A Week of Meals: Buffalo Chicken, Loaded Nachos, Waffles, and More

A WEEK OF EATS

I always tell my fiancé — anyone who thinks healthy eating is boring should come spend a week with me. I firmly believe the best thing you can do for your health (and your running and/or fitness routine…) is learn how to cook. Cooking opens you up to so many fun, creative ways to combine foods, and trust me – there are SO many ways to eat healthy outside of just steamed veggies and chicken (AKA what most people think of when they think of eating healthy).

This week I wanted to share a week’s worth of meals for Ryan and I. We have gotten really smart about the way we plan our dinners, how we cook once to eat twice (or sometimes three times). We have been enjoying our food way more than ever before, saving money and wasting way less food, and feeling better than ever (in our workouts and daily life in general).

The trick to making all of this happen is just a little planning and prep work. I’ll start brainstorming meals and looking at recipes on Saturday of the week before, and on Sunday we’ll write our grocery list for the week and go to Trader Joe’s for one big grocery haul. But going into shopping, I always know exactly what our lunches and dinners are going to look like for each day.

I LOVE getting creative in the kitchen, so we have fun mixing it up and trying new recipes each week. The recipes I choose always: (1) are low in refined sugar, (2) use real, whole foods (100% corn chips are about as refined as we get), and (3) have some kind of veggie and healthy protein. We love to treat ourselves once or twice a week, but I make sure our main meals are always packed with nourishing, good-for-you ingredients.

For breakfast, I tend to eat the same thing every morning. I go through cycles depending on what I’ve been feeling lately. For a while I was doing oatmeal every morning. Lately, my go-to breakfast has been two slices of avocado toast with two fried eggs, and two slices of turkey bacon on the side.

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What a Full Week of Eats Looks Like for Us

Sunday was the start of the NFL season (my fiancé is a huge football fan), so I made Paleomg’s Buffalo Chicken Casserole for us with corn chips and homemade Chili Sweet Potato Wedges. The casserole serves four, and I purposefully made a big batch of sweet potato wedges so we wouldn’t have to worry about lunch the next day. The Buffalo Chicken Casserole was out of this world, and we both agreed if you placed it in front of someone without saying anything, they wouldn’t believe it was healthy. In reality, though, it is packed with veggies — onions, red peppers, and a base made out of spaghetti squash! The ground chicken also gives it lots of filling protein.

Monday lunch: Leftover Buffalo Chicken Casserole + Chili Sweet Potatoes

Monday dinner: A Fall-Themed Power Salad

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Trader Joe’s mixed greens blend, grilled chicken breast, quinoa, dried cherries (unsweetened), and pecans, tossed in a homemade Maple-Dijon Dressing

To make, all we had to do was cut a few chicken breasts into bite sized pieces, roast them on a baking sheet for ~20 minutes at 400°. While that was in the oven, we made a BIG batch of quinoa (enough for a big salad + quinoa bowls tomorrow night). Quinoa cooks up in 15 minutes. We combined the dressing ingredients in a mason jar, shook it up, tossed all the salad ingredients together, and poured the dressing over the salad. Voila… a little over half an hour start to finish. Again, we made way more than we needed for two people… this gave us four large, meal-sized salads (two for dinner tonight, two for lunch tomorrow).

Tuesday lunch: Leftover Fall Power Salad

Tuesday dinner: Deliciously Ella’s Mexican Quinoa Bowls (from her cookbook, but you can also find the recipe online here)

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I put a pound or two of chicken breasts and a little chicken stock in the crock pot in the morning. They slow-cooked for eight hours, until they were super tender, and when Ryan got home from work we shredded them with a fork. The quinoa was already made the night before, and Ryan and I tag-teamed the rest of the ingredients – the cashew cream which blended up in <5 minutes, the guacamole which came together in <5 minutes, and the tomato salsa which also came together in <5 minutes. The recipe serves four people, which meant we had extras of all the ingredients (except the quinoa) for the next day.

