How to Find Time for Healthy Eating – Batch Cooking 101

It’s no secret, we lead busy lives. As the world speeds up, one of the first things to suffer is our self-care. Often busy weeks mean making unhealthy choices, like skipping meals, or grabbing something quick to eat while on the go.

Eating well is a habit you build your life around. It doesn’t just happen, it takes intention and advanced planning, which means it takes time.

But you don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen each night just to eat well.

Plan for Healthy Eating

When starting a new healthy eating regime, it’s important to start slow and set realistic expectations.

Look at your schedule and decide what is realistic for you to do. When you’re starting a new routine, you may need to plan to eat out for some meals, or have convenient options on hand.

It takes momentum to really get in the swing of meal prep and planning. When you enter a busy week with the intention of being prepared and cooking regularly, things can snowball in a positive way, or quickly become out of control.

What keeps it all together is forethought and advanced planning. Your meal plan is part of your overall strategy which includes other areas of your life.

Think about it – a meal plan is made up of tiny habits that you take throughout the week. It might mean getting up earlier to make breakfast, shopping at a new grocery store to get your ingredients, or breaking the habit of swinging by the drive thru on your way home from work.

Sticking to your plan will take some discipline, so be gentle with yourself while you get your new habits set up.

Ultimately, your meal plan sets you up for success so you have a solid foundation to build from. One thing that will keep your plan intact throughout the busy workweek is planning to batch cook your meals so you can spend less time in the kitchen.

What is Batch Cooking?

Time management experts recommend batching like tasks together so you can do similar things all at once. For example, washing laundry and changing the bedding are two tasks that can be batched together to save time.

Batch cooking is a similar idea because it has you cooking for a few condensed hours on one day, as opposed to throughout the week. The time this saves in clean up alone (because you’re only making one mess to clean) is a game changer.

There are three different methods of batch cooking:

  • Batch cooking staple ingredients
  • Batch cooking large meals
  • Batching freezer meals

Each method has different benefits. If you’re planning to be away or you know you have a busy week coming up, batching for the freezer is a good option. On the other hand, if you’re looking to have multiple meals ready for the week (a great option if you have picky eaters at home) cooking large meals in advance can help.

If you’re reading this and you’re one of the people who can’t stand the idea of leftovers, you’re in luck. Single ingredient batch cooking has you making a large quantity of one item and then repurposing it throughout the week to create different meals.

Cook Once, Eat Twice

The best time to cook is when you can set aside the time. Not when you’re staring into the fridge at 6 pm and you’re hungry and tired from a long day at work.

Batch cooking means you cook once in a large quantity, giving you food for days (or weeks) to come. One pot meals like chili, soups, and stews can be made ahead of time and frozen for a few weeks at a time.

You can even batch prepare snacks – energy bites, guacamole, hummus, and homemade muffins are great snacks that can be frozen for later.

Start with a meal plan and organize your week around cooking in batches. A few hours in the kitchen on the weekend can mean you’re only cooking once during the week. Doesn’t that sound like a more relaxing evening? 

Batch Cooking will:

  • Save you time in the kitchen. Keep your schedule efficient by allowing you to focus on one task at a time. 
  • Reduce kitchen clean up (cook once, clean once!). 
  • Allow you more free time in the evenings (reheat and eat, instead of cooking from scratch). 
  • Save you in a pinch— this is a guarantee! Nothing blows your meal plan faster than a time-strapped empty stomach.

Meal Prep That Works for You and Your Schedule

Many of us are working long hours and, let’s face it, we have other things we love to do besides spend our time in the kitchen. It’s time to make your meals work for you. This chart gives a simple example of how you can cook one healthy ingredient in a large quantity and use it to create meals for the week. Try it with your favourites.

Not all recipes work well for batch cooking. Some are best to eat the day you make them. Others don’t freeze and reheat well.

All the recipes in the Everyday Eats Cookbook are designed for batch cooking. The recipes throughout the book use similar ingredients so it’s easy to batch them together and work them into your meal plan.

Get your copy of the Everyday Eats Cookbook today to save time in the kitchen and fuel your family with meals that are healthy and satisfying.

8 Tips to Meal Plan for the Work Week

You’re at work and your stomach growls. It’s mid-day and the numbness in your backside is telling you it’s time to take a break from your desk.

