Meal Plans

Body Beast Meal Prep for the 2,200–2,399 Calorie Level

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If you’ve just completed Body Beast’s Bulk and Build phases and you followed the meal plan correctly, you should be seeing some pretty significant mass gains.

Now it’s time the get shredded with the Beast Phase of the program, where the goal is to reduce body-fat percentage while maintaining muscle mass.

This is achieved by drastically reducing the amount of carbs and increasing the percentage of your calories coming from protein sources.

 

Why Do I Have to Cut Carbs?

With this plan, you’re still allowed some carbs and fruit to maintain those gains you’ve earned from months of intense training.

However, the reduction of carbs and proper meal timing are necessary if you want to look shredded and really show off your results. This is because your body will not burn stored fat if there’s a constant supply of glucose in the blood to burn for energy, so you must make sure you eat at the right time for maximum results.

This phase of the diet plan may take a bit more discipline, since you’re consuming less calories and carbs, but discipline is part of creating healthy habits.

So, a quick tip for cutting is to time your carbs strategically: Avoid eating your carbs (yellow containers) before your workout.

Try to stick with protein (red), vegetables (green), and healthy fats (blue) for your pre-workout meals and snacks. This ensures that there isn’t excess sugar in your blood so you maximize fat loss during your workout.

 

Tips to Save Time During Meal Prep

  1. Write out your plan for the week before you go to the store to save you time and money. (The grocery list for this meal prep is below.)
  2. Cook everything in bulk. (I try to bake as many things as possible at the same time.)
  3. Make sure you have enough containers and refrigerator space to accommodate such a big prep. You can’t go wrong with reusable, BPA-free meal prep containers and mason jars as storage containers.

You’ll need to fill the following portion-control containers every day during this phase of the Body Beast diet, but adjust the numbers to fit your caloric needs.

(Not sure what level you should be at? Take a look at your printed copy of the Book of Beast or in the Body Beast program materials on Beachbody On Demand.)

  • 4 Green containers (vegetables)
  • 3 Purple containers (fruit)
  • 9 Red containers (protein)
  • 3 Yellow containers (carbs)
  • 1 Blue container (healthy fats)
  • 1 Orange container (seeds/dressings)
  • 2 tsp. (teaspoons of oil)

 

Beast (Cutting) Phase Meal Plan Example Day

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Breakfast (½ Green, 1 Purple, 2 Red, 1 Blue, ½ tsp. Oil):

  • 4 slices turkey bacon
  • 8 egg whites
  • ½ cup spinach
  • 1 cup grapefruit
  • 12 almonds
  • ½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Snack 1 (1 Purple, 1 Yellow , ½ Orange):

  • ½ cup cooked steel-cut oats
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
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Lunch (1½ Green, 1½ Red, 1 Yellow, ½ Orange, ½ tsp. Oil):

  • 6 oz. cubed chicken
  • 1 cup spinach
  • ½ cup cherry tomatoes
  • ½ cup black beans
  • ½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp salad dressing

Snack 2 (1 Purple, 1 Red):

  • 1 serving Shakeology
  • 1 cup strawberries

Snack 3 (1 Red, ½ tsp. Oil):

  • 2 whole hard- or medium-boiled eggs

Dinner (1 Green, 1½ Red, 1 Yellow, ½ tsp. Oil):

  • 6 oz. beef or bison steak
  • ½ cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup zucchini or broccoli
  • ½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
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Snack 4 (1 Red):

  • Protein shake

Snack 5 (1 Green, 1 Red, 1 Free Food):

  • ¾ Greek Yogurt, plain unsweetened 2%
  • 1 cup red bell pepper
  • Cinnamon

 

Quick Tips for Preparing Food

Chicken Breast

Season the chicken breast, place in a pan and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees Farenheit.

Bison or Beef Steak

Broil: Place in a pan under the broiler for 7 to 9 minutes on each side.

Grill: Cook until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes, then turn steak over and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes for medium-rare, or 5 to 7 minutes for medium.

Vegetables

When sautéing, cook on low to medium heat so as to not cook nutrients out of vegetables. For maximum nutrients, steam your veggies.

 

Beast Phase Grocery List

  • 20 slices turkey bacon
  • 23 oz. steak (bison or beef)
  • 23 oz. chicken breast
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 40 egg whites
  • 5 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 5 cups grapefruit
  • 5 large tomatoes
  • 5 cups blackberries
  • Spinach, enough to make 5 cups of lightly sautéed spinach
  • 3 cups zucchini
  • 2 cups broccoli
  • 5 large red bell peppers
  • 1 pack steel-cut oatmeal
  • 2.5 cups black beans
  • 1 bag chia seeds
  • 36 almonds
  • 16 cashews
  • 1 pack quinoa
  • 1 bottle olive oil

Tips to Keep Your Leftovers from Spoiling

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Managing lots of leftovers can be a struggle. Trying to finish everything before it goes bad can sometimes seem like a gustatory juggling act that inevitably falls back down to earth when that succulent steak you grilled to perfection over the weekend transforms into a slimy smelly piece of meat a few days later. And when holiday season rolls around with its mounds and mounds of delicious home-cooked food piled on the table, keeping on top of leftovers before they become compost material can get annoying and frustrating. Following a few simple food safety rules can make your extra food last longer and keep your grocery bill down.

I style myself as a bit of a food safety expert since I work from home and normally make up a batch of protein on the weekend — slow cooker pork, roast chicken — and then keep it to mix into meals for the rest of the week along with some carbs — wild rice, sweet potatoes — and a few sides of veggies like steamed broccoli and chopped greens. But what’s essential to keeping on top of all of this food is, one, make sure you are eating it consistently, and then knowing how to store it, and when it’s time to throw it into the compost bin or trash.

Why Does Food Go Bad?

When food spoils, it’s usually because bacteria — like Staphylococcus, Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter — starts feasting on it after it cools down to temperatures that can support bug life. If the food is not sealed and put away in either in the fridge or freezer, the bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels or create toxins that can cause illness when ingested.

Exposure to oxygen — which helps microorganisms grow, encourages enzymes in the food to react faster, and make fats, or lipids, in the food smell and taste funny, like oil going rancid — is another factor effecting food’s longevity. Water and light are also culprits in spoiling food — water by giving microorganisms like mold and bacteria the moisture they need to rapidly colonize the food, and light by degrading the structure of the food by breaking down nutrients and pigments.

Controlling temperature is the final key to keeping your foods from spoiling as a cold enough environment will stop or slow the growth of bacteria — food should be kept out of the so-called “Danger Zone” of 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F, which is the range bacteria thrive in. Never leave food out for more than two hours during most of the year as the temperature will quickly adjust to whatever it feels like in the room — cut that back to one hour in the summer when temps can get above 90 degrees F.

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What Can I Do to Keep Food From Spoiling so Quickly?

If you can control these three factors — air, water, light, and temperature — you will be able to maximize your leftovers life, saving you money and time spent cooking new dishes to replace your rotten and smelly food. Food waste in the U.S. is a huge problem, with the Environmental Protection Agency estimating that we threw away over 38 million tons of food in 2014, with only five percent going to a composting program. Food spoilage takes up 21 percent of municipal solid waste and about one third of that is fruit and veggies, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

First off, to protect the food — and your family — invest in some good quality re-sealable containers like the Glasslock products, which latch tight, are easy to reopen, have glass bottoms that won’t hold odors or stains, and is safe for the oven, freezer, or microwave. Beachbody’s Portion-Control Containers are another way to store your food while keeping tabs on your food portions. These high quality plastic containers are BPA and DEHP-free, dishwasher and microwave safe. Another tip is to write on the lid of the container with a dry erase marker to record the date and time you put the food into the fridge or freezer.

Next, make sure your refrigerator and freezer are operating at the right temperature — the fridge should be at or below 40 degrees F and 0 degrees F for the freezer. Buy a special thermometer designed for either appliance, put it inside and check frequently so you know for sure that your food is well out of the danger zone. And remember that just because your food is in a properly cold fridge, it won’t keep it from eventually spoiling, that’s the job of the freezer. Don’t pack your fridge tight — food needs the cold air to circulate around it to keep it cool — and make sure you clean it out regularly to prevent old, rotten food from spreading bacteria.

What is the Shelf Life of Foods?

When safely put away in the freezer or fridge at the right temps, foods will last longer, but there are varying ranges of time that affect every food’s ability to last. Here’s a handy chart pulled from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that can help give you a general idea of how long common foods will last.

What are Some Holiday Leftover Strategies?

The holidays can offer extra challenges for the frugal leftover lover as the sheer amount of food you bring home (or cook at your house) can overwhelm even the most dedicated fridge denizen. Here are some quick tips to keep you safe and satiated this holiday season.

• Try to eat up most of leftover food in your fridge the week before the big day so you have extra room to pack in all of those delicious dishes you couldn’t quite devour.

• If going to someone else’s house for your meal, bring along a cooler with cold packs so your food will survive the trip home without warming up enough to make it into the danger zone.

• Take out any stuffing from your turkey once the meal is finished. Refrigerate both the turkey meat and the stuffing separately, and make sure to put all food leftover in the fridge within 2 hours.

• Again, a good general rule is to keep food in the fridge for only 3 to 4 days, or put the bulk of it in the freezer so you can thaw it out and enjoy it later. Investing in a vacuum sealer can help dramatically extend the life of your holiday delicacies.

The Picky Eater’s Guide to Losing Weight

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Picky eaters, you know who you are: You’re that kid who had “Mommie Dearest”-level standoffs over everything from “this tastes gross/weird/wet” to “omg the green beans are TOUCHING my noodles!”

Now you’re an adult and you want to drop some pounds. But that means you need to dial in your diet and finally face the foods that make your palate pucker.

Or maybe not?

Whole, unprocessed foods like lean proteins, veggies and fruit, and whole grains help form the foundation of a balanced, healthy diet, but pickings can get slim if your taste buds don’t mesh with the foods that can help you lose weight.

Luckily, there are ways to get around your picky palate and expand your food horizons. But first, let’s take a quick look and see how it all started.

 

Picky Eaters May Be Born, Not Made

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Picky eating is most often associated with stubborn kids who won’t eat their veggies or try something new.

But a person’s food preferences may be genetically preset: In a 2007 study, the long-standing debate of “nurture versus nature” was applied to picky eating. For some foods, particularly produce and protein, children simply showed an innate like or dislike.

Kids are also born with palates that tend to be more sensitive to bitter and sweet flavorsthan adults, so what you may have hated as a child (boo, spinach!), you may love as an adult (hello, spinach and broccoli strata!).

