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The Challenge of Change

photo-29This Motivation Monday arrives just one day shy of two weeks since my return to the full-time work force. It’s been a wild ride so far, and of course, that’s in no small part due to adjusting to new procedures and a new schedule. New routines can be overwhelming and exhausting at certain moments, while exhilarating and exciting at others. So while I’ve struggled to find Physique57 classes that mesh with longer work days, get a pre-workout snack in at the right time and find healthy meals that work for a later dinnertime, I know it will all come together eventually. Sometimes we just need to step back, take a deep breath and remember to be patient and let the newness settle in.

In the midst of my finding my new groove, another St. Mary’s Gael inspired me to re-think my dinner options. Edith sent me a message on my LauraLovesFitness Facebook page asking for some healthy meal ideas when dinnertime has to be later than usual. First of all, as you repeat-readers know, I’m all about prepping healthy food. Some items you can stockpile for the work week include:

  • Chop up veggies like celery sticks, carrots and red peppers and divide them into single-serving sized containers or baggies
  • Cook up a half-dozen or more hard boil eggs
  • Grill a half-dozen chicken or turkey breasts
  • Cook a cup or more of quinoa and then you can easily scoop out a 1/4 cup serving to add as a side or filler for lots of meals. (If you prefer brown rice or other whole grain, no problem!)

Now for some meal ideas incorporating the prepped foods and other quick-fix items:

  • Easy salads: Mixed greens, kale or other leafy green salad with grilled chicken, lean steak or fish. No time to grill up the fish? Open a can of tuna, add some of the veggies you already chopped up and use some olive oil and vinegar for flavor and you’re all set. You can even add the quinoa for some extra filler!
  • Have breakfast for dinner: Try an egg white omlette or scramble with some of those chopped veggies or even a bag of frozen ones.
  • Healthy pastas: There are so many gluten-free and/or whole grain options out there. Go ahead and cook up a box and then you can create individual-sized servings as needed. Add beans, tomatoes and some peppers for a healthy chili.
  • Soup: I find a lot of low-sodium soup options at Trader Joes. Sometimes a hot bowl of soup with a piece of whole grain toast does the trick for me in this cold weather!

I leave you with this final thought: Whether it’s a new job, revised after-school activity schedule for the kids or the unpleasant surprise of a loved one being diagnosed with an illness, something will eventually throw a wrench into your plans. Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t get to the gym one day or if you eat a little less healthy later at night. Get some sleep, shake it off and try again tomorrow. Sometimes being a little patient with ourselves is all we need to get back on track with our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

New Food Find

Newest Go-To Meal: Grilled Fish & "Superfood Pilaf"

Newest Go-To Meal: Grilled Fish & “Superfood Pilaf”

Today’s Motivation Monday message is all about fuel. If you make a commitment to move more, it’s crucial to give your body the fuel it needs to keep moving – both in and out of the gym. Since people are always asking me what I eat to stay healthy, I thought I’d share one of my new favorites. On top of being tasty, it goes from my microwave to my plate in about seven minutes. Anything but a master cook, I always look for foods that are nutritious, filling and super easy to prepare.

My newest find is a Trader Joe’s product called “Superfood Pilaf.” An organic combination of quinoa, sweet potatoes, kale and carrots, it’s rich in iron, dietary fiber, vitamins A and C and it’s the perfect complement to a piece of grilled chicken, fish or lean red meat. It’s also a nice break from the “ordinary” brown rice or the whole grain farro I usually make.

IMG_2399The bottom line is you don’t have to spend tons of time in the kitchen to follow a healthy lifestyle. A little bit of prep goes a long way. For me, that means spending a little time every Sunday chopping and slicing fresh produce into individual serving containers that I can grab each day of the week. Along with an ample supply of microwavable frozen veggies (like the “Superfood Pilaf”), I also stay stocked with go-to proteins like chicken breasts or frozen tilapia filets. Taking two minutes in the morning to move a piece of protein from the freezer to the fridge to defrost can mean the difference between grilling up something healthy for dinner or ordering something filled with extra calories, extra grease and extra guilt.

