Habit 3: Eat Vegetables w/Each Meal

What is it? 

This is my favorite habit of all time!!! No joke. Habit #3 is to eat vegetables with each meal. I promise as you start to incorporate this habit, you will notice a difference! If my husband and I go more than a day or two without our normal amount of veggies, we can literally feel a physical difference. Stick with it and pretty soon you’ll be liking your veggies just as much as we do in our house!

Why is it important?

Eating vegetables is important for MANY reasons, but here are three of them:

#1 – Vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals

#2 – Vegetables contain what’s called phytochemicals–plant chemicals that are different from vitamins and minerals, but also essential for our bodies to function optimally.

#3 – Vegetables add an alkaline load to the bloodstream

I would like to emphasize the importance of #3. Most of the foods we eat would be categorized “acidic.” For example, proteins and grains both add an acidic load to the bloodstream. Balancing this acidity with fruits and vegetables is very important! Too much acidity can have negative effects on the body, including loss of bone strength and muscle mass. What’s a great way to prevent “aging injuries”? Try eating more vegetables!

How do I get started?

Aim to include two servings of fruits and/or vegetables at every meal. What’s a serving? Here’s a rule of thumb you can use…

1 serving  = 1/2 cup raw chopped fruits/veggies; 1 cup of raw, leafy vegetables; 1 medium sized fruit

Here’s a couple of examples to get you started:

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Not every meal or snack had exactly two servings of vegetables, but by the end of the day, in each example you’ve gotten 9-10 servings of vegetables and every one of them fit in naturally with your day!

Action Items:

Sit down and decide, on average, how many servings of vegetables you get each day.  If your answer is three servings, tomorrow, I want you to get in four servings. Add an extra serving of veggies each day. Work your way up in servings, slow and steady!

Next time to you go to the grocery store, spend some extra time in the fruit and vegetable section. Try some new ones, you never know what you may end up loving! And I’ll be posting my all-time favorite “veggie hack” soon as well!

If you’ve got questions about this habit, or want someone to help you stay accountable, you can ask me here. In the meantime, happy eating and I can’t wait to hear about your progress!

Protein Powders: My Favorites

We introduced Habit 2 this week and several of you have asked about my favorite protein powders. Based on my own personal experiences, there are several brands I really love. I have shared most of them below, and in the next day or two will also share some general tips and cautions when it comes to protein supplementation.

Favorite Brands:

  • ALOHA Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder They’ve got a chocolate, vanilla, banana and mixed berry flavor. I love ALL of them. The vanilla is unique to other vanilla flavors as its got a cinnamon taste to it as well. They are usually priced around $30 (about 15 servings) but every so often they’ll go for a little less on Amazon, and that’s when I try to order. I like to have three or four of the flavors on hand so I can mix up my morning shake and don’t get bored of the flavor. Makes each one last a little longer too! They’ve got some other products and recipes on their website at aloha.com.
  • Thorne – This particular protein powder is NSF certified and comes from a great company. I really like both the chocolate and vanilla flavors. My husband prefers the chocolate. They’ve also got plant-based protein powders, but I haven’t tried them since I’ve got other brands I use for those. If you want to buy from a company that values high-end research, quality ingredients, and optimal sports performance, this would be a great fit. They’ve got several other products, as well as great articles on their website that would be worth checking out. The protein powder is also available on Amazon here. Cost is about $49 regardless of where you order from (about 30 servings).
  • Vegan Protein by Lifetime Fitness – This one is a little harder to order online, but it can be done, and it’s worth it. Anytime I go visit my family in Texas or my parents come and see me, I make sure at least one of the flavors makes it into a suitcase and back home with me! The delicious taste + incredible thickness and texture once blended up makes it one of our household favorites! Both the chocolate and the chocolate mint flavors are fabulous. Cost is about $45 servings (about 30 servings).
  • Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides – I don’t use this one on a daily basis, but you definitely could. I love having it on hand to mix into things like cookies, yogurt, a smoothie every now and then, etc. It adds some additional protein into whatever I’m eating plus the collagen has great benefits for hair, skin, and nails–and who couldn’t use a little more of that? They even have single serving on-the-go packets you can add into your water bottle.
  • Shakeology – Shakeology is unique because it’s not just a protein supplement, but rather a superfood formula meal replacement. I am not personally a Team Beachboy Coach anymore, but I would still fully endorse this product. I used this as my protein powder for many years in college and loved it. It’s on the more expensive end ($129 for 30 servings), but if you’re looking at it like an entire meal, it breaks down to $4.30 per day which is reasonable, especially when compared to a typical meal cost when eating out. Not to mention future costs you may avoid because of the many health benefits you will reap! Great ingredients, great product, and if you’d like to learn more I can put you in touch with a friend who will answer any and all of your questions about it.
  • Infinity Greens – This one is about as pure as it gets. Some may think the taste is a little bland but the quality and health benefits make up for it. They’ve got a great greens and Vitamin C supplement as well. They offer a vanilla and chocolate flavor and it’s about $45 for 19 servings, on the more expensive side as well, but again, super top-notch quality.