Then again, some picky kids simply grow into picky adults. The journal Appetite reports that adult who are picky eaters have the same taste sensitivity that they had as picky kids: Picky-eating adults described sweet and bitter flavor profiles as more intense than non-picky eaters.

(Fun fact: You’re in good company, picky eaters. Carl Daikeler, Beachbody’s CEO and co-founder, does not like vegetables. Solution? His wife Isabelle and nutritionist Darin Olien created Shakeology so Carl would eat his greens.)

Bad memories can steer you away from certain foods, too: “Often times, picky eaters are remembering past likes or dislikes about certain foods that they haven’t even tasted in 10 years,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, M.P.H., R.D., founder of BZ Nutrition.

But that doesn’t mean you have to choke down those carrots or hold your nose while you shovel greens in your mouth. Here are 10 ways to work with what you’ve got.

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8 Tips to Help Picky Eaters Eat Healthier and Lose Weight

1. Translate your favorites into something else

“You’re already eating more foods than you think you are, so try to deconstruct your favorite meals and see what other foods you can be eating from that,” says Zeitlin.

“For example, if you always get your burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion, then guess what, you like lettuce and tomatoes, [which] you can add into a salad, or you can grill those tomatoes as a side dish, or create a stir fry with tomatoes, onions, and a lean cut of meat.”

2. “Retrain” your taste buds

If you’ve said “pass” on certain foods for a long time, you might be in for a surprise. “Tastes change over time, so it is important to revisit foods every so often,” recommends Zeitlin.

If you find you’re still not a fan of specific flavors, even decades later, all hope is not lost. Try cutting out many sugary/salty/fatty processed foods for a few weeks and you may be able to retrain your taste buds to recognize the natural sweetness in foods like fruit, instead of the “hypersweet” version in processed foods.

3. Take baby steps

Instead of changing everything you eat all at once, start with small changes. Instead of a side of potato chips, try a veggie-filled pasta salad instead.

Or try a different way of cooking your food: Instead of frying, try baking or grilling. “Small changes can lead to big changes but feel less overwhelming at the time,” says Zeitlin.

Remember that just as baby steps take a longer time for a child to get from point A to point B, so does making small changes with your eating. However, if you stick with it, you can gain speed and make progress.

“One of my clients was eating fast food for every meal before we met,” says Stephanie Jensen, Certified Personal Chef of La Cuisine Personal Chef Service. Worried her client would never make the switch to a healthier plate, Jensen started simple, using ingredients the client was familiar with and branching out with new items slowly and occasionally.

She also paired new ingredients with old favorites to help make meals more palatable. “Five years later, I’m still cooking for [this client],” she says.

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4. Rethink your go-to meals

If Taco Tuesdays are your jam, keep the Mexican theme dinner, but give the ingredients a facelift by using lettuce wraps in place of taco shells and swapping plain Greek yogurt for sour cream.

“A picky eater could be missing out on essential vitamins and minerals they are not getting by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein,” says Zeitlin. “Looking for ways to sneak more vegetables into your meal is a great way to get more vitamins and minerals and expand your taste palate at the same time.”

A few swaps to try:

  • Lighten up classic mac and cheese by pureeing butternut squash or carrots to mix into the cheese sauce.
  • Trade carb-heavy white rice for cauliflower rice instead. Chop the florets very finely until it resembles rice or use a food processor. “You can then use the cauliflower just like rice — stir fry in some sesame oil and add cooked protein and veggies, or heat in a skillet and add a healthy jarred marinara sauce and some dried herbs and spices,” Jensen says. “Cauliflower rice can also be cooked quickly in a sauté pan with olive oil and fresh garlic. Add a splash of fresh lemon juice and fresh herbs and you have a quick and healthy side dish in minutes.”
  • Instead of regular potatoes, Jensen recommends sweet potato or zucchini “fries.” “Cut vegetables into sticks, toss with olive oil and paprika, and roast on a baking pan over parchment paper at 425 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes or until crispy.”
  • Instead of prepackaged spice blends, salad dressings, or marinades, make your own at home. They’re easy to throw together, healthier, and less expensive than store-bought varieties.
  • Mix fresh fruit with plain yogurt and a touch of honey for a less-sugary version of the pre-flavored yogurt cups.
  • Swap in “zoodles” in your next pasta dish, or shred spaghetti squash. But if veggie noodles are a step too far, try simply swapping out half of your regular white pasta for a bean pasta or a whole-grain quinoa or wheat pasta.

5. Order something different when eating out

Cooking with new ingredients can be tricky, especially if you’re not sure how something is supposed to taste. Leave your first bite to the professionals when ordering meals incorporating new-to-you ingredients such as quinoa, Brussels sprouts, or eggplant.

“It might take some trial and error, but in the end you may find a whole new list of ingredients that you can put into your meal rotation,” says Jensen.

6. Get cooking

The good news is you don’t have to be a master chef to master new flavors. “There is no rule that says everything must be cooked,” says Jensen, who suggests trying new produce ingredients in their raw states first. “Raw fruits and veggies come in all shapes and sizes and can make a quick snack or accompaniment to any meal.”

When you are ready to turn up (or on) the heat, “get creative with spices (not salt!),” suggests Zeitlin. “Adding spices to your vegetables, salad dressings, fish, meat, or chicken can switch up the flavor profile while still keeping things lean and healthy.”

“Many times eating a vegetable cooked versus raw changes the taste profile,” says Zeitlin. “So if you don’t like raw broccoli, you may love roasted broccoli. Don’t discount the food until you have tried it a few ways!”

 

7. Get inspired by social media

If it’s true that people eat with their eyes first, then a scroll through Pinterest or foodie Instagram accounts can make you very hungry, and possibly more adventurous:

  • @autumncalabrese: Creator of 21 Day Fix, Autumn Calabrese shares yummy meal pics as well as bonus exercises and motivation to keep you moving toward your goals.
  • @bobbycalabrese11: Chef brother to Autumn and co-host of FIXATE, Bobby Calabrese’s Insta feed is a feast for the eyes.

8. Find a foodie friend

Not sure what kind of new foods you might like? Ask a foodie friend to be your guide. “The buddy system works in the gym as well as the kitchen,” says Zeitlin.

If you’re not ready to commit to a full meal, order shared plates or family-style meals. Or steal a bite from your pal’s plate for a tiny taste test.

Whatever you choose to do, don’t get discouraged and don’t stop trying new ways to enjoy healthy food.

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Cooking for One? Try These 7 Money and Time-Saving Tips

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Let’s be frank: Cooking for one can be challenging.

And it’s not just single folks who face this issue. If you’re trying to eat healthy and the family wants to stick with their old standbys, you’ve probably tried to figure out how to eat healthy, feed your family, and stay on budget.

Here are some tips and tricks that will make going it alone on your healthy journey a bit easier.

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7 Tips for Grocery Shopping When Cooking for One

Hit the store twice a week
Kudos to you for doing Sunday meal prep. But if your life is such that once the week gets started, plans change, things come up after work, and most of those meals go to waste, considering going to the grocery twice or three times a week instead of doing one big trip.

By hitting up the market more often, you can more readily consider what you have left on hand that still needs to be used like that leftover takeout chicken and the asparagus that you bought on the last trip.

Save on salads
Instead of buying greens and salad toppings individually, it is often cheaper to purchase small portions of pre-made salads at the salad bar, points out Lisa Lee Freeman, savings expert for the coupon app Flipp. Be smart about it though: Since you pay by the pound at the salad bar, skip heavy-but-cheap toppings, like cucumbers. Buy those separately and add when you prep.

Buy dry goods in bulk
“The secret to shopping smart is know how long things last, and figuring out what you can and cannot buy in bulk,” says Freeman. You can freeze extra portions of chicken or turkey and store nonperishable food—like dry beans or grain—in your pantry.

Opt frozen over fresh…
Good news: Frozen fruits and vegetables are close to just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, according to a study in American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. They’re a great choice if you’re cooking for one since they don’t spoil as quickly as fresh produce and who doesn’t love frozen berries in their smoothie?

 And freeze everything
Use your freezer for everything that may spoil, from bread and meat to leftovers. Doing so will make sure you always make sure to have a few single-serve frozen meals on hand for when you need a meal in a pinch. Chilis and soups are some meals that freeze well, but so are healthy chicken enchiladas and egg cups!

Reach for canned fish
While canned fruits and veggies aren’t as nutritious (put down that can of peaches in syrup), canned fish is OK. “Buying fresh fish is always ideal, but canned light tuna and canned wild salmon are great options when buying fresh isn’t possible,” says Chelsea Fuchs, New York-based R.D. Canned tuna and salmon are great sandwich and salad toppings. “Look for light canned tuna packed in water… and when it comes to salmon, look for the wild variety because it is a terrific source of omega-3 fats and vitamin D.”

Look at your bigger picture shopping list
“Most foods go on sale in cycles of about three to four months, as well as during seasonal changes and holidays,” says Freeman. “Instead of buying the same stuff on your shopping list week after week, figure out what you can buy every few months and store. Then go for it when it’s on sale.”

Nutritional Benefits of Pineapple

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Is there any fruit that’s more “summer” than than pineapple? Ok, ok, strawberries do give them pretty good competition. But, no matter what your favorite summer fruit is, it’s hard to to deny that whether you’re eating pineapples straight, grilling them up, or throwing them into a salad (or a smoothie!), the golden, tropical fruits scream summer. They’re good for you, too. Raw pineapple chunks provide manganese, vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, and copper.

Pineapples are delicious, sweet, pinecone-shaped plants grown most often in tropical countries like Thailand, Brazil, the Philippines, and Mexico. In the U.S., they only grown in one state: Hawaii. And, despite their name, pineapples are not related to apples at all. They actually look more like agave or yucca.

When are pineapples in season?

You’ll find pineapples year-round in most grocery stores, but their peak season runs from late spring to early fall. Unless you live in Hawaii or one of the countries mentioned above, it’s unlikely that you’ll find any at your local farmers market.

How do I choose a good pineapple?

A pineapple’s crown — the green leaves — should be bright green in color and the pineapple should be heavy for its size. A fully ripened pineapple offers a sweet fragrance and will be fairly firm to the touch. Avoid pineapples with bruises, soft spots, and dry leaves.

How do I store pineapples?

Pineapples can be kept at room temperature for up to five days, but they should be kept out of direct sunlight and away from heat. Store cut pineapple in a tightly-covered container in the refrigerator, and it should stay fresh for about a week.

How do you cut a pineapple?

You could buy pre-cut pineapple in cans or fresh at the store, but cutting your own pineapple isn’t hard. In fact, we bet you could do have the whole pineapple prepped in less than 2 minutes.

