Our Meal Prepping 101 Guide

 Our Meal Prepping 101 Guide

After successfully finishing the work day, picking up the dry cleaning, and picking up the kids from practice, you find yourself like many others–smack in the middle of a lava-flow of traffic desiring for nothing more than to kick-back and relax back in the comfort of your home. After the many stop-and-goes, you glance at what was quite possibly the fourth or fifth billboard showcasing yet another fast-food advertisement. Suddenly, half-way home you realize that you have yet to solve the dreaded-dilemma of figuring out what’s for dinner? In many cases, you are left with the undesirable options of Sunday night leftovers or some mystery frostbitten contents in the freezer from who knows when? On demanding days like these, convenience is often the motivating factor when making a decision on what to eat. But what if I told you these moments could be avoided?

Maintaining healthy habits when it comes to diet for you and your family is similar to creating unhealthy ones. Consider this: in the split moment when you’ve finished work and are scrambling to think of what to make for dinner, most decisions are made from a convenience-driven mentality, even if it results in compromising goals towards a healthier you. This isn’t to say you should completely override eating out. This is simply a gentle reminder that it is often easier to make better decisions for our health when we make efforts to prepare to have better options more accessible and convenient for us.  

It is far more appealing to swing through your local drive-through than it is to think about hovering over a hot stove after a taxing day at work. As convenient as it is to make unhealthy food choices, meal-prepping offers that similar convenience when approached with the same goal in mind.

The goal in this case, is to maintain good eating habits without having to put too much thought behind it, right? What if I told you meal prepping could be more than just steamed veggies and roast chicken piled high in your refrigerator? With a few pointers, meal-prepping could be the easiest decision you could ever make.

Below are some benefits and tips for the beginners out there and a new perspective for others who have the meal-prepping habit already under their belt.

Benefits of eating from home:


 

1. Control what is in your food.

Eating out may be convenient, but it often includes excessive amounts of processed ingredients that include trans fats and higher amounts of sodium and/or processed sugar. Cooking from home allows you to see what and how much you’re putting on your plate.

2. Spend more time with the family.

Meal-prepping doesn’t all have to fall on one person. Getting the kids or your partner involved in washing or cutting produce for your meals can be both interactive and more time-efficient. Including other members in the household for what is on this week’s menu is another great way to get more people involved in the kitchen.

3. Save money.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, “as of 2018, the average household spends an average of $ 3,365 per year on dining out alone,” over time what you make up for convenience many households lose in long-term savings.

Execution Time!


 

1. Prep according to your schedule.

Determining how many meals you are going to prepare ahead of time ultimately comes down to the need at hand. I find it best to make this decision after asking myself what part of the day is the most demanding? If mornings are an impossible to time to cook, consider meal prepping with a couple of options you can grab and go before you start your day. If you can anticipate afternoons or evenings being more hectic, then do the same according to what your schedule demands.

2. Commit to prepping one meal a week.

Small steps to healthier living are more sustainable and also less intimidating when first beginning the meal-prepping process. Meal-prepping a whole week’s worth of breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus snacks is a bit of a daunting task for some, and quite honestly, maybe a bit excessive when you are just starting out. Commit to meal-prepping one meal based on your schedule and when you have become more accustomed to this new healthier habit, you can always add on an additional meal or snack to the mix. After a while, you’ll soon be able to conquer multiple meals or days if needed.

3. Purchase seasonally.

It’s completely understandable to have specific preferences in food choices and this might differ depending on what kind of diet you adhere to on a daily basis. Rule of thumb: for more cost-efficient shopping, purchase produce and other items that are within season. Doing so ensures the best quality of ingredients and more reasonable prices than say trying to stock on strawberries in the middle of December.  

Although this is just some basic insight to meal prepping and its advantages, it is a great start towards a healthier more stress-free-you that can be something experienced and beneficial for you and the entire family! The goal couldn’t be more clear – experience living healthy together.