Feeling a little past the hungry mark, you’re disappointed to remember that the healthy groceries you have stored at home did not make it to work with you.

Enter the cafeteria…

This scene is so common. Day after day you find yourself at work, hungry, with no lunch and no plan. Things generally go downhill from there.

The logical way to avoid being caught with a sad desk lunch is to plan ahead.

Meal planning is a skill (check out my video on Why Most Meal Plans Fail and What to do About it).

Here are some tips to meal planning for the workweek to make healthy eating easier when you have a busy schedule.

  1. Gather your recipes – the Internet is flooded with healthy recipes (some better than others). Print them out and dust off your stack of cookbooks to find recipes you like and will actually want to eat. Knowing what your options are goes a long way toward being prepared.
  2. Create a meal map for the week— this is a visual meal planning tool I use with my clients. Map your eating pattern according to your daily tasks. Will you have 3 meals? 2 and some snacks? Or does your schedule require you to have a big breakfast and graze throughout the afternoon? Mapping your meals helps you to plan ahead so you know what to bring along for your work day.
  3. Plan similar items— the week starts with great intentions (of cooking several complex dishes) but once the week hits it’s a different story. Plan similar dishes with similar ingredients so you can make things like rice in large batches ahead of time. Think about ways to create variety by adding different vegetables and side dishes to batch-made protein and grains.
  4. Create a shopping list— face it, there’s no such thing as running to the store for “just one thing.” Make a list ahead of time and stick to it. Try the Our Groceries app to create separate lists for different stores, and never worry about leaving your slip of paper at home.
  5. Set a designated shopping day— during your busy week the last thing you need is to have to stop for groceries 2-3 times. Create a routine and shop on the same day each week. You can plan this around when the produce at your grocer is the freshest.
  6. Batch cook & prep ahead— a classic time management tool is to batch similar tasks together. The same goes for cooking. Do simple meal prep; chopping, washing produce, etc. in advance so food is ready-to-go in your fridge. Cook meals in large quantities for the week and store them in airtight glass containers. Note: make-ahead meals typically last about 4 days in the fridge.

The recipes in my Everyday Eats Cookbook contain common household ingredients and are designed for batch cooking (and to make your life easier). Get your copy of the Upgraded & Expanded edition of Everyday Eats with over 50 whole-food recipes that are ready in under 30 minutes here.

  1. Cook once, eat two (or three) times– even if you’re cooking for one, it takes about the same amount of effort to cook a little or a lot. Make it a habit to cook in larger quantities so you’ll have some of your favourite meals on hand with little effort. Your future self will thank you.
  2. Use your freezer— the freezer is your friend, especially if you batch cook. Use glass storage containers to freeze homemade soups, stew, vegetables and meat. Thaw them on the counter and reheat on the stove top for a quick weeknight meal.

The best way to be prepared for the workweek is to have a plan for your meals at the start. If it’s not practical to eat a home-cooked meal every night, that’s ok. Make healthy takeout part of the plan – my favourites are Thai or Mediterranean grill with veggies. You’ll get the satisfaction of sticking to the plan, instead of finding yourself at the drive thru.

Stop Sugar Cravings with Magnesium

Magnesium is one mineral that we hear about in relation to muscle health, but not too much for its other properties. Yet it’s one of the most abundant minerals in our bodies.

In fact, magnesium is used in hundreds of different chemical reactions in the body every single day. That means it’s in high demand so if you aren’t taking in enough there will be some warning signs popping up.

It’s tied to sugar cravings because magnesium helps regulate glucose (blood sugar) and insulin (helps the body use and store glucose). If you don’t have enough magnesium, you’re bound to see a difference in your sweet tooth.

Let’s take a closer look at how magnesium can help manage sugar cravings and how it contributes to the health of your body overall.

The Many Roles of Magnesium in the Body

Magnesium helps lower our stress levels. In fact, magnesium is often referred to as the “relaxation mineral.”

Serotonin, which is a natural mood stabilizer found mostly in our digestive system, requires magnesium for its production. Therefore, it is recommended that we take magnesium to help manage our stress, anxiety, and mood disorders. In turn, a magnesium deficiency can affect our stress level and emotional state.

Magnesium is necessary for numerous chemical reactions in our body, including making DNA.