Wednesday lunch: Mexican Chicken Salad

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We made salads out of the leftover ingredients from last night.

Wednesday dinner: Take-out from a Thai restaurant around the corner. I got the stir-fried broccoli, carrot, garlic, and chicken in one of their lighter, healthier sauces. Served over rice.

Thursday lunch: Big green smoothie bowl – Mint Matcha Chip (recipe coming soon). I used protein powder in it to make it more satiating.

Thursday dinner: Homemade turkey burgers (unpictured). I ate mine as sliders, and Ryan ate his on Trader Joes’ whole-wheat buns.

Friday lunch: A big “kitchen sink” salad, with mixed greens, extra chicken from the week, and pre-cut veggies I had bought for exactly these kinds of days.

Friday dinner: Dinner at my future in-laws’ house

Saturday lunch: Take-out from By Chloe… a healthy vegan “fast food” restaurant and one of my all-time favorite places.

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I got their Kale Caesar salad with shredded kale, chopped romaine, shiitake bacon, avocado, almond parmesan, sunflower seeds, and caesar dressing. Air-fried sweet potato fries, and coconut water (straight out of the coconut) on the side.

Saturday dinner: Loaded Vegan Nachos and Homemade Salted Watermelon Margaritas

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Perfect for Saturday date-night-in (AKA movie night). The Loaded Nachos are made with corn chips, black beans, a homemade vegan queso sauce (which was out of this world), pico de gallo, sliced black olives, homemade guacamole, and fresh cilantro. The recipe is from the Minimalist Baker cookbook… my newest obsession. (Every recipe in there is gold.)

Sunday brunch: Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Waffles from Minimalist Baker (recipe is also from her cookbook)

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The stats:

  • I went grocery shopping once. (Because I had a plan… this is key!)
  • I cooked only six times for twelve lunches and dinners, and one brunch.
  • I ate out twice.
  • I saved a lot of money.
  • I had no cravings. (Because the food I eat satisfies me, and I genuinely love what I’m eating!)
  • And health and happiness are both very high.

5-Minute Running Warm-Up Routine

 

It used to be that people just talked about preventing injuries when touting the importance of warming up before running. Now the conversation has switched to “activation”, which explains the underlying mechanisms of why warm-ups work.

When your muscles are “activated” properly prior to running, not only will you prevent injuries, but you’ll also be able to run more powerfully and efficiently because the muscles that give you the most power are turned on and engaged. Sitting at a desk all day, for example, “turns off” your glute muscles… your butt essentially becomes lazy and half-functioning. (Google “dead butt syndrome.”)

By going through an activation series prior to running, you’re waking up those muscles, getting them re-firing, and priming them for movement. Don’t believe me? Give this warm-up a try before your next run, and see if you notice a difference.

(Note: If you have more chronic/systemic activation issues, you’ll want to get with a good PT to address this.)

This quick 5-minute warm-up routine is what works for me. It’s short, but sweet, and it does everything I need it to – it gets blood flowing, activates my hips, glutes, and hamstrings, and takes me through some range-of-motion work.

The seven moves I do before every run (shown in the video above):

(Note: You’ll need a miniband, which you can buy here. They are super affordable and will last you forever!)

  1. 10-12 banded squats
  2. 5-10 each side banded hip abductions
  3. 5-10 each side banded glute kickbacks
  4. 5-10 steps each side banded lateral low walks
  5. 5-10 steps each side banded monster walks
  6. 8-10 each side leg swings
  7. 8-10 each side cross-body leg swings

4 Better Questions Than “What Do I Weigh?”

4 Better Questions Than “What Do I Weigh?”

See disclaimer in my sidebar: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or PT — but I have worked with lots of doctors, nutritionists, PTs, and strength training professionals over my career. These are just my experiences and informed opinions from 12+ years in the sport.

If you’re looking to lose weight, you’ll find no shortage of resources. Every blog, magazine, and book out there will tell you about “the next big thing” and “what worked for me.” Diet culture is pervasive and contagious, and there are many, many companies out there that profit on the contingency of women hating their bodies.