Getting past the spiky exterior is the first step, and that can be tricky. First, chop off the crown and the base of the pineapple. Then, go around the edges and slice off the exterior. Cut the pineapple into quarters and then slice down the middle of each quartered section to remove the core. From there, slice the pineapple lengthwise and then turn and slice into chunks. If you’re doing the 21 Day Fix or any other program that uses the Portion Control Containers, pineapple can be found on purple Potion Fix Container list.

 

What are some healthy pineapple recipes?

While Pineapple is a seriously sweet snack that’s easy to enjoy on its own, you can also add it to a homemade salsa for a sweeter flavor, or use it as a topping for fish, poultry, or lean cuts of beef. Here are some recipes to try:

  • Healthy Sweet and Sour Pork
  • Pineapple Shakeology
  • Crunchy Spicy Shredded Pork Tacos with Pineapple Salsa
  • Vanilla Shakeology Macadamia Nut Pineapple Balls

Pineapple Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 cup, chunks or 1 purple Portion Control Container

Calories: 83
Total Fat: 0 g
Saturated Fat: 0 g
Monounsaturated Fat: 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 2 mg
Total Carbohydrates: 22 g
Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 16 g
Protein: 1 g
Vitamin C: 131% DV
Manganese: 76% DV
Folate: 7% DV
Magnesium: 5% DV
Copper: 9% DV

Make This No-Cook 21 Day Fix Meal Prep in About an Hour!

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When it gets warm, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven! That’s where this no-cook 21 Day Fix meal prep comes in. While it’s designed specifically for anyone doing the 21 Day Fix and eating between 1200 and 1500 calories, it’s great for anyone looking for a healthy meal prep. If you need more calories, increase the portions or add a snack like one of these.

So, go ahead, give your oven the week off! Keep reading for your 21 Day Fix Meal Prep step-by-step instructions and grocery list.

 

Your Healthy 21 Day Fix Meal Prep for the Next Five Days

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BREAKFASTS

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Tropical Overnight Oats: ½ cup raw oats, 2 tsp. chia seeds, 1 cup kefir (or Greek yogurt), ½ tsp. vanilla extract, 1 medium kiwi, ½ cup strawberries (1 purple, 1 red, 2 yellow, ½ orange)

Tuesday, Thursday
2 Hard-Boiled eggs, 1 Cup Watermelon (1 red, 1 purple)

SNACKS

Shakeology Smoothie: 1 packet Shakeology, water, and ice (1 red)

Apple with 1 tsp. Peanut Butter (1 purple, 1 tsp.)

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LUNCHES

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Cobb Salad with Deli Turkey and Hard-Boiled Eggs: 3 slices deli turkey, 1 hard-boiled egg, 2 Tbsp. green onions, 2 Tbsp. diced tomatoes, 1¼ cups romaine lettuce, 2 Tbsp. Healthier Ranch Dressing (1½ green, 1 red, ½ orange)

Tuesday, Thursday
Tuna Antipasto Salad: ½ cup chickpeas, ¾ cup tuna, ¼ cup red bell pepper, ½ lemon (juiced), ¼ cup chopped parsley, 1 tsp. olive oil, 2 cups spring lettuce mix (2½ green, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 tsp.)

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DINNERS

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Chicken Burrito Bowls: ¾ cup shredded rotisserie chicken, ½ cup cauliflower rice, ½ cup chopped romaine lettuce, ¼ cup chopped tomato, ¼ cup chopped red onion, 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, 1 Tbsp. sliced jalapeño, ¼ medium avocado, 1 tsp. olive oil (1½ green, 1 red, 1 blue, 1 tsp.)

Tuesday, Thursday
Avocado Shrimp Rolls: ¾ cup pre-cooked shrimp, ¼ medium avocado, 1 tsp. mustard, freshly ground pepper, ½ lemon (juiced), pinch of paprika, 2 Tbsp. shredded unsweetened coconut, ½ cup romaine lettuce, 1 small whole wheat bun (½ green, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 orange, 1 blue)

 

How to Make This Easy 21 Day Fix Meal Prep

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  1. Prep the vegetables and herbs. Rinse romaine lettuce, allow to air dry, and chop 6¼ cups. Rinse spring lettuce mix and allow to air dry. Remove the skin from one red onion and dice into small pieces. Rinse, deseed, and dice ½ cup red bell pepper. Rinse and chop 1 cup + 2 Tbsp. tomato. Rinse and dice ⅜ cup (6 Tbsp.) green onion. Rinse and loosely chop ½ cup parsley. Rinse and loosely chop ⅜ cup (6 Tbsp.) cilantro. Rinse, deseed, and slice 3 Tbsp. jalapeño. Store any unused vegetables for future use.
  2. Prep the Healthier Ranch Dressing for the Cobb Salad. In a food processor, combine 2 Tbsp. dried parsley, 2 tsp. dried onion flakes, 2 tsp. onion powder, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 1½ tsp. dried dill, 1½ tsp. dried cloves, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. ground black pepper; pulse until well mixed. Add 1 Tbsp. seasoning to ⅓ cup 2% plain Greek yogurt and ⅓ cup low-fat buttermilk; mix until well combined. Pour 2 Tbsp. dressing into 3 small containers. Store extra seasoning mix in the pantry and extra dressing in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for future use.
  3. Make the Cobb Salad in 3 large storage containers. To each container, add 1¼ cup chopped romaine lettuce, 2 Tbsp. diced green onion, 2 Tbsp. chopped tomato, 3 slices deli turkey, and 1 hard boiled egg.
  4. Make the Tuna Antipasto Salad in 2 large storage containers. Open and drain the chickpeas and 2 cans of tuna. To each container, add 2 cups spring lettuce mix, ½ cup chickpeas, ¾ cup tuna, ¼ cup red bell pepper, and ¼ cup chopped parsley. Store the lettuce on top of the tuna salad to keep from getting soggy. When ready to eat, drizzle salad with juice from ½ lemon and 1 tsp. olive oil.
  5. Prep the Avocado Shrimp Rolls. Stir together 2 tsp. mustard, juice from 1 lemon, large pinch paprika, and ground black pepper, to taste; divide dressing between 2 containers and store. Chop the pre-cooked shrimp into large pieces; divide between 2 containers with ¾ cup shrimp going into each container. When ready to eat, dice ¼ ripe avocado and store remaining in an air-tight container for future use. In a small bowl, toss diced avocado with ¾ cup pre-cooked shrimp and 1 container of dressing. Fill 1 small whole wheat bun with ½ cup chopped romaine lettuce, shrimp mixture, and top with 2 Tbsp. shredded unsweetened coconut.
  6. Prep the Chicken Burrito Bowls. Microwave frozen cauliflower rice per package instructions. Meanwhile, debone the rotisserie chicken and shred the meat. Once cauliflower rice is warm and chicken is shredded, assemble the burrito bowls. To 3 large storage containers, add ½ cup cauliflower rice, ¾ cup shredded rotisserie chicken, ½ cup chopped romaine lettuce, ¼ cup chopped tomato, ¼ cup chopped red onion, 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, and 1 Tbsp. sliced jalapeño. When ready to eat, top each salad with ¼ diced avocado and 1 tsp. olive oil.
  7. Make the Tropical Overnight Oats. Slice 3 kiwi in half and use a spoon to separate the fruit from the skin; dice kiwi and set aside. Rinse and slice 1½ cups strawberries. In a large bowl, combine 1½ cups old-fashioned oats, 6 tsp. chia seeds, 3 cups kefir (or Greek yogurt), 1½ tsp. vanilla extract, 3 diced kiwi, and 1½ cups strawberries. Mix until well combined; divide mixture between 3 storage containers and refrigerate.
  8. Prep Watermelon and Egg breakfast. Cut 2 cups watermelon into bite-sized pieces. Divide between 2 storage containers. Serve with 2 hard-boiled eggs.
  9. Prep the Apple with Peanut Butter snack. Portion 1 tsp. peanut butter into 5 storage containers. Serve with medium apple.
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Your 21 Day Fix Meal Prep Grocery List:

Fruit
3 medium kiwi
1 1/2 cups strawberries
2 cups watermelon
5 medium apples
2 lemons

Vegetables
1 bunch green onions
1 large tomato
6 1/4 cups romaine lettuce (about 1 large head)
1 small red bell pepper
1 bunch parsley
4 cups spring lettuce mix
12 oz. package cauliflower rice, frozen
1 medium red onion
1 bunch cilantro
1 large jalapeño
2 medium avocados

Dry and Canned Goods
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
15 oz. can chickpeas
2 (5 oz.) cans tuna, packed in water
2 small whole wheat buns

Protein
3 cups (24 oz.) plain kefir (or an additional 24 oz. plain 2% Greek yogurt)
7 hard boiled eggs
1/3 cup (2.7 oz.) plain 2% Greek yogurt
1/3 cup (2.7 oz.) low-fat buttermilk
1 package sliced deli turkey (9 slices)
1 rotisserie chicken
6 oz. pre-cooked shrimp

Pantry
6 tsp. chia seeds
vanilla extract
5 packets Shakeology
5 Tbsp. peanut butter
dried parsley
dried onion flakes
onion powder
garlic powder
dried dill
dried cloves
salt
black pepper
olive oil
mustard
paprika
4 Tbsp. shredded unsweetened coconut

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10 Foods That Can Help You Lose Weight

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When it comes to eating for weight loss, you’ve probably heard every piece of advice out there: Drink three glasses of grapefruit juice a day, eat egg whites for breakfast, or replace all your greens with kale.

It’s a convenient strategy to latch onto one specific food in the hope that it will completely transform your body, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Krista Haynes, R.D. and Beachbody nutrition manager, says weight loss doesn’t come down to one particular food. Losing weight “is a super-complex process that involves diet, sleep, stress reduction, physical activity, and genetics,” Haynes says.

That being said, there are certain foods that are healthier and more nutrient-rich than others; foods that pack tons of protein into a small number of calories, for example, or foods that can help increase your satiety and provide intense flavor without any added sugars or trans fats.

Keep in mind that the rest of your habits matter, too: “Eating these foods won’t do any good if you’re eating fast food, sitting on the couch all weekend, or feeling overly stressed about work stuff,” says Haynes.

But when you combine healthy foods with a balanced diet, regular exercise, hydration, and adequate sleep, your weight-loss goals will start to look more realistic. Here are 10 foods that will help you get to those goals.