Magnesium helps maintain brain function by relaying signals between our body and our brain. It prevents overstimulation of nerve cells, which could result in brain damage.

Magnesium helps regulate muscle contractions – it opposite to calcium to help our muscles relax. Magnesium is commonly recommended for treating muscle cramps.

Magnesium has also been linked to helping reduce the risk of many diseases, including arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. Several studies have shown that migraine headaches are associated with low levels of magnesium.

Magnesium is used in the regulation of blood sugar, insulin and dopamine which makes it an essential mineral for managing sugar cravings.

Despite magnesium being so abundant in our body, a lot of people don’t get enough of it.

How Much Magnesium Should We Consume?

Adult men should consume 420 mg/day.

Adult women should consume 320 mg/day.

There could be consequences from consuming too much magnesium or not enough magnesium:

  • Too much magnesium can cause various symptoms, including diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, and irregular heartbeat.

    Therefore, you might not want to take a supplement that contains magnesium if you are already getting enough magnesium through your food and other sources.
  • A magnesium deficiency (called hypomagnesemia) could lead to various health conditions, including muscle twitches and cramps, osteoporosis, fatigue, high blood pressure, asthma, heart disease, and diabetes.

It’s more than likely that you sit somewhere in the middle of these two. A low level of magnesium can increase sugar cravings, especially for chocolate.

Other mild deficiency symptoms could include constipation, tight muscles, high stress levels, difficulty sleeping, clenching teeth at night and more.

Foods That Contain Magnesium

If you think low magnesium is playing a role in your sugar cravings, there are plenty of magnesium-rich natural foods you can add to your diet:

  • Pumpkin seeds (check out the recipe below for making Sweet & Creamy Pumpkin Seed Butter)
  • Raw almonds and cashews (raw nuts are better than roasted nuts – roasted nuts lose magnesium during the roasting process)
  • Dark chocolate
  • Black beans, peas, and soybeans
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach)
  • Whole grains (oat bran)
  • Herbs (coriander, chives, dill, sage)

Magnesium can also be absorbed through the skin. An Epsom salt bath can increase your magnesium level, as can a magnesium oil or lotion.

If you’re looking to supplement with magnesium, start with 150 mg of Magnesium Bisglycinate per day. It can be especially helpful for women to take magnesium around the time of their period to add some magnesium to help their bodies manage blood sugar more efficiently.

Summary

Eating sweets occasionally isn’t a bad thing. If your sugar cravings are taking over your life it can mean that your body is looking for something, like magnesium. A lot of people are deficient in magnesium because it’s used widely in the body for so many processes.

There are several ways to get your recommended amount of magnesium. One of the easiest (and yummiest) ways of getting daily magnesium is to include plenty of food sources. Here’s a recipe for pumpkin seed butter to get you started.

Recipe

Sweet & Creamy Pumpkin Seed Butter

Ingredients:

2 cups raw pumpkin seeds

1-2 tsp. oil (grapeseed or olive)

1 Tbsp. honey (optional)

¼ tsp sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.
  4. Cool for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Put the pumpkin seeds, honey and salt in a blender or food processor.
  6. Run the food processor for approximately 4-5 minutes, until the pumpkin seeds begin to have the texture of butter. If necessary, stop the food processor and scrape the sides.
  7. Continue running the food processor for another 2-5 minutes until the pumpkin seeds have the texture of butter. Add some of the oil, as needed, until the desired consistency is reached.

REFERENCES:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-does-magnesium-do

http://www.magnesium.ca/

What Every Parent Needs to Know to Set a Healthy Body Image Example For Their Kids

Any parent who’s let a swear word slip around their child knows how quickly they pick up on things.

Kids are impressionable. They’re also always watching the adults they love and taking subconscious notes on how to interact with the world.

That means your kids are picking up on your eating and exercise habits. They’re also taking note of your relationship with food and your body.

The number one motivator I see with my clients is that they want to improve their relationship with their body and food in order to set a good example for their kids.

It’s never too late for you (or them) to learn. So if you’re reading this and you have adult children, you’re still on the hook for setting a healthy example.

One of the responsibilities that goes along with parenthood is being someone that your children look to for cues and advice on how to be in the world. That’s still the case, even when your kids are fully grown adults themselves.

Here are some ways that you, as the parent, can set a healthy body image example for your kids (of any age).

