The Rungry Health Coach

How to Meal Prep Like a Boss

Meal prep is a polarizing topic. Some people live by it and for it. Others tend to shy away from it.

For anyone striving toward a healthier lifestyle, meal prep can go a long way to help people reach their goals and retain sanity on busy week nights. Meal prep is the action of setting aside time (typically on a weekend) to plan and prepare meals and snacks for the week ahead. This saves time in the long run, and makes life easier when juggling work responsibilities, family duties, workouts and other stressors. (Plus, it stops us from grabbing take-out menus from the kitchen drawer.)

Some people live for meal prep. These are the people that probably make all of their week’s meals ahead of time and portion them out into cute bento containers. They probably spend hours in the kitchen on a Saturday or Sunday prepping their meals and snacks to ensure they have a successful and stress-free week ahead. There’s probably some array of hard-boiled eggs, chicken and broccoli and pesto. As great as this plan sounds, it can be easy to get sick of eating the same thing week after week, and it’s easy get burnt out.

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Then, there’s the camp of people who get stressed out about the idea. Although they understand meal prep is an important part of the healthy lifestyle equation, they just don’t know where to begin.

Meal prep doesn’t have to cause anxiety and it doesn’t have to take upwards of four hours. With just a little bit of time and a plan of action, meal prep can be easy.

What’s the secret? Batch cooking!

Batch cooking is simple in principle: By preparing some staple ingredients—proteins, vegetables, grains/starches, snacks—come busy evenings all you need to do is reach into the fridge to prepare a meal. This also enables a bit of creativity so not all meals are the same.

Your meal prep session can happen on any day during any time—it doesn’t always have to happen on a Sunday. Do what works best for you and your family. Before cooking, take stock of what’s in your pantry and refrigerator. Think about what’s in season, what your week looks like and start formulating an idea of what the week’s meals may look like. (There are hundreds of great food blogs and cookbooks out there to give you a little inspiration!)

Healthy Snack Ideas

You may need to run to the grocery store.

Now, the trick to a successful meal prep session—regardless of what track you take—is to work efficiently. Go in with a plan of attack and only spend time on what needs to get done.

For the batch cookers, start with these considerations:
  • Prep a protein or two—Whether it be cooking chicken breasts in the slow cooker, simmering beans, marinating steak or hard-boiling eggs, create at least two proteins.
  • Remember you don’t need to prep for all meals—Consider what you time have for throughout the week. If you know your mornings are very busy, it may not be a bad idea to prep breakfasts ahead of time. (Have you tried overnight oats or baking egg cups?) If you make extra dinner servings, those can easily be translated into packed lunches for the next day.
  • Turn on really good tunes—This step seems silly, but mood music can go a long way to making this session as stress-free as possible. Don’t be afraid to sing.
  • When in doubt roast—Roasting gives you the gift of time. You can easily stick a few things in the oven, set it and move on with the next part of your plan. It’s easy to prick a few sweet potatoes and push them into a hot oven to roast. Or, you can prepare a sheet pan of roasted veggies that can be reheated later in the week.  Plus, who doesn’t love roasted veggies?
  • Prepare a few vegetable options—Vegetable prep does not need to be fancy. You can simply wash and chop lettuce for salads, cut carrots into sticks, floret broccoli so it can be steamed when ready to serve, or roasting a pan of vegetables.
  • Simmer a grain or prepare some other starch—Quinoa, rice, roasted sweet potatoes are all great examples of complex carbohydrates but they do take time to prepare. By making them ahead of time, you can easily save time during a busy week. And they last a few days in the fridge until ready to eat. (Cutting back on carbs? Cauliflower rice can easily be prepped ahead of time, too!)
  • Read recipes and prepare anything time-consuming ahead of time—If there is a recipe you plan on eating sometime during the week, prepare some of its components ahead of time, especially those that take a lot of time. This may mean blending the sauce, simmering the grain or cooking the chicken ahead of time. These tiny steps will make weeknight prep that much easier! Nobody wants to spend a long time in the kitchen after a hard day’s work.
  • Don’t forget a snack—Everyone needs a snack or two. Homemade energy balls or bars are easily customizable and can be whipped up in less than 20 minutes. They take pantry staples like oats, protein powders, nuts and/or dried fruit. (Need some inspiration? Check out these chocolate hippie cookies, banana protein balls or red velvet cake balls!) 
  • It doesn’t need to be perfect—Your meal prep session doesn’t need to be perfect nor does it need to take up a whole day. Give yourself some grace. If you only have time to shred lettuce, that’s fine. If you’re able to prepare a batch of quinoa, chop carrot sticks and make a healthy salad dressing, then do that. Do whatever you can and whatever you have time for. And understand that as you continue meal prep each week, it will get easier.
Need some recipe inspiration? Check out these four recipes made with an athlete’s needs in mind! They’re plant-based and loaded with ingredients to sustain your busy lifestyle. (Plus, there’s a recipe for healthy cookie dough!)

The Rungry Health Coach

Four Ways to Squash Half- or Full-Marathon Training Hunger

Let's be honest: I named my business "rungry" for a reason.