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10 Healthy Weight Loss-Friendly Foods

1. Eggs

“Eggs are an excellent protein source in a small calorie package,” says Haynes. One large egg contains between 70 and 90 calories, depending on how it’s cooked (hard-boiled eggs are on the lower end of the spectrum, while fried eggs are at the higher end) and has roughly six grams of protein, six grams of fat, and one gram of carbohydrates. Eggs are also full of important nutrients like calcium, folate, and vitamins A and D.

Haynes says the protein in eggs can help you feel full and quell the urge to snack throughout the day, which could help with weight loss. In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, two groups of overweight and obese individuals started a reduced-calorie weight-loss diet: One group ate eggs as part of their breakfast and the other ate bagels. The group that ate an egg breakfast experienced 65 percent greater weight loss than the group that ate a bagel breakfast.

Pro tip: Easy ways to add eggs into your diet — scramble a couple for breakfast with chopped veggies, slide a fried egg on top of your avocado toast, or nosh on hard-boiled eggs as an afternoon snack.

2. Almonds

Almonds hit the nutrition trifecta: They’re full of fiber, protein, and healthy fat, making them a great balanced snack choice, says Haynes.

The only catch? “Calories add up quickly when munching on almonds,” Haynes says, so you have to be smart about your portions. The USDA’s recommended serving size of almonds is one ounce, or 23 whole nuts, which have 164 calories, 14 grams of fat, five grams of carbs, and about three grams of dietary fiber.

Pro tip: To get the fiber and protein without overdoing it, Haynes suggests eating raw, unsalted almonds instead of a carb-heavy muffin or sugary breakfast bar. She also recommends sprinkling slivered almonds on your oatmeal or grinding them into almond butter to spread on apple slices or celery sticks.

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3. Avocados

Avocados are everyone’s favorite source of healthy fat, but they’re also calorically dense, says Haynes. According to the USDA, the recommended serving size is about 30 grams, or one-fourth of a medium-size avocado — in other words, way less than what most people eat. One-fourth of an avocado contains 50 calories, less than one gram of protein, about five grams of fat, three grams of carbs, and two grams of dietary fiber.

But the fiber in avocados, combined with their rich, buttery taste, means you may not need to eat as much to feel satisfied, says Haynes.

The monounsaturated (or healthy) fat in avocados is also a key macronutrient and may help with weight loss. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that eating a diet with a high percentage of fat (60 percent) may increase your resting energy expenditure.

In addition, the Journal of the American Heart Association published a study that found that eating one avocado per day as part of a moderate-fat, cholesterol-lowering diet can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

“This, of course, doesn’t give you free reign to eat all the fat you want — portions still matter,” says Haynes. She recommends spreading avocado on your sandwich instead of mayonnaise or adding a few slices to salads, eggs, or healthy tacos. You can also blend avocado in smoothies or eat a few spoonfuls peppered with chili flakes or sea salt as a savory snack.

Pro tip: Just remember that avocado should be an addition to your meal, not the main dish. “Watch out for the chips and guacamole, as that can be a calorie bomb,” says Haynes.

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4. Cabbage

This cruciferous veggie is low-calorie and loaded with nutrients like calcium, potassium, and vitamin A. One cup of raw shredded cabbage contains 18 calories, roughly four grams of carbs, two grams of fiber, and less than one gram of fat and protein each.

The appeal of cabbage as part of a weight-loss nutrition plan is that you can eat a lot of it without racking up calories. Haynes recommends incorporating fermented cabbage (sauerkraut or kimchi) into your diet to promote gut health. You can eat it on its own or toss it in a veggie bowl with your favorite protein and quinoa.

If you’re not a fan of kimchi, try mixing raw cabbage in your salads, making ground turkey tacos with cabbage wraps, or adding cabbage to a hearty soup.

5. Grapefruit

Despite being praised online as a quick weight-loss solution, grapefruit doesn’t actually have a special fat-burning ability, says Haynes. Rather, it’s the high water and fiber content that can help you feel full and consume less food, she adds.

A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food confirms this. The results showed that eating grapefruit led to modest weight loss: People who ate half a grapefruit three times a day before each meal lost about two pounds more than those who didn’t.

“Alone, grapefruit is low in calories,” says Haynes. According to the USDA, half a grapefruit contains 52 calories, 13 grams of carbs, two grams of fiber, and less than one gram of fat and protein each. The fruit is also a great source of calcium and vitamin C.

To get all the nutrients of grapefruit without the added sugar and calories, stick with fresh grapefruit rather than grapefruit juice. Eat it as a snack topped with cottage cheese, or pair it with a veggie omelet for breakfast.

Pro tip: One word of caution — it’s advised against eating grapefruit if you’re taking certain prescription medications, Haynes says, so check with your doctor before adding to your diet.

6. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a fantastic source of complex carbs, dietary fiber, and protein, all of which can help you feel full for several hours, says Haynes. One cup of cooked oats has 159 calories, and it contains about six grams of protein, 27 grams of carbs, four grams of fiber, and three grams of fat.

“Oatmeal is a great canvas to add other nutrients to,” Haynes says. She likes berries, banana slices, walnuts, chia seeds, or a drizzle of almond or coconut butter. Just be careful not to overdo it — dried fruit, sweetened coconut flakes, and big gobs of nut butter can contain tons of added sugar and extra calories.

Another healthy option for oatmeal? “Use rolled oats as an ingredient in protein snack balls,” says Haynes.

7. Salmon

In addition to being a great source of lean protein, which Haynes says helps you maintain your muscle mass when trying to lose weight, salmon is also packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which your body can’t produce. One three-ounce fillet of salmon has 155 calories, 22 grams of protein, seven grams of fat, and zero carbs.

“Salmon is a great option as a dinner alongside some veggies and a whole grain or starch like quinoa or sweet potato,” Haynes says. She also suggests salmon jerky as a protein-rich snack or smoked salmon on a sprouted whole-grain English muffin for breakfast (nix the cream cheese).

8. Yogurt

Not all yogurts are created equal when it comes to weight loss. Most flavored yogurts and store-bought brands are packed with added sugar, Haynes says.

Plain, unsweetened, 2% Greek yogurt, on the other hand, is low in sugar and high in protein. Haynes recommends it as a healthy snack option or cooking substitute for heavy ingredients like sour cream and cream cheese.

Yogurt also contains probiotics, “which may help with weight loss by improving the ratio of good to bad bacteria in the gut,” Haynes says.

The USDA’s recommended serving size of Greek yogurt is one cup, which has 100 calories, six grams of carbs, less than one gram of fat, about six grams of sugar, and a whopping 17 grams of protein. It’s also loaded with calcium and potassium.

Top a cup of unsweetened Greek yogurt with berries and ground flax seeds for an easy breakfast, or blend it in your green smoothie for some extra protein.

9. Spinach

Spinach, like cabbage, is low in calories and high in fiber and water content, meaning you can eat a lot of it without making a dent in your total calories for the day, says Haynes.

For example, one cup of raw spinach contains just seven calories, almost one gram each of protein and fiber, and one gram of carbs.

There’s also some research to suggest that thylakoids, the internal membrane system in green plants like spinach, can help facilitate the release of satiety hormones in the body. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, for example, found that taking a thylakoid-rich spinach extract before breakfast may help reduce hunger and snack cravings and increase satiety for over two hours.

To incorporate more spinach in your diet, Haynes suggests blending a couple of handfuls into your smoothie, tossing it in your veggie scramble or strata, adding it to soup, or swapping it for romaine lettuce in your salad.

10. Apples

There may be some truth to the old adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. One study published in the journal Appetite found that eating an apple at the start of a meal may help with weight management. People who ate one medium-size apple before a meal reduced their food energy intake by 15 percent and reported feeling fuller.

That’s because apples are filled with fiber and water that can help increase satiety, says Haynes. One small apple has 20 grams of carbs, about four grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and less than one gram each of protein and fat — all for 77 calories.

Munch on an apple plain, sprinkle it with cinnamon for extra sweetness, or add apple slices to your salad for some crunch.

The 10-Second Takeaway

Certain foods are loaded with a combination of protein, fiber, and important nutrients that can help you feel full and squash your urge to snack. Eating these healthy foods can help you in your weight-loss journey — but only if you take other steps as well. To maximize your weight loss, incorporate these 10 nutrient-rich foods into a balanced diet, step up your exercise game, and make sure you’re getting plenty of water and sleep.

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Meal Prep Tips for Clean Week (or Any Other Week!)

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Your mission — should you choose to accept — is to eat clean and exercise for seven days in a row. It’s just a week; you can do anything for a week!

Bonus: These heathy habits may stick around for much longer. But before you begin anything, you need a plan. A good place to start is Clean Week with Megan Davies, who has a little trick to making clean eating as easy as possible: meal prep.

Implement these easy tips and see for yourself how eating clean can be simple, delicious, and fun.

(Pro tip: Once you nail these Clean Week meal prep tips, you can move on to the Portion Fix container system to take your new healthy habits to the next level!)

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How to Meal Prep for Clean Week (or Any Other Week)

 

1. Don’t be afraid to repeat

No need to make an entirely new meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. Just choose two or three of your favorite recipes for each meal, and simply double or triple the recipe so you can have it multiple times throughout the week. (Remember to take “repeats” into account when you’re writing out your grocery list!)

 

2. Batch cook

Choose recipes or mix-and-match ingredients that are similar so you can cook up a big batch of foods and eat multiple times throughout the day or week. Easy foods to batch cook:

  • Roasted veggies: Add them to a breakfast scramble, then toss some into your salad for a not-sad desk lunch.
  • Quinoa: Add this nutrient-packed food to your soup for lunch, then turn it into a side dish with baked salmon at dinner.
  • Chicken breasts: Bake a few chicken breasts to pair with a side of sautéed veggies and a baked sweet potato for dinner. Then add a sliced chicken breast to some zoodles for a clean “pasta” dish for lunch the next day.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: Grab these as an easy snack when the afternoon slump hits, then make avocado egg salad toast for breakfast in the morning.
  • A big pot of brown rice will last you 4–5 days in the fridge or in the freezer for up to one month. This versatile grain can be used in a slew of recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

 

3. Portion, then plate

Meal-prep containers are your new best friend: All you have to do is portion out your meals in advance after you’ve batched cooked your meals for the week.

No more standing in front of an open fridge trying to decide what to eat; just grab your container and go.

Many people choose Sunday as a “meal prep” day, but pick whatever day is most convenient for you. Committing to a few hours of prepping one day can save several hours during the week.

 

4. Be mindful of food safety

Most foods will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days. If you’re making something on Sunday that you don’t plan to eat until Friday, put it in the freezer and defrost it in the fridge Thursday night.

Some foods like eggs and sweet potatoes don’t freeze well, so schedule freezer-friendly meals at the end of the week so you only have to cook one day during the week.