1United States, Congress, He Division of Consumer Expenditure Surveys. “Economic News Release; Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Economic News Release; Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2018, p. 1.


Recommended Reading

Meats, Fruits, and Vegetables to reach 100% Daily Value of Vitamins and Minerals

Meats, Fruits, and Vegetables to reach 100% Daily Value of Vitamins and Minerals

Question:

Which unprocessed meats, vegetables, and fruits should I eat each day to get 100% daily value of vitamins and minerals without supplements?

– Charles E.

Answer:

Great question, Charles! There are over 20 vitamins and minerals which need to be obtained in the diet because the human body cannot make them. The Reference Daily Intake levels – either Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Adequate Intake (AI) – for each micronutrient show how much is needed for men, women and children of various age groups. Your question’s wording refers to the Daily Values, which are not so specific.

According to the National Institutes of Health, “one value for each nutrient, known as the Daily Value (DV), is selected for the labels of dietary supplements and foods. A DV is often, but not always, similar to one’s RDA or AI for that nutrient.” The Daily Values are set by the U.S. FDA for labeling so that consumers can see how much of a nutrient is provided in a serving of a food compared to their approximate requirement for it. The Nutrition Facts panel shows the percent DV for certain vitamins and minerals. Readers – if you’re interested in more about food labels, check out our Living Health Podcast Episode 21!

Okay, so on to whether it’s possible to plan a 100% micronutrient complete day from whole foods. Yes! Though the amount of produce may not be realistic for a person to consume on a daily basis, or the energy provided may be inadequate or excessive for you. That’s one reason why a variety of food selected across several days is best for meeting one’s nutritional needs.

If you’re looking for a list of what to eat in one day that meets 100% DV, the best one could do would be to construct a day using nutrient analysis software which would still be compared to the RDA or AI for your age and gender, not DV. The following list shows how you can meet the DV for about half the essential micronutrients:

Vitamin C: 1 large orange

Vitamin D: 3 1/2-ounces salmon

Vitamin E:  1 cup raw broccoli, plus 2 ounces almonds

Vitamin K: raw broccoli from above

Folic Acid: 1 cup peas, 1 cup cooked spinach, and 5 long asparagus

B12 and B6: 1 cup plain yogurt and a banana, 1 ounce sunflower seeds, and 3 ounces roast beef

Calcium: cooked spinach and yogurt from above plus an 8-ounce glass skim milk, and 1 fig

Iron: red meat from above plus a large spinach salad, and 1 cup lentil soup

Magnesium: almonds from above plus 2 slices of whole-wheat bread, 1 ounce raisins, a baked potato, and 4 ounces grilled halibut

Zinc: whole wheat bread from above plus a burger patty, and 1 slice cheese

 

Restricting intake to only the three food groups you mentioned is more work, so you are on your own there. If you are adamant about doing so, I’d suggest using a sample menu as a template for starters then substituting for foods you won’t eat. Truly a personalized custom menu!

 

References:

  • “Daily Values.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/dailyvalues.aspx.
  • Harvard Health Publishing. “Getting Your Vitamins and Minerals through Diet.” Harvard Health, Harvard Medical School, July 2009, www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/getting-your-vitamins-and-minerals-through-diet.
  • “How to Eat Your Vitamins.” Real Simple, www.realsimple.com/health/nutrition-diet/vitamins/eat-vitamins.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Struggling with Food? Try the “Un-diet” Approach

Struggling with Food? Try the “Un-diet” Approach

Question:

I just started to go to LA Fitness. I’m a 23-year-old female, I weigh 205 lbs., and I’m 5’4″. I struggle with food. I’ve been on multiple diets, lost weight, restricted myself and end up giving up because it wasn’t sustainable, gaining it back. Calorie counting just seems very tedious and writing things down as well. Is there a way of eating that doesn’t involve measuring out everything in order to lose weight? Or any advice/suggestions?