Don’t make food “good” or “bad”

This is a mindset mistake I see often. People bring morality (judgements of good/bad, right/wrong) into their vocabulary around food. This sends the message that a person is good/bad based on their food choices. That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone for eating a cupcake, which would otherwise be enjoyable.

When we overemphasize certain foods as being bad or special, it puts them on a pedestal. This creates an emotional reaction to those foods that wouldn’t otherwise be there.

When you pair that emotional association with the chemical reactions in the body from the sugar, carbohydrates, salt, fat (typical in treat foods) the emotional state experienced around these foods is heightened reinforcing the thought pattern.

The same thing happens when food is used as a reward for good grades, or good behaviour. Typically this is done with treat foods. We then create the association of junk food with good behaviour, which sets us up for problems as we get older.

Avoid emphasizing appearance over personal qualities

When a child grows up with the majority of the compliments they receive being about their physical appearance, they associate their value with the way they look. When they get positive reinforcement for something, they’ll naturally want to do more of it. This can lead to being hyper aware of their appearance or trying to control the way they look to seek validation from other people. This can plant the seed for eating disorders as the child gets older.

Instead of giving compliments and validation for appearance, try reinforcing positive behaviour qualities. Things like kindness, generosity, creativity, intuition, good decision making, or hard work put toward their activities. These behaviours have nothing to do with body image or appearance, making them healthy things to reinforce and celebrate.

Watch your self-talk

Children of any age will take cues from their parents’ relationship to their bodies. If you’re self-conscious at family gatherings, or put down your appearance in pictures, the people around you will pick up on that.

From a young age, children learn how to treat their bodies based on how they see their parents treating themselves. Parents who put themselves down or get upset over their physical appearance are teaching their children to do the same.

It’s not realistic to think that you won’t ever have concerns about the way you look. But the way you handle those bad body image days will set an example for the people around you.

The more you can respect yourself and your body by speaking kindly about yourself, the better you’ll feel, and you’ll set a healthier example for others.

Be conscious of role models

We all grow up idolizing the characters we see on TV, or celebrities in magazines. It’s no secret that these images have been carefully crafted (and most of the time altered) to fit with society’s standard of beauty. It’s hard to escape these influences, but you do have control over what comes into your home.

Beauty and fashion magazines are not healthy role models, regardless of your age. It’s easy to limit access to these by not bringing them into the house. But you might not have thought of the social influences your kids are exposed to.

I’ll never forget when I was 19 trying on clothes with my girlfriend who was obsessing over her thighs. Up until that point, I’d never considered that my thighs could be “fat” or the “wrong shape.” It never occured to me to be self-conscious about that part of my body, but once she introduced me to the thought I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Associations are powerful. As a parent it’s impossible to oversee every relationship your child has, and that wouldn’t be healthy either. Instead focus on setting the tone for body positivity at home. The strength of your example will stand up against outside influences.

It’s ok to be a work in progress

Self-acceptance comes from being okay with yourself the way you are. We all have our individual life circumstances to thank for the way we look and feel in our bodies today. That’s part of what makes us unique. When you spend time wishing you were different, it promotes an unhealthy self-image and lowers your self-esteem.

Working toward goals in your health and fitness can be a great thing, but not if it’s leading you to feel ashamed of where you’re at right now. The energy you carry on a daily basis will determine how happy you feel, and that’s what will rub off on those around you. Aim for adopting a mindset of being ok with yourself as a work in progress. This will show your kids (or grandkids) that they can love and accept themselves the way they are, even while working toward a goal.

It’s never too late to ask for help

You’re never too old to be a positive role model for your loved ones. After all, we learn how to behave from watching the people around us. Which means we’re never too old to pass on our problems.

For example, if you struggle with emotional eating, your kids will pick up on this pattern and are more likely to relate to food the way you do. If there’s an area of your relationship with food or your body that you need to heal, you can set a healthy example by seeking support.

It’s never too late to ask for help with improving your relationship with food and your body. If there’s a body image pattern or food habit that you haven’t been able to solve, chances are your kids will experience the same and also not know how to resolve it.

It’s not up to you to have all the answers, but you can lead by example in seeking the support necessary to overcome your challenges. This shows courage, determination and self-love, which sets a healthy example that you’ll want your children to follow.

