or running, but it’s the truth and make me more happy than any of my other hobbies.

Happy New Year Everyone! Hope all your resolutions are attained this upcoming year. Leave your fitness goals or New Year’s Resolutions below, I’d love to hear what they are.