– Marissa R.

Answer:

I agree that you should remove the focus on portions and calorie restriction. For chronic dieters, experts in weight management recommend making permanent lifestyle changes the goal. Creating realistic goals and developing healthy habits that last are key to an “un-diet” approach. No mention of calories or measurements in The National Weight Control Registry’s summary of its registrants’ four most common habits*: eat breakfast every day, weigh themselves once a week, watch less than 10 hours of TV per week and exercise about 1 hour daily.

Knowledge is power! I believe that a simple foundational understanding of nutrition can help frame your outlook and shift your thinking away from weight, towards nourishing your body. Have you read our Living Healthy articles on nutrition basics, weight loss tips, a Mediterranean style of eating, mindfulness, and social support? For more in-depth learning consider a mass open online course (MOOC) on nutrition fundamentals. Several are free (taken as an audit, not for credit) and available from trusted sources like respected U.S. universities with credentialed instructors.

*The NWCR is the largest prospective investigation of long-term successful weight loss maintenance. http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm  accessed 6/4/2019

Resources:

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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The Importance of Exercise for Cancer Patients: What You Need to Know

The Importance of Exercise for Cancer Patients: What You Need to Know

The term “cancer survivor” refers to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, no matter where they may be in their journey. With earlier detection and improvements in screening and treatment, cancer survivors are living longer. ACSM recommends for patients to aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise with an additional two to three sessions of strength training (such as weight lifting) unless contraindicated. A 2017 systematic review suggests that there is sufficient research to support the promotion of exercise for adults with cancer, and some to support the promotion of exercise in group or supervised settings and for a long period of time to improve quality of life and muscular and aerobic fitness (1). Exercising at moderate intensities can be sustainable for longer periods of time and could encourage the formation of an exercise habit. It is important that an assessment be conducted to evaluate the effects of disease, treatments, and comorbidities and that a survivor receives clearance from their oncologist (1).

How cancer patients should approach exercise?

A patient’s approach to exercise should be rehabilitative and should consider their fitness level prior to diagnosis and treatment. The survivor will need to consider the recency of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, hormonal therapy, and any side effects that may have occurred with each. The patient’s oncologist/physical therapist/trainer can be helpful in identifying side effects that could influence one’s performance and help them determine what modality of exercise could be the most appropriate to prevent injury. These health/fitness professionals should also work with the patient to come up with realistic activity goals. Having goals will increase motivation and facilitate a lasting behavior change!

Some of the best exercise for cancer patients – does this vary between those who are currently undergoing cancer treatment versus those in remission?

The best exercise is the one that fits the individual. Again, it’s important to consider any treatment-related side effects that may be present. This can serve as a foundation for tailoring the patient’s regimen. Common treatment-induced side effects that could have implications on exercise include neuropathy, lymphedema, and cardiotoxicity.

If the survivor is experiencing neuropathy (often referred to as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN)), it would be best to steer away from high-impact free weights and aerobic exercises that require a lot of balance. Safer modalities would be low-impact exercises such as swimming and biking. For lower extremity neuropathy, patients should try to incorporate calf stretches, ankle circles, walking, leg lifts, and balancing exercises (2).

While most common in breast cancer survivors, lymphedema can be present in any part of the body that has been subject to surgery or radiation. It is essential to seek out care from a lymphedema specialist and resolve the issue. Contrary to popular belief, once the lymphedema is under control, it is safe to exercise at a slow and progressive rate (3). The survivor will need to pay close attention to any changes in the affected area. This can include swelling of part or all of your arm or leg including fingers or toes, a feeling of heaviness or tightness, restricted range of motion, aching or discomfort, recurring infections, or hardening and thickening of the skin (4).

For those experiencing cardiotoxicity after chemotherapy (in particular, anthracycline-based treatment) or radiation to the chest area, it will be important to get physician clearance before engaging in exercise. However, engaging in a low-to-moderate intensity exercise regime prior to or during treatments could potentially mitigate the severity of treatment-induced cardiotoxicity (5).