Ready to overcome your challenges with food or body image? Book your complimentary Body-Love Breakthrough Call today to gain clarity on the best next steps for you.

Summary

When you create a healthy mindset around your body and food, your kids will follow your example. The way you take care of yourself is the way they learn to take care of themselves.

You don’t have to be perfect to set a good example for your kids. They’ll learn from the way you stand up to your challenges and effort toward being the healthiest version of you.

What Food Cravings Really Mean

Food cravings can really throw you off track. That’s true whether you’re focused on weight loss, trying to maintain a healthy diet, or just trying to focus on the task at hand. Food cravings can come up when you least expect them, and they’re frustrating because they can be difficult to decode.

It’s important to recognize that cravings are part of the way our bodies communicate with us. Unfortunately, what our bodies want is not always clear.

Pay attention to your food cravings and compare how they feel in your body at the different times they come on. Cravings for different foods will feel differently in the body. Sugar cravings for example can be sudden and come on strongly, but they can also leave just as quickly if you’re able to hold off.

Use this list of common causes of cravings as a guide to help you determine where your craving is coming from.

Causes of Cravings

There’s plenty of reasons you might find yourself craving certain foods. Here are some common ones to check in with. When you recognize where your cravings come from, it’s easier to respond in a healthy way.

  • Nutritional – craving a food because your body needs a nutrient it contains. For example, craving chocolate could be a sign of low magnesium, or craving salt could be a need for minerals.
  • Emotional – craving stimulation, excitement, or connection in your life that’s being mistaken as a food craving. It can be difficult to tell the difference in the moment, but if you check in with your body and you’re not truly hungry, it’s likely your craving is emotionally driven.
  • Bacterial – bacteria thrive on sugar. When you have an imbalance of good bacteria to yeast and harmful bacteria you can develop strong sugar cravings on behalf of the bacteria’s desire to be fed.
  • Hormonal – the hormonal changes in our bodies can bring on cravings for sweets, carbohydrates, salt, chocolate and other foods. This can be due to low blood sugar, or because the body needs extra energy while things are fluctuating inside.
  • Seasonal – anyone else break out all the pumpkin recipes in the fall? Sometimes we associate certain foods and flavours with a time of year and this brings on cravings. The craving can be more for the familiarity and nostalgia the food represents, than for the food itself.
  • Rebelling – when things are going well in your life do you notice yourself “acting out” through craving treats in your diet? If you haven’t expanded your capacity to receive good into your life you might find yourself rebelling during times that are going well. An easy way to do this is to eat foods that don’t support your wellbeing or cause you to feel off, as a way to bring yourself down from your heightened state.

When you take the time to tune into your body – take a few deep breaths, slow down, and focus on how you’re feeling – it’s easier to hear what your body is trying to say. Sometimes cravings are about eating a certain food, but more often they’re a message about your emotions that’s being confused as a request for food.

At first when you tune into your body, it can feel like you’re a new mother who has to “guess” what her crying baby wants. But eventually your desires will become more clear. Use the above list as a guide and pay attention to any feelings that are coming up, especially if you’re going through a difficult or uncomfortable time emotionally.

Feeding your body instead of working through the difficult emotions can be a way of numbing yourself so you don’t have to feel your emotions. The more you consciously recognize what’s truly going on in your body, the more you’ll be able to respond appropriately to your needs.

When you recognize your craving is emotionally driven here are some things to try:

  • Phone a friend and talk about how you’re feeling
  • Journal your thoughts
  • Talk it out with the person you’re feeling conflict with
  • Meditate on the feeling and breathe through it
  • Use EFT (tapping) to work through the emotion
  • Mindful movement like yoga can help you move the emotional energy in your body
  • Punch a pillow if anger or frustration is what’s coming up

Discerning your cravings can be difficult if you’re new to this work, but it’s worthwhile so you don’t let cravings run your life or ruin your health.

Are food cravings running the show in your life? The Eats & Asana coaching mentorship gives you the tools to connect with your body so you can understand it’s cues and respond in a loving way. These tools have helped many emotional eaters turn their cravings into wisdom that’s helped them improve their health, have more energy and feel great in their skin.

Book your Body Love Breakthrough Call to learn more about Eats & Asana and how it can help you create a healthier relationship with your body and food.