Whew! That was a lot, I know. Many of these protein powders have all the “works” — gluten free, GMO free, dairy free, organic, vegan, soy free, artificial sweetener free, etc. What I love most is regardless of whether or not they’re plant-based or whey, organic or non-organic, gluten free or not, etc. these are all brands I trust. They’re transparent, they use quality ingredients, they’re fairly priced, and they taste delicious.

If you’ve got any questions, let me know! And stay tuned for my “Protein Powder Do’s and Don’ts, which I should have up by the end of the weekend.


Habit 2: Protein Dense Foods w/Each Meal

Hip, hip hooray! It’s time for Habit #2, where we start to delve into the what of eating. Now, just because we are starting to talk about actual food does not mean habit #1 gets left in the dust to be forgotten about forever. As mentioned last week–slowing down your pace and listening to your hunger and fullness cues is perhaps the most important habit of them all. Please continue with your baby steps even as we begin to introduce a second habit.

What is it? 

Habit #2 is to eat protein dense foods with each meal. What in the world qualifies as a protein dense food? I’ve got a handy dandy list for you down at the bottom. How much protein at each meal? Aim for about 1 serving if you are female, and 2 servings if you are male.  To keep it simple, a serving is about the size of the palm of your hand.

Why is it important?

Getting enough protein in your diet is very important. Proteins are made up of amino acids. Amino acids play many vital roles in our body. If we were to make a list of everything amino acids contribute to, this post may never end. To name just a few of them:

Amino acids are responsible for…

  • most of our non-steroid hormones (a hormone is a compound created by one cell that travels to and stimulates another cell. Our bodies are regulated in large part by hormones)
  • our enzymes (enzymes help stimulate the chemical reactions that take place in our body. Without certain enzymes, many of these processes would be impossible)
  • our immune chemicals
  • cell structure (and not just our muscle cells–amino acids are important for all of our cell structures)
  • transport proteins (these are proteins that allow substances to move from one side of a cell membrane to another, and allow only the substances that should be crossing the membrane to do so. Without transport proteins, many cells would either die or become damaged)

Are you starting to get the picture? And there’s one key factor we haven’t even talked about yet: our bodies cannot make every amino acid we need in order to function. Of the 20 types of amino acids, only 12 can be made by the body. So getting adequate protein from your diet becomes very important!

Dividing protein intake between each meal makes it more manageable to get an appropriate amount of protein in your diet than trying to eat larger portions during only certain meals of the day.

In addition, eating protein dense foods at each meal will improve muscle strength and recovery (important, especially for those of you who have started these fitness classes), stimulate your metabolism, and ultimately reduce body fat. I don’t know about you, but those all sound like great things to me!

How do I get started?

Below are some examples of protein-based foods. Eating a variety of these foods will ensure you are getting a good balance between the different amino acids.

  • Lean meats – ground beef, chicken, turkey, bison, venison
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy – cottage cheese, greek yogurt, cheese, etc.
  • Beans, peas, legumes, tofu
  • Protein supplements
    • Milk-based – whey, casein, milk protein blends
    • Plant-based – pea, hemp, rice, soy, etc.
  • Nuts and seeds – we will talk more about these later when we get to fats but they’re a great way to add in some extra protein as well

I will soon share some recipes that I often make at the beginning of a week and use as my “go-to” protein-based snacks. I will also share some of my favorite protein powders and bars!