I'll never forget the hunger associated with half Ironman training (or really training for any endurance race). I felt like an insatiable beast. I was downing yogurt bowls, protein muffins, hard boiled eggs...anything to stave off the constant hunger. I was pounding water to stay hydrated. Because I was typically doing two workouts per day, I was eating two breakfasts and often eating huge night time snacks. (Then waking up at 4:30 am the next day to do it all over again.)

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I was "eating clean" and foods that served my body. I was expecting to become a lean racing machine, and maybe lose a few pounds. Then...I gained about 10 pounds. While this may not seem like a huge weight gain, racing with an extra 10 pounds is tough. I felt foreign in my body and constantly bloated. 

What I hadn't realized is that I wasn't fueling properly. When my first marathon rolled around about a year later, I vowed to not make the same mistakes. I really paid attention to my hunger cues and listened to exactly what my body wanted. It was a fine balance between being satiated and satisfied with my meals, and fueling for performance. (Yes, there were a lot of extra protein bars and yogurt bowls, but I was smart.)

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When I ran that marathon, I felt more "me" and confident in my fueling. (I also wasn't carrying around an extra 10 pounds.)

What changed during that training cycle? I smartened up with my mindset on food. I looked to food more as fuel than as a reward. Yes, it's tempting to reward a long run with a hamburger and fries, but that reward system gets us into trouble in the first place. (Food shouldn't be used as a reward...but more on that later.)

The post-run hunger beast is a real thing, but here are four tips to help you tame the beast that may pop up during endurance training. 
  1. Really, really listen to your hunger. I know I've preached this a bazillion times before, but when you start feeling hungry, listen to where that hunger is coming from. Is it emotional hunger? Are you thirsty? Are you bored, happy, sad or just emotional? Did you eat enough protein and fat at your last meal? If you are truly hungry, grab a snack rich in protein and fat.
  2. When in doubt, reach for protein and fat. Protein is needed to help our muscles recover. Fat keeps us satisfied. Together they are a nutrition super duo. Hard-boiled eggs, hummus and veggies, nuts and an apple--are all great power snacks for runners. And make sure you eat something within 30 to 60 minutes after your workout. (And keep this in mind when you're building meals. About a quarter of your plate should be protein, a quarter should be dedicated to a starch/whole grain, and about half should be loaded with veggies. Finish it with a dollop of fat--nut butter, avocado, olive oil, nuts/seeds, etc.)
  3. Reframe your idea of eating and hunger. The customary craving after a long run is typically burgers, French fries, fluffy pancakes or piles of bacon. While all these "fun foods" are just fine, reach for the real food first. Load up your plate (or bowl) with fruits + veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and protein first. That first post-run meal should be rich in complex carbs and protein to help replenish energy stores and repair muscles. (Remember, not all calories are created equal. 1,000 calories in cheeseburger looks a lot different than 1,000 calories of eggs or 1,000 calories of apples.)
  4. Ensure you're hydrating. Our body sends the same cue when it's both hungry and thirsty. That gets confusing really quickly. If you're hungry at a time when you're typically not hungry, have a little water first. See how your body is feeling. Because you exhausted a lot of energy during your last workout, it may not be a bad idea to enhance your water with a little high-quality salt to help replenish missing minerals. 
Need some runner-approved recipe ideas? Make sure to check out my recipe page that has hundreds of FREE recipes all geared with an athlete's needs in mind. Have more questions on fueling? Shoot me a note!

The Rungry Health Coach

Why it's time to breakup with the calorie counter

Calorie counters are sexy in principle.

The idea of being able to see the numbers of what goes into food can be incredibly appealing. For someone looking to lose weight, many rely on counting calories. Because weight loss starts with a caloric deficit, it can be helpful for some to track their daily consumption to see if they're creating the desired deficit.

For someone looking to change body composition--gain muscle  lean out--a tracker is appealing in that will enable the counting of macronutrients, protein, carbs and fats. This is when they follow calculated percentages of the macros, and eat within these parameters. Often, these plans look at nutrient density of a food, and not just its calorie count. 

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As helpful as these tools seem to be, they can do more harm than good. I've tracked both--calories and macronutrients--in two very different contexts. When I tracked calories, it was because I wanted to lose weight. When I wanted to "lean out," I followed a specific macronutrient plan. Now, I don't do it and wean my clients off of their trackers. 

But why? If these tools are so helpful, what's the problem? Food is no fun when you're constantly obsessed over the numbers. 

It's not reliable 
There is a margin of error on any nutrition label. The numbers represented in that sleek box are not always an accurate measure of the exact nutrition within a food. So, for one, there's that.

Secondly, when following a generic tracker,  these plans often are not tailored to your own individual needs. Some people naturally need more fuel--it's because we're all different. Every body needs something a little different and these blanketed plans don't work for all. So, when a calorie tracker spits out its suggestions as to what calories, proteins, carbs and fats you need, know that they were not created with your unique needs. Activity levels, heredity, hormones (or lack thereof), stress levels, and more all contribute to a person's unique dietary needs. 