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5. Frozen fruits and veggies can be just as good as fresh

This is especially true when it comes to meal prep. Since frozen vegetables have already been cooked, all you have to do is heat them in the microwave with some cooked quinoa and your pre-made chicken breast and you’ve got yourself a balanced meal.

Frozen fruit is also a great addition to Shakeology; no washing or cutting required.

 

6. Mini meal prep

Certain meal prep tasks should wait till the night before or just before eating: like washing fresh fruit (to ward off mold), chopping delicate greens (to prevent wilting), or adding fresh herbs (to minimize oxidation and maximize flavor).

 

7. Look for shortcuts

Make it easy on yourself if you’re willing to swap a few extra dollars to save a little extra prep time.

Many grocery store chains offer pre-chopped veggies, zoodles, “pre-riced” cauliflower rice, peeled and diced fruit, pre-washed salad greens, and pre-cooked proteins like fish, chicken, and tempeh.

 

The Takeaway

Meal prep can seem intimidating at first — planning ahead! endless grocery lists! batch cooking! — but it’s not, we promise. Follow these tips, set up a process that works for you, and you’ll be meal prepping like a pro in no time.

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What Food Experts Order When They Eat Out

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If you think love is a battlefield, try finding something healthy and delicious on a restaurant menu. Most menus are full of caloric land mines determined to whet your appetite and derail your diet. The struggle is real, but it’s not impossible.

That’s why we called on top nutrition experts to recommend the healthiest options they’d eat themselves at some of the nation’s most popular restaurants. These healthy eating experts also share practical tips for choosing better-for-you and clean-eating dishes at any restaurant.

What to Order at Restaurants — and What to Watch Out For

To start, Ruth Frechman, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and author of The Food Is My Friend Diet, reminds dieting diners to look on the bright side: “All foods can fit, meaning that it’s more about balance, variety, and moderation,” she says.

If you want to know the calories and macronutrients in your food, Frechman suggests sticking with names you know. Chain restaurants are required by law to provide calorie counts and other nutritional information, so you can make informed decisions about what to order.

No matter where you go, you’ll want to know which menu items to avoid — and which are code for healthier fare. Fried foods, creamy sauces, and liquid calories (sorry, alcohol calories count) are always going to be heavier, while healthier items will be those labeled “steamed,” “grilled,” or “roasted.”

Armed with this info, you’re ready for your next dinner date. Here, the experts share their top choices at your favorite chain restaurants. (*nutritional information is provided when available.)

[For reference, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day and less than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fat.]

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What to Order at Panera

Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., recommends the Greek Salad (400 calories, 36 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 13 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 1,010 mg sodium) with added chicken for a punch of protein.

“They made the switch to antibiotic-free chicken back in 2004, and — seriously — I can’t think of another restaurant that has a better chicken breast on their menu,” says Shaw, who blogs at Shaw’s Simple Swaps. “By adding this to your salad, you will feel more satiated than just having the salad solo.”

What does Panera’s nutritionist eat at Panera? Katie Bengston, M.S., R.D.N., L.D., is Panera’s Nutrition Manager says her go-to breakfast is the fiber-packed Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries and Pecans (340 calories, 14 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 51 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 160 mg sodium).

Pro tip: Bengston shares how to hack the Panera menu to suit your dietary preferences: “If you want to modify an order or create something not on the menu, just ask, or customize using our in-store kiosks, app, or when ordering online.” The online Eat Well, Your Way menus show which items are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-conscious, sodium-conscious, and protein rich.

What to Order at Chipotle

Cynthia Sass, M.P.H., R.D., has a go-to meal every time she travels: It’s a salad from Chipotle — hold the dressing — made with romaine, fajita veggies, black beans, mild salsa, and guacamole (415 calories, 23.5 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 38 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein, 1,285 mg sodium).

Sass likes that it’s “loaded with veggies, provides a healthy balance of carbs, protein, and fat, and is fiber-packed.” Sass, the author of Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches With Pulses — The New Superfood, loves that it also provides a serving of pulses, which have been shown to boost fullness and delay the return of hunger, she says.

Pro tip: Check out Chipotle’s nutrition calculator, which allows you to see how slight changes to your order can affect your meal. For example, ditching the dressing on a salad can save you 270 calories.

What to Order at Starbucks

Once a coffee-centric spot, Starbucks is now solidly in the food game. Since there’s one on almost every block, it’s a convenient place to grab a bite.

Jenna Braddock, R.D., of Make Healthy Easy, reaches for either the Protein Bistro Box: a hard-boiled egg, apple slices, grapes, white cheddar cheese, and multigrain bread with peanut butter (460 calories, 24 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 40 g carbohydrates, 23 g protein, 530 mg sodium). Or the BBQ Chicken Bistro Box, which comes with a Power Slaw, made with broccoli, kohlrabi, carrots, beets, brussels sprouts, kale, and radicchio in a yogurt-lime dressing, plus apple slices and carrots. (420 calories, 16 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 49 g carbohydrates, 22 g protein, 930 mg sodium).

Braddock, a sports nutritionist, likes how these options offer a balanced meal, anchored in lean protein with a side of fruit and vegetables. However, “while there is no problem with having a delicious pastry and large mocha every once in a while, I would not qualify this as the best breakfast option to power you through your day,” she adds.

What to Order at The Cheesecake Factory

“Oh, Cheesecake Factory,” sighs Abby Langer, R.D., owner of Abby Langer Nutrition in Toronto, Canada. “It’s notorious for having extremely caloric offerings.” Fortunately, she’s found a few options on the chain’s lower-calorie “SkinnyLicious” menu that features dishes with 590 calories or less (unfortunately, they don’t share info about macros).

From this menu, Langer recommends the Shrimp Summer Rolls — but get them without the vermicelli inside — plus a grilled artichoke. She also recommends the Beets with Goat Cheese (easy on the cheese) with added chicken or the Chicken Lettuce Wrap Tacos. But she warns against the salads from the regular menu. Most of the meal-size salads are “chock-full of calories.” The Seared Tuna Tataki Salad is probably your best bet, but get the dressing on the side.

Pro tip: Her final note of wisdom? “Stay away from the cheesecake unless you split it with four people.”

What to Order at McDonald’s

If you can resist the fries, there are some healthy options at McDonald’s. Vandana Sheth, R.D.N., C.D.E., owner of VandanaSheth.com, opts for the Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad (350 calories, 12 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 27 g carbohydrates, 37 g protein, 1,070 mg sodium) with a medium McCafé Latte made with nonfat milk (120 calories, 0 g fat, 18 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein, 135 mg sodium).

Sheth likes this meal because it’s colorful, flavorful, and satisfying. “It would help me meet my target of enjoying a lot of veggies, while still meeting my carb and protein needs,” she says. “I would not use all the dressing provided with the salad and could therefore cut back on the overall calorie and fat,” Sheth adds.

What to Order at P.F. Chang’s

Ginger Hultin, M.S., R.D.N., says there are lots of good options at P.F. Chang’s. While portions are large, Hultin gets around that by taking home leftovers for another day or ordering off the kids menu.

“I’ll stop by P.F. Chang’s if I’m out running errands or at a mall because it does have healthy dishes — if you know what to order,” she says. Hultin, a vegetarian, likes to start with the edamame with kosher salt (400 calories, 17 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 25 g carbohydrates, 37 g protein, 1,960 mg sodium). “This is a perfect appetizer to share with friends,” says the Seattle-based dietitian who blogs at ChampagneNutrition.com. Note: It’s high in sodium, so ask for the salt on the side.

If you want to move to soup next, be careful, says Hultin. “The difference in calories between a cup and a bowl is huge — four to seven times more calories depending on the soup. Always choose the cup.” A cup of the egg drop soup has 40 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 6 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 450 mg sodium.

Hultin’s go-to main dish is the steamed Buddha’s Feast (250 calories, 4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 32 g carbohydrates, 26 g protein, 300 mg sodium) with a side of brown rice (190 calories: 0 g fat, 40 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 0 mg sodium).

Pro tip: When it comes to dessert, she recommends skipping it altogether here, as desserts range as high as 1,500 calories (practically a whole day’s worth of calories) and 36 grams of saturated fat (180 percent of the daily value).

What to Order at Applebee’s

Sharon Palmer, R.D.N., who blogs at SharonPalmer.com, says Applebee’s is a welcome sight on the road when most of what’s around are “greasy diners and fast-food drive-thrus, with few vegetables on the menu.”

Palmer recommends ordering from the Lighter Fare menu:

  • Thai Shrimp Salad without shrimp: Edamame, almonds, and a flavorful sauce. Even with shrimp, it is listed at 370 calories, 18 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 31 g carbohydrates, 23 g protein, and 1,670 mg sodium.
  • Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad: Corn, black beans, and greens (though she orders sans chicken, the lunch portion is 530 calories, 33 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 33 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 1,810 mg sodium with chicken).
  • Fire-Grilled Veggies side dish (160 calories, 13 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 11 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 570 mg sodium) if you want an extra serving of vegetables. “The thing I like best about these options is that you can get some fresh greens and crisp vegetables into your meal,” she says.

What to Order at IHOP

At IHOP, LeeAnn Weintraub, M.P.H., R.D., steers clear of the signature pancake dishes. Instead, the Los Angeles-based dietitian recommends opting for the Egg White Vegetable Omelette with fruit. “You can even add avocado to this meal and keep it under 500 calories,” she says. Plus, with 30 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbs, and 11 grams of fiber (plus 460 calories, 27 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, and 795 mg sodium), it’s a balanced meal.

If you’re not in the mood for breakfast, Weintraub says to avoid the high-calorie salads — with dressing, they all have over 1,000 calories. Instead, try these options:

  • Grilled chicken sandwich (690 calories, 37 g fat, 13 g saturated fat, 43 g carbohydrates, 46 g protein, 1,900 mg sodium)
  • Minestrone soup (150 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 27 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 1,130 mg sodium), and house salad with reduced-fat Italian dressing (40 calories, 1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 6 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 125 mg sodium).

Pro tip: Check out the 55+ menu, which offers smaller portion sizes at lower prices for senior citizens.

What to Order at Olive Garden

Olive Garden is famous for their endless breadsticks and salad, but it may be wise to opt for just their never-ending salads (dressing on the side).

“At Olive Garden, I recommend the pasta primavera in marinara sauce, as there’s typically a lot of veggies,” says Vicki Shanta Retelny, R.D.N., who blogs at SimpleCravingsRealFood.com. Try it with a half-order of grilled fish or chicken breast for a boost of lean protein. Grilled chicken with pasta has 630 calories, 16.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 74 g carbohydrates, 47 g protein, 960 mg sodium.