Action Items:

Practice adding something from this list to each meal or snack. Buy some turkey at the store and roll up a slice or two to eat with an afternoon snack. Add some berries or granola to your favorite brand of Greek Yogurt. Mix some protein powder in your smoothies or oatmeal. If you usually eat toast or cereal for breakfast, mix it up and add a side of eggs. Eat a string cheese with the apple you bring to work. Add some shredded chicken or leftover taco meat to a salad for lunch. There’s a million ways to mix it up!

In particular, make sure you do not skip the protein after a workout. If you want your hard work to go towards toning and strengthening those muscles, don’t skimp out on protein dense foods during your post-workout meal.

If you’ve got questions about this habit, or want someone to help you stay accountable, you can ask me here. In the meantime, happy eating and I can’t wait to hear about your progress!

Habit 1: Eat Slowly & Stop at 80% Full

We all want to feel and look the very best we can! Proper nutrition + a healthy relationship with food is an important part of that journey, and the two go hand in hand. Over the next several weeks, I will be discussing five nutrition habits. I will refer to these as the “5 Habits”.

When followed, these habits naturally lead to an improvement in calorie control, nutrient timing, and food selection. And the best part? They don’t require calculations. They don’t require intense planning or adherence to a strict set of rules. These habits can become exactly what they are called–habits. Google defines a habit as follows:

 “a settled or regular tendency or practice,
especially one that is hard to give up”

How cool is that!? We are going to discuss five principles that soon can become a regular practice that is hard to give up! So without further delay, let’s get started on Habit #1.

What is it? 

Habit #1 is to eat slowly and stop at 80% full. This habit is all about the how of eating. We live in a very fast-paced world. Life is busy, time is money, we want things now, and we don’t have time to wait. We often skip meals entirely because there’s “no time” or we just “forget”, or we eat too quickly and to a point of extreme fullness. Neither leads to optimal health and performance. The goal with this habit is to slow down, and it may be the most important habit of them all.

Why is it important?

When you eat, your stomach sends a message to your brain about what and how much you’re eating, and your brain sends a message back to your stomach when it’s had enough. This communication line takes about 20 minutes to kick in. That means when we eat three huge servings in 10 minutes, our body hasn’t even had a chance to give a say on how it’s feeling and we may end up overly full, sick, or sluggish. Even if we aren’t gorging ourselves, by the time our brain sends the message “I’m good, you can stop eating now,” we may have eaten more than our body needed.

When we slow down our eating, we eat an appropriate amount of food at each meal and we become more turned in to our body’s appetite signals.Stopping at 80% fullness ensures by the time your stomach and brain finish communicating, you haven’t overeaten. Other benefits of this habit include:

  • Improved digestion
  • Better exercise performance
  • Time to enjoy the food we eat!
  • Better sleep, especially if you are eating close to bedtime
  • Improved appetite cues for future meals
How do I get started?

The end goal is for each meal to last about 15-20 minutes (at a minimum). I recognize this may seem like a lot at first, and I am all about baby steps. Here are a few of the baby steps I find most helpful. Try them out in any order you would like.

  1. Sit down while you eat
  2. Turn off the TV
  3. Put away the computer, phone, tablet, etc.
  4. Eliminate other distractions – work projects, homework, to-do lists, etc.

Once you’ve mastered these steps, try the following:

  1. Take smaller bites
  2. Chew the food completely before swallowing
  3. Actually taste your food!
  4. Put the fork down in between bites
  5. Converse with those you may be eating with – after you’ve swallowed your food, of course!

The idea is to learn to enjoy the eating experience. Our friends over in Europe really have the right idea with their leisurely mealtimes!

Eating slowly is a great start in being able to gauge how full you are. Once taking your time at a meal becomes natural, the next step is to stop at 80% fullness.

What if I mess up? 

Then great, we are in the same boat! Even I am still not perfect at this skill, and I have been practicing it for years. If you mess up, commit to keep trying and move on. And again, I cannot put enough emphasis on the importance of baby steps. If you currently spend about 2-3 minutes at each meal, even spending 5-6 minutes and eliminating one distraction can make a big difference!

If you’ve got questions about this habit, or want someone to help you stay accountable, you can ask me here. In the meantime, happy eating and I can’t wait to hear about your progress!