When dieters started believer that we need 1,200 calories to lose weight, that number was created without  thought to a person's individual needs. (It is now known that we need far more calories than that.)

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It removes the fun from food
When you're constantly uploaded numbers, recipes and every little thing into a calorie counter, food just becomes less fun. Being spontaneous and going out for ice cream isn't as fun when you're tied down to a little phone app that tells you the fat and calories will put you over your total for the day. 

Say goodbye to eating out at a restaurant. Most restaurants don't have nutritional information for your app, let alone nutrimental information for their menus. Because of this lack of information, it leaves the user in a feeling of limbo. They're more likely to eat "what they should eat" instead of eating something they truly want because they're too concerned with the numbers. 

Food becomes more about the numbers and less about the enjoyment and memories made. 

It's not intuitive
Continually tracking the numbers is not intuitive. When a person is continually tracking, they begin to lose track of their hunger and fullness cues, and their body's natural cravings. When their body is craving a veggie burger with sweet potato fries, but they don't have room for a small bowl of yogurt and carrot sticks, they suppress that craving and eat "within the plan." (And this subsequently removes the fun from food.)

And sometimes, when someone may not hit their desired numbers, they eat when they're not hungry to avoid a deficit. 

Unfortunately, you can't forget the calorie count of an egg, the amount of fat in a tablespoon of peanut butter or how many calories are burnt after running one mile. When we continually focus on the numbers, it creates a disordered way of thinking.

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It takes time
In order for the counter to work, you need to input all of those foods. Think of everything you eat and drink within a day--that's a lot--and then image having to upload that information into some kind of app. That takes time! (Time better spent practicing self care or making memories with friends and loved ones.)

You have to type in what you're eating, find it within the app and repeat. Sometimes, you have to upload the entire recipe. Other times, you have to upload the specific brand that you use if you can't find what you're looking for. 

That's both time consuming and maddening!

While some people have found "success" uploading their foods at the beginning of the day, this then creates a plan of what should be eaten throughout the day. Although it's not set in stone, it leaves very little wiggle room. (And you guys know I hate the word should.)

It's stressful and not sustainable
It takes time, patience and effort to continually upload foods. Overtime, that constant uploading of foods into the counter becomes far too much. It can easily lead to burnout. 

And when you go over your desired numbers for the day, there's lingering stress, guilt and anxiety. Going over desired numbers elicits a feeling of "being bad." Getting burnt out or frustrated is common with these practices. 

Because of the time commitment, the emotional investment and how it changes a life, tracking nutrition information is not a sustainable practice. It's simply not something that someone can maintain for the rest of their lives. 

(There are some situations where counting macros or calories may be necessary. Talk to a dietitian, health coach or doctor if you have questions or are concerned.)

Ready to break up with your calorie counter? Let's chat!

The Rungry Health Coach

Two Factors You Need to Be Truly Healthy

A healthy diet consists of two components, and one is often forgotten about.

Yes, eating lots of kale, quinoa, grass-fed beef, chia seeds and other hippy foods are imperative to a healthy diet. But, all these nourishing foods are just one small piece to a complex puzzle. 

What's missing is a healthy relationship with food. You can eat all the kale salads you want, but if you're terrified of doughnuts, binge eat when everyone is asleep or restrict fats, you'll never get to be your healthiest self. (Even those who eat a healthy diet may suffer from an eating disorder called orthorexia nervosa. It's an unhealthy obsession with eating "healthy" foods.)

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Often times, our relationship with food is damaged from the beginning from constant dieting. Bouncing from one diet to next greatly damages how we see food. It no longer becomes about fuel--it becomes something we need to control.

A healthy relationship with food is imperative to overall happiness. When we have food freedom we're able to enjoy all that we eat, our bodies can lose weight naturally, we finally break up with our diets, and food no longer becomes an obsession. 

What are some of the warning signs you have a poor relationship with food?
  • The idea of eating outside of your own home causes you anxiety
  • Counting calories and macronutrients obsessively 
  • Food has become an emotional crutch
  • Pushing food onto others instead of eating it yourself
  • Eating past enjoyment
  • Restricting foods at mealtimes despite being hungry
  • Ignoring your body's signals and cravings to eat
  • Obsessively measuring out foods
  • Expecting perfectionism and feeling guilty when you " fall off the wagon"
A healthy relationship looks different for a lot of people, but it genuinely has the same principles. 
  • Honor your hunger cues
  • Eat until satisfied, not stuffed
  • Put all foods on the table and allow yourself to eat any of them in any quantities you want
  • Don't restrict, don't worry about calories and don't 
  • Listen to the voices within and really heed what they are saying
  • Acknowledge where your current relationship with food is, and where you'd like it to go
  • Get rid of all attempts at perfection
  • Understand that eating one doughnut or almond croissant does not make you a terrible person, nor will you balloon up and gain five pounds instantly
Healing an already suffering relationship with food is hard, and it's harder to do it alone. Does any of this sound familiar? These thoughts are both scary and damaging, but health coaching can help. Let's schedule a time to chat about where you would like your relationship with food to be.