Why exercise is so important for cancer patients.

The benefits from exercise for this population are extensive. Cancer survivors are almost three times more likely to report fair or poor health after treatment and twice as likely to have psychosocial disabilities and physical and functional limitations as persons without cancer (6). In addition to the possibility of neuropathy, lymphedema, and cardiotoxicity as mentioned above, some other lingering effects of treatment include but are not limited to cancer-related fatigue, weight gain, weight loss, depression, anxiety, insomnia, altered body composition, and changes in bone mineral density. Of these, strong evidence suggests that exercise can directly improve fatigue, weight changes, depression, anxiety, and bone health (7).

  • Fatigue: Fatigue occurs in approximately 50-90% of patients undergoing treatment. While it may seem contradictory, exercise happens to be the number one non-pharmaceutical approach to combatting cancer-related fatigue. It can be hard to get started, but great benefits will be reaped if one can get going…even if it’s something as small as walking around the block for 10 minutes or doing house cleaning. A meta-analysis of 70 studies reported that exercise reduces fatigue by 32% during treatment and by 38% after cancer treatment [8]. Resistance, aerobic, flexibility and mixed training programs have all demonstrated improvements in fatigue levels.
  • Weight loss/weight gain: There are many mechanisms that can cause a patient to lose weight. One is associated with the side effects of chemotherapy such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and anorexia. Another mechanism is the presence of an altered metabolism and increased inflammatory cytokines that speed up muscle degradation and can lead to a more serious condition called cancer cachexia (7). On the other hand, weight gain and/or increased fat-to-lean mass ratio can be caused by certain cancer therapies, especially hormonal therapies (7). Exercise can mediate inflammation and help maintain lean mass to help keep weight in check.
  • Depression/Anxiety/Insomnia: Some of us are familiar with the endorphins and serotonin increase that exercise brings on, but exercise is also associated with increased levels of endocannabinoids which have an anti-anxiety effect and promote a sense of well-being [9]. Physical activity also helps patients develop an increased sense of control in his/her own life. Exercise also reduces many negative emotions such as anger, contempt, disgust, guilt, fear and nervousness. The anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects of exercise has been demonstrated in patients undergoing treatment [10, 11] as well as cancer survivors [12]. Insomnia is often induced by increased depression and anxiety, so by treating the root of the problem (depression and anxiety), insomnia can be reduced.
  • Bone health: Bone density can be by hormonal therapies or by metastases to the bone. In those without mets, impact and weight exercise training are preferred to maximize bone health (7). Impact exercises include activities such as running and jumping. Weight and resistance training refer to activities that require the shortening (contraction) and elongation of muscles. By loading the bones through impact and weight bearing activity, you help to prevent further bone loss. If mets are present in the bones, you will want to be extra careful when choosing appropriate activities. As with other exercises, if a patient is experiencing bone metastases or a loss of bone mineral density, it will be essential to seek out advice from an experienced fitness professional.

How family and friends can help show their support (fitness and nutrition wise).

Encouragement! Exercise can be daunting for some. It is important to recognize the benefits of exercise and help your loved one find a good regimen that fits their needs. You may also consider exercising with them. That way you hold each other accountable and both get the amazing benefits of exercise.

Where our readers can go for more information.

Look for an ACSM Cancer Exercise Trainer in your area.