Her other picks are lighter pasta and seafood dishes in tomato-based sauces:

  • Chicken Piccata (350 calories, 21 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 11 g carbohydrates, 33 g protein, 1,230 mg sodium)
  • Tilapia Piccata (420 calories, 22 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 11 g carbohydrates, 46 g protein, 1,210 mg sodium)
  • Linguine di Mare (570 calories, 16 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 64 g carbohydrates, 44 g protein, 1,450 mg sodium)

Garlic Mussels Marinara (510 calories, 25 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat, 41 g carbohydrates, 30 g protein, 1,360 mg sodium), which are lighter pasta and seafood dishes in tomato-based sauces. Retelny’s off-menu tips: Order extra steamed veggies to add to your pasta or a side salad to get a healthy dose of veggies with your meal, and ask for cheese on the side so that you can sprinkle it on yourself.

Pro tip: Olive Garden offers a create-your-own pasta bowl, which means you can build a sensible dish with veggies, healthy seafood, and lighter tomato-based sauces.

What to Order at Outback Steakhouse

Outback Steakhouse offers an Under 600 Calorie menu, a Kids Live Well menu, and a nutrition calculator that you can peruse online before dining.

The signature Joey Sirloin Medallions and Joey Grilled Chicken “on the Barbie” can be paired with steamed broccoli for a healthy balanced meal with reasonable portions (sirloin and broccoli has 280 calories, 11.5 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 13 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 255 mg sodium; chicken and broccoli has 230 calories, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 13 g carbohydrates, 37 g protein, 245 mg sodium).

Off the Under 600 Calorie menu, one of the best bets will be the Grilled Salmon with Seasonal Mixed Vegetables (550 calories, 35 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 20 g carbohydrates, 43 g protein, 610 mg sodium).

What to Order at Cracker Barrel

While Cracker Barrel isn’t overflowing with healthy options, you can cobble together a reasonable meal between chicken and seafood for the protein plus vegetable sides.

The catfish runs 120 calories (5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 17 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 300 mg sodium). A side of green beans will run 60 calories (2.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 310 mg sodium), while turnip greens are 100 calories (3.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 6 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 370 mg sodium).

The chicken dishes tend to be higher in sodium, but the best of the bunch are:

Chicken Tenders (170 calories, 4.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 27 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 640 mg sodium), with the Chicken n’ Dumplins Country Dinner Plate trailing behind because of its sodium levels (270 calories, 6 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 29 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 1,520 mg sodium).

It is possible to eat relatively healthy when you eat out, but there’s no substitution for cooking at home, where you control what ingredients (and how much) are going into your meals.

But with some common-sense strategies — choosing dishes with healthier preparations (grilled, steamed, baked), watching portion sizes, and ordering meals with sauces and dressings on the side (or without ) — you can still enjoy the occasional meal out without abandoning your healthy eating plan completely.

Country Heat Meal Prep for the 1,200–1,500 Calorie Level

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Y’all, it’s time to turn up the heat on the dance floor… and in the kitchen with this Country Heat meal prep! This comfort food-inspired meal prep is sure to satisfy your craving for down-home cooking. Love warm and spicy? We can’t get enough of the Sweet Potato Veggie Hash. Crazy for creamy? The Avocado Chicken Salad is simply divine!

This meal prep menu uses Portion Fix color-coded portion-control containers to measure the amount of food you get to eat, so you never have to count calories. Green is for veggies, purple is fruits, red is protein, yellow is carbs, blue is healthy fats, orange is for seeds and dressings, and oils and nut butters are measured in teaspoons. Stock up on Mason jars or your favorite air-tight storage containers to store your meals.

This menu follows the Country Heat at the 1,200-1,500 calorie level and can be used by anyone following the Portion Fix eating plan. (Scroll to the bottom of the post to find out how to adjust this menu for the 1,500–1,800 calorie level). At this calorie level, each day you get:

  • 3 green containers
  • 2 purple containers
  • 4 red containers
  • 2 yellow containers
  • 1 blue containers
  • 1 orange containers
  • 2 teaspoons containers

We combined all of those containers into three satisfying meals and two snacks each day for you, so all you need to do is shop, prep, and enjoy your food. Take the comprehensive grocery list below to the store, and then use our step-by-step instructions to get busy in the kitchen on meal prep day!

 

 

These are the Healthy Meals You’ll Eat this Week:

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Breakfast (M/W/F): Veggie Egg Muffins on Whole Grain English Muffin with Orange Slices

Breakfast (T/Th): Sweet Potato Veggie Hash with Turkey Sausage with Red Grapes

Shakeology Snack (DAILY): Vanilla Chia Shakeology Smoothie

PM Snack (DAILY): Apple with Peanut Butter

Lunch (M/W/F): Cilantro Lime Shredded Chicken with Black Eyed Pea Salad

Lunch (T/Th): Avocado Chicken Salad on Toasted Whole Grain Bread

Dinner (M/W/F): Roasted Pepper Tuna Melt

Dinner (T/Th): Roasted Chicken over Wilted Spinach Salad

 

MEAL PREP BREAKFASTS

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M/W/F: Veggie Egg Muffins Served with ½ Whole Grain English Muffin

(2 eggs, ¼ cup spinach, ¼ cup sliced mushrooms, 2 tsp. green onion, 1 tsp. Italian seasoning, ¼ tsp. onion powder, ½ whole grain English muffin, 1 medium orange = ½ green, 1 purple, 1 red, 1 yellow)

T/Th: Sweet Potato Veggie Hash with Turkey Sausage and Red Grapes

(½ cup sweet potato, ½ tsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. chili powder, ¼ cup onion, ¼ cup red bell pepper, ½ cup spinach, 4 oz. lean ground turkey sausage, 1 cup grapes = 1 green, 1 purple, 1 red, 1 yellow, ½ tsp.)

 

MEAL PREP SNACKS

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DAILY SHAKEOLOGY SNACK: Vanilla Chia Shakeology Smoothie

(1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology mixed with water, 4 tsp. chia seeds = 1 red, 1 orange)

DAILY AFTERNOON SNACK: Apple with Peanut Butter

(1 medium apple, 1 tsp. peanut butter = 1 purple, 1 tsp.)

 

MEAL PREP LUNCHES

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M/W/F: Cilantro Lime Shredded Chicken with Black Eyed Pea Salad

(½ cup black eyed peas, ½ cup broccoli, ¼ cup red bell pepper, ¼ cup red onion, ¼ tsp. garlic, ¼ tsp. dijon mustard, 1 tsp. olive oil, ½ lemon juiced, 4 oz. chicken breast, 1 Tbsp. cilantro, ½ lime juiced = 1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 tsp.)

T/Th: Avocado Chicken Salad served on Toasted Whole Grain Bread

(¼ medium avocado, 4 oz. chicken breast, 1 slice whole grain toast, 2 Tbsp. celery, 2 Tbsp. red onion, ¼ lime juiced, ¼ cup sliced tomato, ½ cup spinach = 1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 blue)

 

MEAL PREP DINNERS

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M/W/F: Roasted Pepper Tuna Melt

(4 oz. tuna, 1 bell pepper, ¼ cup sautéed kale, ¼ cup white onion, ½ tsp. Italian seasoning, ¼ cup cheddar cheese = 1½ green, 1 red, 1 blue)

T/Th: Roasted Chicken over Wilted Spinach Salad

(4 oz. rotisserie chicken, 1 cup wilted spinach, ½ tsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar = 1 green, 1 red, ½ tsp.)

 

Here is what all of your meals will look like on M/W/F:

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Here is what all of your meals will look like on T/Th:

Country-Heat-Meal-Prep-1200-1500-Calories-Full-Day-TTh.jpg

 

 