I’m always on the lookout for easy-to-prepare and healthy meals or snack items, so if you have one or two, I’d love to hear from you! Remember, striking a healthy balance between diet and exercise is the best way to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

My New Favorite “Fit” Food for the Fall

IMG_1127Since I’ve already offered some tips on how to adjust your fitness routine with the change of seasons, I thought I’d shift gears slightly on this Motivation Monday to tell you about a new staple in my fall diet: farro.

I’m sure many of my fellow Italians are thinking “are you kidding, Laura? Italians have been cooking with farro for nearly 2,000 years!”  Well, I might be a little late discovering this wonderful whole grain alternative to rice and pasta, but you know what they say, better late than never!

Farro (FAH-row) is a whole grain, but has a richer, almost nutty flavor compared to the somewhat bland brown rice. While it isn’t a complete source of protein, like quinoa, a cup of farro has about eight grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber. It also contains minerals like magnesium, which is known to relieve tension and finally, it contains “smart carbs” that break down slowly and keep your energy levels stable.

For me, farro has become my go-to for adding a little “bulk” to dinner when that piece of grilled chicken or fish and a side of veggies just isn’t enough. This is especially true on my double-dose workout days of  fasted cardio in the morning followed by a Physique57 or other group exercise class in the evening. A serving of farro satisfies my craving for “comfort food,” and the fiber content helps keep me feeling full for awhile.


No-fuss dinner: grilled chicken (with mustard), farro and broccoli

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m definitely not a cook. So the other thing I love about farro is how easy it is to prepare. (At least using the 10-minute version I buy at Trader Joe’s.) All I have to do is boil water, throw in a bag of farro, let it cook for 10 minutes, strain it, add some seasoning and maybe a few sprays of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” and that’s that.  I put the leftovers in my fridge and nuke them throughout the week. (I usually get about 3-4 servings from out of one bag.)  You can also add cold farro to salads for lunch and I’ve heard some people even like it hot for breakfast with some fruit as an alternative to oatmeal.

If you have any healthy farro recipes you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them! It’s always fun finding a new zero-guilt item to add to the pantry or fridge so you can give your body the fuel it needs and stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Workout Wednesday: Business Trip Edition

I had the whole hotel fitness center to myself on my recent business trip to Iowa City!

Greetings from Orlando!

As you read this first Workout Wednesday installment for October 2012, I’m either prepping for or in the midst of producing another shoot. Since this marks the second consecutive week I’ve traveled for work and have another trip in another city soon following this one, I thought it was the perfect time to share the basic survival tip that keeps my health and fitness routine in check while I’m on the road. It’s all about what you toss in your suitcase.

Along with being sure I have my production tools and TSA-size-approved plastic bag of toiletries, I always take a few extra minutes to throw in the following essentials to keep hunger and unhealthy snacking in check. The key is having one for each day of the trip:

  • Almonds: Lucky for me Trader Joe’s takes the guesswork out of counting out almonds for a proper serving size by selling the “Just a Handful” snack-pack. Having the correct serving size also prevents me from buying the jumbo bag at the airport and loading up on too many calories in one snack session.
  • Fiber One bars: I’m a big fan of the Chocolate & Oats variety.
  • Gym clothes: A pair of Under Armour gym shorts, t-shirt, sports bra and a couple of extra pairs of socks take up virtually no room in a suitcase, even if it’s a carry-on. I usually travel wearing my cross trainers to travel and pack my “cute” shoes. (It’s the best way to stay comfortable during flight delays, too!)

The few snacks provide me with no excuse to reach for something unhealthy if too much time goes by between meals thanks to a long production schedule. Also, getting up early enough to make sure I eat a healthy breakfast before the work begins is also crucial to making sure I have energy and remain focused on my work.

Remember, whether you’re packing for a quick business trip or overnight weekend escape, packing a few healthy essentials can help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous – no matter where the road takes you!

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