ACSM.org, WCRF/AICR


References:

  1. Segal, R., Zwaal, C., Green, E., Tomasone, J. R., Loblaw, A., Petrella, T., & Exercise for People with Cancer Guideline Development Group (2017). Exercise for people with cancer: a systematic review. Current oncology (Toronto, Ont.)24(4), e290–e315. doi:10.3747/co.24.3619
  2. Tips for Managing Neuropathy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dana-farber.org/health-library/articles/tips-for-managing-neuropathy/
  3. Lymphedema (PDQ): Health professional version. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/lymphedema/lymphedema-hp-pdq#section/all. Accessed Sept. 24, 2017.
  4. Lymphedema. (2017, December 21). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lymphedema/symptoms-causes/syc-20374682
  5. Chen, J. J., Wu, P., Middlekauff, H. R., & Nguyen, K. (2017). Aerobic exercise in anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity: A systematic review of current evidence and future directions. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 312(2). doi:10.1152/ajpheart.00646.2016
  6. Hewitt Maria, Rowland Julia H, Yancik Rosemary. Cancer survivors in the United States: age, health, and disability. The journals of gerontology. Series A, Biological sciences and medical sciences. 2003;58:82–91.
  7. Ferioli, M., Zauli, G., Martelli, A. M., Vitale, M., McCubrey, J. A., Ultimo, S., … Neri, L. M. (2018). Impact of physical exercise in cancer survivors during and after antineoplastic treatments. Oncotarget9(17), 14005–14034. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.24456
  8. Puetz TW, Herring MP. Differential effects of exercise on cancer-related fatigue during and following treatment: a meta-analysis. Am J Prev Med. 2012;43:e1–24. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2012.04.027.
  9. De Moor MH, Beem AL, Stubbe JH, Boomsma DI, De Geus EJ. Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: a population-based study. Prev Med. 2006;42:273–9.
  10. Mehnert A, Veers S, Howaldt D, Braumann KM, Koch U, Schulz KH. Effects of a physical exercise rehabilitation group program on anxiety, depression, body image, and health-related quality of life among breast cancer patients. Onkologie. 2011;34:248–53. https://doi.org/10.1159/000327813. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  11. Quist M, Adamsen L, Rorth M, Laursen JH, Christensen KB, Langer SW. The impact of a multidimensional exercise intervention on physical and functional capacity, anxiety, and depression in patients with advanced-stage lung cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Integr Cancer Ther. 2015;14:341–9. https://doi.org/10.1177/1534735415572887. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  12. Courneya KS, Friedenreich CM, Quinney HA, Fields AL, Jones LW, Fairey AS. A randomized trial of exercise and quality of life in colorectal cancer survivors. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl) 2003;12:347–57. [PubMed] [Google Scholar]
  13. Rizzo A. (2016). The Role of Exercise and Rehabilitation in the Cancer Care Plan. Journal of the advanced practitioner in oncology, 7(3), 339–342.

Recommended Reading

Metabolism Advice for Those Over 50+

Metabolism Advice for Those Over 50+

Question:

I am a member at LA Fitness in San Antonio Texas, just signed up! Ever since I turned 50 I have been gaining weight with the same diet. I don’t drink sodas and I eat at home most of the time; lean poultry, tilapia, quinoa and sometimes rice. I try not to add too much salt to food. I have a busy life and I don’t have time to cook complicated meals or eat 8 times a day. Even though I hardly eat bread, I do like corn tortillas. Obviously, my metabolism has slowed down. 

– Rosa T.

Answer:

Sounds like the “same diet” you’ve followed isn’t working for you now. From what you describe, the lean protein and plain grains are okay if the volume is appropriate. Check your portions as you should target 3-4 oz. poultry/fish and ½-1 C quinoa/rice (or 2-3 corn tortillas) per meal. Look at all the other foods that make up your diet and compare to recommended serving sizes.

Consider filling up on fruits and vegetables which provide bulk with fewer calories. Great that you avoid soda, but make sure other beverages aren’t loaded with sugar either – particularly coffee drinks or juices/smoothies. Regarding your metabolism, remember that reductions in activity and lean body mass are usually to blame. Use your new membership by getting in both calorie-burning aerobic exercise and muscle-retaining strength workouts.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

7 + 9 =


Recommended Reading - Q+A

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