Follow this step-by-step guide to assemble your meal prep:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Begin by preparing the chicken breast for baking; trim the raw chicken breast of any excess fat. Spread raw chicken breasts out in a large baking dish and add water to cover the bottom of the dish; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and pulls apart easily. (Pre-cooked chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken can be purchased to save prep time). Allow chicken to cool in baking dish, then place on cutting board; use two forks to shred chicken into bite-sized pieces and divide between two large bowls for later use (one bowl will contain 12 oz. shredded chicken, the other will contain 8 oz. shredded chicken).
  2. While the chicken breasts are baking, prep the vegetables for the week. One at a time, wash, cut, and set each vegetable aside in separate bowls or piles. Remove the skin from the 2 onions (1 red and 1 white) and dice into small pieces; store in separate bowls. Brush off any dirt from the mushrooms (8 oz. container) and cut into thin slices. Rinse spinach leaves and allow to air dry. Rinse bunch of kale, allow to air dry, and shred ¾ cup. Rinse 4 bell peppers. Remove seeds from the red bell pepper and chop.  Cut the remaining 3 peppers (in color of choice) in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Rinse and chop 1½ cups broccoli. Rinse and cut sweet potato into bite-sized pieces (peel first if desired). Rinse and thinly slice ½ cup tomato. Rinse and finely chop 4 Tbsp. celery. Rinse and finely chop ¼ cup green onion. Rinse and loosely chop 3 Tbsp. cilantro. Peel and finely chop 1 clove of garlic. Store any unused portion of vegetables for future use.
  3. Prep the Veggie Egg Muffins. Prepare a six-cup muffin tray by coating cups with nonstick spray. Note: If using a 12-cup muffin tray, coat the inner 6 cups with nonstick spray and fill the outer 6 cups with water to help evenly distribute heat. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add ¾ cup sliced mushrooms to the skillet, cooking just until softened (about 5 minutes). Next add ¾ cup spinach to the skillet, cooking until wilted (about 2-3 minutes). Remove vegetables from heat and divide between the 6 coated muffin cups. Crack 6 eggs into a large bowl; add 3 tsp. Italian seasoning, ¾ tsp. onion powder, salt and pepper to taste, and whisk to combine. Ladle the egg mixture into the muffin cups and top each muffin with 2 tsp. green onion. Place on a baking sheet (to prevent spills) in preheated 375°F oven for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool, then divide muffins among three containers (two muffins in each container) to refrigerate. Serve with ½ whole grain English muffin and 1 medium orange.
  4. Next, make the Roasted Pepper Tuna Melts. When the Veggie Egg Muffins are done, increase the temperature of the oven to 400°F. Add ¾ cup diced white onion to a skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray; cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). Add ¾ cup shredded kale to the skillet and cook until just wilted (about 2-3 minutes). Remove skillet from heat and set aside. Open and drain 3 cans of tuna. In a large bowl, combine 12 oz. drained tuna, sautéed vegetables, and 1½ tsp. Italian seasoning. Divide tuna mixture between 6 bell pepper halves and arrange in baking dish with tuna facing up. Bake for 20 minutes or until peppers have softened to desired texture. Divide ¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese among the bell pepper halves and return to oven for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese has melted. Note: Peppers will soften further when reheated; if you prefer a crispier texture, remove from oven earlier. When cool, divide pepper halves between three storage containers.
  5. Prep the Sweet Potato Veggie Hash. Place 1 cup diced sweet potato in a microwave-safe bowl and add a splash of water; microwave on high for 5 minutes (or steam sweet potatoes in a steamer on the stovetop until soft). While sweet potato cooks, heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove sweet potato from microwave and toss with 1 tsp. chili powder; transfer to preheated skillet and continue to cook for an additional 10 minutes or until softened, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, heat a separate skillet over medium-high heat; coat pan with nonstick cooking spray and add ½ cup chopped white onion and ½ cup diced red bell pepper, cooking until onion is translucent and peppers have softened. Add 8 oz. lean ground turkey sausage to skillet, cooking until meat is browned and no pink remains. Add 1 cup rinsed spinach to skillet, cooking until just wilted (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Divide sweet potato and sausage mixture between 2 storage containers and refrigerate. Serve with 1 cup washed grapes.
  6. Make the Cilantro Lime Chicken. To the bowl containing the 12 oz. shredded chicken that was set aside earlier, add the juice from 1½ limes and 3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro. Toss until well combined and divide between three storage containers. Next make the Black Eyed Pea Salad. In a small bowl, make the dressing. Whisk together ¾ tsp. minced garlic, ¾ tsp. dijon mustard, 3 tsp. olive oil, and the juice from 1½ lemons; set aside. Open, drain, and rinse can of black eyed peas. In a large bowl, combine 1½ cups black eyed peas, 1½ cups chopped broccoli, ¾ cup chopped red bell pepper, and ¾ cup chopped red onion. Drizzle salad with dressing and toss until well coated; season with salt and pepper, if desired. To the three containers with the Cilantro Lime Chicken, evenly divide the Black Eyed Pea Salad and refrigerate.
  7. Prep the Avocado Chicken Salad. To the bowl containing 8 oz. shredded chicken that was set aside earlier, add 4 Tbsp. diced celery, 4 Tbsp. diced red onion, and juice from ½ lime; season with salt and pepper, if desired. Mix until well combined and divide between two storage containers. Place 1 cup spinach, ¼ cup tomato slices, and one slice whole grain bread or toast in each container. When ready to eat, add ¼ chopped avocado to the chicken mixture and layer chicken and vegetables on toast to make an open-faced sandwich
  8. Make the Wilted Spinach Salad. In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp. olive oil over medium-low heat. Add 2 cups spinach, cooking until just wilted (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and divide spinach between two storage containers. Next, remove skin and breast meat from the rotisserie chicken. Add 4 oz. of chicken to each of the containers with spinach and place extra meat in a freezer-safe bag to use in a future week (or to make soup!). When ready to eat, drizzle Wilted Spinach Salad with 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar.
  9. Snacks do not need to be prepped in advance. Make the Vanilla Chia Shakeology Smoothie each morning by blending 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology with 4 tsp. chia seeds, water, and ice. Serve one medium apple with 1 tsp. nut butter each afternoon.

 

Use this Grocery List to Make Your Country Heat Meal Prep:

Fruit
5 medium apples
2 cups grapes
3 medium oranges
2 limes
2 lemons

Vegetables
1 large sweet potato
8 oz. baby spinach leaves (4¾ cups)
8 oz. package mushrooms
1 medium red bell pepper
3 medium bell peppers (in color of choice)
1 bunch kale
1 bunch green onion
1 medium white onion
1 medium red onion
1 medium tomato
1 stalk celery
1 medium avocado
1 bunch cilantro
1 head broccoli (or 1½ cups chopped)
1 head garlic

Protein and Dairy
½ dozen eggs
1 rotisserie chicken (or 8 oz. cooked chicken breast)
1¼ lb. raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or use remaining rotisserie chicken)
8 oz. lean turkey sausage
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
5 scoops Vanilla Shakeology

Dry and Canned Goods
1 loaf whole grain bread
1 package whole grain English muffins
1 (15 oz.) can black eyed peas
3 (5 oz.) cans light tuna packed in water

Pantry
Italian seasoning
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper
Dijon mustard
peanut butter
chia seeds
chili powder
onion powder
 

Here are some suggestions to increase this menu to fit the Portion Fix 1,500-1,800 calorie level of 4 green containers, 3 purple containers, 4 red containers, 3 yellow containers, 1 blue container, 1 orange container, and 4 tsp. per day:

On M/W/F:
Add 1 cup cauliflower roasted in 1 tsp. olive oil to dinner (1 green, 1 tsp.)
Add ½ English muffin to breakfast (1 yellow)
Add 1 tsp. additional peanut butter to the afternoon snack (1 tsp.)
Add 1 cup mixture of mango and blueberries to dinner (1 purple)

On T/Th:
Add ½ cup extra veggies to breakfast (½ green)
Add 1 tsp. additional peanut butter to the afternoon snack (1 tsp.)
Add½ cup sweet potatoes roasted in 1 tsp. olive oil to dinner (1 yellow, 1 tsp.)
Add 1 cup of strawberries to dinner salad (1 purple)
Add ½ cup extra spinach or other veggies to dinner (½ green)

Is Excess Protein Making You Gain Weight?

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A new study says so. But, here’s why you shouldn’t base your diet on certain headlines.

It used to be that fat made you fat. Then the culprit was carbs. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia suggests that obesity could be caused by protein — specifically, meat.

For the study, titled, “Meat consumption providing a surplus energy in modern diet contributes to obesity prevalence: an ecological analysis,” anthropologists compared rates of meat availability with rates of obesity among 170 countries to determine that meat intake is responsible for 13 percent of the development of obesity in the countries examined.

“Our findings are likely to be controversial because they suggest that meat contributes to obesity prevalence worldwide at the same extent as sugar,” Maciej Henneberg, Ph.D., head of the Biological Anthropology and Comparative Anatomy Research Unit at the University of Adelaide, said in a press release. (He did not respond to our request for an interview.)

The findings certainly are sparking, with others in the scientific community calling them everything from “ignorant” to “irresponsible.”
 

What the Study Actually Found

“This study never actually looked at meat consumption and, in that sense, even the title of the study is misleading,” explains D. Lee Hamilton, Ph.D., a health and exercise sciences expert at the University of Stirling in Scotland. “What the researchers assessed was the availability of meat in various countries and then they correlated this measure with the estimated rates of obesity in those countries. Not a single measure of consumption was made.

“However, they found a positive correlation suggesting that in countries where meat availability is high, so too is obesity. The assumption that if meat availability is high, then so too is consumption, is quite a big leap to make without actual assessments of meat intake,” says Hamilton.

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Meanwhile, it’s important to note that there is a big difference between correlation and causation. “Every country that becomes developed increases its rates of obesity as well as its rates of meat consumption. But that doesn’t mean that meat is the reason,” says Donald K. Layman, Ph.D., professor emeritus of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois, and one of the world’s foremost protein researchers.

The study’s assertion that a correlation between meat availability and obesity means that one causes the other is not that different than saying that greater access to schools or lower levels of unemployment are responsible for obesity. After all, those are both consequences of development, too.

“If you set the bar low enough in your statistics, you can see any correlation you want,” says Layman. “The study authors say that they controlled for other weight-related factors like caloric intake and physical activity, but you can’t factor out total calories from the equation and then say that calories from meat cause obesity.”

Why Protein May Be a Type of Food That Can Help You Lose Weight

So how do the study researchers explain their assertion that eating meat makes you fat?

“Whether we like it or not, fats and carbohydrates in modern diets are supplying enough energy to meet our daily needs,” Wenpeng You, a Ph.D. student and the study’s lead author, said in the university’s press release. “Because meat protein is digested later than fats and carbohydrates, this makes the energy we receive from protein a surplus, which is then converted and stored as fat in the human body.”

Riiiight. “This frankly is one of the most irresponsible pieces of nutrition advice I’ve ever read. It is an absolutely stupid and irresponsible statement,” Layman says. “If I had a freshman in a nutrition class who said that, I would fail them on the spot.”

While it’s true that protein is slow to digest, that’s a good thing; it helps stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce insulin spikes, aid in satiety, and encourage weight loss, not gain. It’s a type of food that can help you lose weight if eaten in the right portions.

A review of several studies published in the Journal of the American College of Nutritionrevealed that it may be beneficial to partially replace refined carbohydrate with protein sources that are low in saturated fat because there’s convincing evidence that high-protein meals lead to reduced consumption, and increase thermogenesis (process of burning calories to generate body heat) and satiety. The Beachbody Portion Fix Eating Plan is a higher-protein diet that includes lean animal protein, such as 93–95 percent lean ground beef or turkey, reduced-fat turkey bacon, and 2-percent cottage cheese, as well as plant-based sources of protein as part of a healthy diet — and particularly for those who want to lose weight.

“The notion that because protein takes time to be digested [and] is therefore more likely to be converted to fat is completely unfounded and indicates the author’s ignorance on protein metabolism,” Lee says. “If anything, protein in the diet is less likely to be converted to fat. It has a greater stimulatory effect on your metabolism than do carbohydrates, and it has to go through a more convoluted pathway to get converted to fat than do carbohydrates.”

That’s why, as Layman notes, meat consumption has been inversely related to obesity in the U.S. The consumption of red meat has been on the decline since the mid-’70s. What’s more, data from the Netherlands Cohort study, which assessed meat consumption in about 4,000 men and women over the course of 14 years, found that those who consumed the most beef had the lowest increases in age-related weight gain.

But… Excess Calories = Excess Weight

“Any time you over-consume calories relative to your need, you are going to gain weight,” Layman says. “Protein can be a part of that.”

Interestingly, though, protein may be a very small part of that weight or, rather, fat gain. “Overeating a diet high in protein is more likely to lead to gains in muscle mass as well as fat mass, while an equivalent diet low in protein leads to weight gain purely in the form of body fat,” Lee says.

Case in point: In a 2012 Pennington Biomedical Research Center study of people consuming high-calorie diets for eight weeks, those who got 25 percent of their calories from protein stored 45 percent of the excess calories as muscle, while those who got only 5 percent of their calories from protein stored 95 percent of the excess calories as fat.

Still, over-consuming protein to begin with is probably harder than you might think — largely because protein is so slow to digest and satiating, Layman says.