In my bio I talk about how running changed my life 12 years ago. When I started viewing myself as an athlete, I started viewing my workouts as “training” vs. ways to get “skinny” or “toned”. I started looking at my body for what it can do — like running longer than I ever have before, setting new PRs, nailing a tough lift — vs. just what it looks like. This in turn totally changed the way I viewed myself, my body, and what I eat.

In the past six years, I’ve maybe weighed myself a handful of times. Why? Because I feel there are more important questions to answer than “What do I weigh?”.

What if, the next time you’re tempted to fixate on your weight, you asked yourself:

1. Do I feel strong and competitive in workouts and races? Do you feel like you’re fully present in workouts and races, or do you feel like you’re just slogging along and going through the motions? Do you feel like you attack hills, or like every hill defeats you? Do you feel like you have a strong kick at the end of races? Before focusing on fixing your body, try focusing on fixing your training (and your mental game). Ask yourself: Am I doing all the little things I need to do to succeed? Am I fully present in my training when I’m training, or am I constantly distracted? Am I neglecting certain types of workouts or doing too little/too much mileage? Sometimes you need to refocus, sometimes you need to be working harder, and sometimes you just need to change it up.

2. Does my training bring me joy? Do you view training as a challenge, as a way to hone in on your competitive spirit, as a way to push and understand yourself better? Or do you view training as a chore? If you’re not loving what you’re doing, it’s going to show – in everything from your training logs to your performance results to your personal relationships, sleeping habits, and the food choices you make.

3. Does what I’m eating make me feel good and energized? If you’re eating lots of sugar, processed foods, and too few vegetables or quality protein, you’re going to feel like crap all the time, and your body isn’t going to be functioning optimally. Plain and simple. Conversely, if you’re eating too little or trying to go vegan/paleo/fat-free just because everyone on Instagram is doing it, your body is going to respond accordingly and you’re going to be tired all the time, your hormone function is going to become suppressed, your recovery is going to slow, and your skin, hair, and nails will weaken. Your diet should be working for you, not the other way around. It takes a lot of experimentation to find what works best for you, but put blinders on, stop looking at what everyone else is doing, and focus on what foods and in what amounts make YOU feel happy, strong, and energized. When you eat what makes you feel good, eat intuitively, and train hard, I’m a firm believer that your body will find the weight it’s supposed to be at.

Hint: Make sure you’ve got the fundamentals down. Eat often enough to avoid blood sugar crashes or big dips in energy. Make sure you get vegetables (especially leafy green ones) in with at least two meals a day. Make sure you’re getting some kind of protein in consistently, so your body can keep repairing and recovering. Make sure you’re eating enough healthy fats for hormone function (especially important for females), and make sure you’re drinking lots of water consistently throughout the day. Eery system in your body depends on hydration, and it is especially important for digestion – which plays a big part in how you feel day-to-day. Avoid regularly eating foods that make you feel sluggish, give you brain fog, give you a stomach ache and/or compromise your digestion, and avoid foods that make you bloated.

4. Are you enjoying the foods you’re eating? If you’re eating plain steamed vegetables and grilled chicken every day because that’s what’s “healthy”, you’re probably not enjoying what you’re eating. (But if you are, that’s ok too.) There are so many different amazingly healthy foods out there, and so many different ways to cook them, combine them, and make them more interesting. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring (see my Instagram for recipe ideas). And any healthy diet should have plenty of variety — not just to make sure you’re getting all the macro- and micronutrients you need, but also for your psychological health and sanity.

Also – barring any allergies, there is a place for all foods in a healthy, balanced diet. An A- or B+ diet is always better than an A+ diet, because an A-/B+ diet is one you can sustain for the rest of your life, and an A+ diet is not. (Lauren Fleshman has great insight on this.) And furthermore, you simply don’t need an A+ diet to reach your goals. You can absolutely achieve and maintain your happiest, healthiest, fittest weight with a B+ diet… it just comes down to consistency.


Feature photo courtesy of Ocean State Multisport.