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After all, while current guidelines recommend that people consume between 10 and 35 percent of their daily calories from protein, research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that most Americans get between 13 and 16 percent of their calories from protein. Plus, even the top five percent of people who eat the most protein barely approach the 35-percent mark.

Meanwhile, although other national recommendations advise people to consume between 0.8 grams per kilogram of body mass per day, Lee notes that recent research consistently shows that double that (and therefore eating much closer to that 35-percent protein total) results in healthier muscle mass and more favorable body composition changes. A 2015 Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism review similarly suggests that consuming around 25–35 grams of protein during each meal promotes muscle health and plays a role in maintaining lean body mass with increasing age. A single 3.5-ounce skinless chicken breast will get you there — and help you hit your weight-loss goals.

Treat and Beverage Update for Portion-Control Containers

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You may have noticed that we have updated how treats and beverages are counted in the portion-control containers. Here’s a brief explanation of how the new system works. We think you’ll love it!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask our experts over at BeachbodyExpertAdvice.com!

 

How will treats and beverages be treated differently in the portion-control eating plan?

Treats and beverages will no longer all be summarily counted as yellow containers across the various portion-control eating plans. Instead, they will be categorized into the color that best suits their ingredients and/or macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). Treats and beverages will still be limited to three-per-week, with the exception of Shakeology “bases” such as low-fat milk and unsweetened almond milk, which will be allowed once daily.

We are also doing away with the “measure with this colored container but mark it on your tally sheet as another colored container” strategy for treats in favor of common measurements (e.g. “2 pieces” or “25 morsels”).

Because many treats and beverages are ingredients in Beachbody recipes, the container counts for those recipes may also change.

 

Why are these changes being made?

The portion-control eating plan has expanded exponentially since the original 21 Day Fix. While the old system works fine, the new system allows us to containerize our ever-increasing catalog of container-friendly recipes more precisely. It’s also a more educational approach in regards to what, exactly, is in food.

 

Does this mean the old portion-control eating plans are not as effective?

Absolutely not. These changes were made to make recipe containerization more precise and to enhance the educational value of these plans. Both systems provide the same, great results.

 

When will this change take place?

We will be updating the various plans, recipes, and other content on BOD and the Beachbody Blog over the next few months. Please be assured that the two systems of treat and beverage measure are interchangeable, so if you are working from a revised program guide but want to enjoy a recipe that measures containers using the old system, it won’t impact your diet negatively.

 

Will we be updating the nutrition guides and the Fixate Cooking Show?

Yes. Over the following months, we will be updating all nutrition guides on BOD impacted by the changes.

 

Where can I ask additional specific container and portion questions?

For additional questions on how to implement these changes or about portion-control eating plans in general talk to our expert advice staff at BeachbodyExpertAdvice.com.

 

The revised lists

Here are genericized lists to cover most portion-control eating plans. Customized lists will be featured in updated nutrition guides featured on BOD in the months to follow.

Please note that if your program doesn’t currently have a treat list, this is not an opportunity to add one. Sorry. However, the “Shakeology Bases” list does replace the “Beverages” list.

 

Shakeology Bases

The Shakeology Base list helps you add a little pizzazz to Your Daily Dose of Dense Nutrition while doing the 21 Day Fix. Pick a fluid from the list below, add it to the Shakeology flavor of your choice, and tick off the corresponding container from your Tally Sheet (along with a red container for your Shakeology).

Shakeology Bases (once per day)

Low-fat milk, 1–2% (8 oz.)  - 1 Yellow, ½ tsp.

Unsweetened Almond milk (8 oz.) -  1 tsp.

Unsweetened Soy milk (8 oz.)  - ½ Red

Unsweetened Coconut milk beverage (8 oz.) - ½ Blue

Unsweetened Rice milk (8 oz.) - 1 Yellow

Unsweetened Coconut water (8 oz.) - ½ Yellow

Treats and Other Beverages

Three times a week, you can have a treat or a tasty beverage. Simply help yourself to the amount listed after your treat, enjoy it in all its deliciousness, then check the corresponding container off your Tally Sheet. For example, if you decide to indulge in a few well-earned chocolate-covered raisins, count out 20 pieces, then check half of a purple and half of a yellow off your Tally Sheet.

Treats and Other Beverages (3 per week)

Dried apricots, unsweetened (4 pieces) - 1 Purple

Dried figs (2 pieces) - 1 Purple

Medjool dates (1 piece) - 1 Purple

Raisins (2 mini-boxes, 3 Tbsp., or approx. 45 pieces) - 1 Purple

Dried mango, unsweetened (2 pieces) - 1 Purple

Dried cranberries (2 Tbsp. or approx. 30 pieces) - 1 Yellow

Dried apple rings, unsweetened (approx. 7 rings) - 1 Purple

Dark chocolate, plain (1.5″ x 1.5″ square, 1 fun sized bar, or approx. 25 morsels) -  1 Yellow

Potato Chips, plain kettle (6 chips) - 1 Yellow

Tortilla chips, plain corn (6 chips) - 1 Yellow

Mini pretzels (14 pretzels) - 1 Yellow

Peanut butter pretzel nuggets (12 pieces) -  1 Yellow, 2 tsp.

Chocolate covered raisins (20 pieces) -  ½ Purple, ½ Yellow

Chocolate covered almonds (6 pieces) -  ½ Blue, ½ Yellow

Popcorn mix with raisins, almonds, and dried fruit (1 cup, ¼ of recipe) - ½ Purple, ½ Blue

100% Real Fruit Juice (4 oz) - 1 Purple

Wine (5 oz.) - 1 Yellow

Beer, light (12 oz.) - 1 Yellow

Beer, regular (12 oz.) - 1½ Yellow

Hard alcohol (1.5 oz.) - 1 Yellow

 

8 Reasons to Eat Healthy That Don’t Include Weight Loss

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The next time you’re somewhere that sells magazines — at an airport, drugstore, or museum, perhaps — scope out the cover lines from any fitness mag and you’re bound see phrases such as: “Eat for Abs!” or “The Six-Pack Diet!” or “The Eat-What-You-Want Abs Meal Plan!”

Overuse of the exclamation point aside, the push to eat healthy to look better trumps the idea that we should eat healthy to live longer, or at least, live healthier. But it’s why cliches like “abs are made in the kitchen” and “eat garbage, look like garbage” are the first things many of us think of when we hear “healthy eating.”

So we’d like to remind you of a handful reasons to eat healthy that don’t include dropping a waist size or helping you carve washboard abs.

Why Eating Healthy Can Affect so Much More Than Your Weight

1. Improved Memory: Mediterranean diets — meal plans that are rich in leafy greens, fruits, veggies, seeds, beans, and monounsaturated fats — not only taste a billion times better than TV dinners, but they may also help boost attention span and stave off cognitive decline, according to research in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. For the aging population, adding olive oil or nuts to meals may support cognitive function, according to one recent research study.

2. Fewer Cravings: Gulping down spinach won’t have the same immediate effect as it had on Popeye’s bulging biceps, but the greens can provide you with a nice dose of vitamins A, C, and K. A spinach extract standardized to thylakoids (a membrane found in spinach) was shown to help suppress appetite and longing for food. Researchers gave 60 overweight subjects either a five-gram dose of spinach extract or a placebo a week apart. Those who consumed the spinach extract were less hungry compared to subjects who gnawed on a placebo.

3. Improved Sexual Health: On average, Americans eat 16 grams of fiber per day, which would be a great achievement if it didn’t fall short of the recommended 21–38 grams per day. Along with aiding digestion and helping you stay regular (you know what we mean), there are other reasons to fill up on high-fiber fruits: some data suggests that guys who regularly snack on nature’s candy are 14 percent less likely to develop erectile dysfunction (E.D.).

What’s a great, widely available higher-fiber fruit to try? We’ll make a case for pears: A University of Minnesota, St. Paul study found that pears can provide nearly 25 percent of your daily fiber intake, which is more fiber than that found in apples and bananas (they offer 17 percent and 12 percent, respectively).

If you don’t like pears, or don’t have any fiber-filled fruit handy, Shakeology is another great source of fiber — it supplies about 24 percent of your daily fiber needs — and it’s sweet like fruit. You can tote it with you wherever you go, and shake it up with water (or use it in smoothies) for a quick hit of fiber, protein, and a ton of vitamins and minerals.

4. A Brawnier Think Muscle: The World Health Organization advocates limiting sugar to a max of 10 percent of your daily calories. Failing to scale back sugar intake has even been linked to an increased risk for heart disease-related deaths. Not so sweet, right?

There’s more: Consuming too much sugar might also screw with your brain chemistry. UCLA researchers fed rats about a liter’s worth of fructose water each day for six weeks, during which time the sugar overload altered genes in the hippocampus (emotion, learning, and memory) and hypothalamus (hunger, thirst, and body temp.). The leap between drowned rodents in sugar water and humans drinking soda pop is a big one, but the alterations could potentially open the door for a number of negative health consequences.

5. Better Endurance & Recovery: Watermelons are known to provide L-citrulline, an amino acid cyclists took (via a supplement) for seven days at 2.4 g/day and once again before an exercise test in a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. The L-citrulline supplementation reduced the time it took for cyclists to complete a cycle ergometer exercise trial.

According to another small 2013 study, watermelons could help reduce muscle soreness. Researchers distributed 500 milliliters (total) of watermelon juice to seven athletes an hour before they exercised. The lifters who chugged the melon juice reported experiencing less soreness in the following 24 hours.

6. A Better Mortality Rate: Granted, nobody can predict when a piano might fall on someone’s head or if the Death Star will strike a planet, but the New England Journal of Medicine studied the nut consumption of 119,000 people. In this observational study there was an inverse association of nut consumption with mortality. However, this type of epidemiological observational study only highlights associations and not causality.

7. A Happier and More Creative Existence: The British Journal of Health Psychologyhad 405 volunteers snack on fruit, vegetables, sweets, and chips for nearly two weeks, and log their meals online. The outcome: People who stuffed their maws with more fruits and veggies reported a better overall well-being.

8. More Energy And Quality Zzzzzzzs: Want to feel happier, be more energetic, and improve sleep quality? Slashing calorie intake might do the trick. Researchers studying long-term calorie reduction found that subjects who cut back 25 percent over a two-year period improved in all three aforementioned areas. Unsurprisingly, the calorie reduction also translated to weight loss — an average of about 17 pounds.

OK, so this last point did talk about weight loss. But, that’s a happy side effect that can result from eating clean. Granted, many people use weight loss as their initial motivation to improve their diets, but if they stick it out long enough, they can reap all of these other benefits that go beyond the superficial.