We all know by now that what we eat contributes to how we feel; scientists are calling our gut our second brain, and doctors are finally taking note of the fact that 90% of our immune system is in our mid section.
Forget about how we look—how we feel is rightfully taking over as our number one priority, and luckily that usually comes with brightening skin and looser pants.
Okay, so we know we should be consuming more plants, healthy fats, and whole grains…but how do we fit that practice into our lives in a convenient way? That’s where I come in.
Many of my clients are dealing with acute issues and symptoms such as preparing to undergo major surgery, dealing with post partum mental and physical issues, trying to maintain and promote health during chemo etc, however many of them are just trying to be healthy while juggling a job, kids, a partner, friends, and every day life! It’s hard to maintain your health and to be honest, it needs to take precedent. In this day and age with food and treats being dangled in front of us everywhere we turn, it’s crucial to take an active role in our own health promotion by preparing for our groggy mornings on the go, our depleted returns home after dark, and our afternoon sugar-craving slumps. If we don’t, well…bring on the donuts and take-out…and the migraines and fatigue and brain fog…
So enough talk, here are some of my most popular tips and recipes for jumpstarting your week (and life!) in a healthy and happy way. I’m always available via email for questions and happy to work with you on your own journey towards health and vitality. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org
1) MEAL PREP SUNDAY
This is the single most important thing you can do for yourself.
If you don’t make some time before your week starts to set yourself up for successful, delicious meals and snacks, you are most likely going to have a pretty hard time catching up and finding those healthy foods the rest of the week. Having an array of roasted and raw vegetables to throw in a salad with your washed greens, warm with an egg on top, or mix with your already-cooked grain will make lunches and dinners come together in 3 minutes! Your combinations will be endless and you will love yourself every day for the delicious feel-good foods you are able to make in a jif.
Here’s how I plan:
- Choose 3 vegetables to roast
This time of year I love any kind of squash, potato, and an allium like onions, leeks, garlic to ward off colds. Of course others like cauliflower, broccoli, peppers, and rutabaga work great as well! Most vegetables can be roasted together with olive oil and salt on a baking sheet in a 375 degree oven. Some may finish faster than others but they will just get a bit more brown and delicious. Adding a little rosemary, thyme, or garlic to roasted meats or vegetables goes a LONG way!
- Choose 2 vegetables to prep raw
Having these on hand (bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots etc) along with a dip like pesto or hummus make snacking easy!
- Choose 1 type of green to wash
For an easy salad or to sauté (arugula, kale, swiss chard)
- Choose 1 meat protein to cook in large batch
Marinate for a bit (in simple things like soy sauce, mustard, garlic, honey, herbs, and even mayo!) then roasting chicken, read meat, pork, or fish makes for very quick and easy lunch or dinner salads or grain bowls!
- Choose 1 grain to cook
Throw a few cups of quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, faro, or whole wheat pasta in salted boiling water and your job is done. Cooking grains requires about 30 seconds of hands on work and they are so versatile.
- Make 1 large jar of salad dressing
1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. Let chopped garlic, red onion, or shallot sit with the vinegar (such as red wine, sherry, apple cider, or champagne—even lemon juice works!) to mellow out for a few minutes while you prep your other foods, then mix with oil, a dollop of mustard, salt and pepper and maybe a little spice like cumin or paprika for a foolproof delicious vinaigrette that can be used on salads, grains, vegees, and even meat. A good dressing makes a great meal.
- Make a large batch of oatmeal
In the morning, heat a portion and add your toppings such as fruit, nuts, seeds, nut butters, and things like chia seeds or flax seeds—a delicious and hearty breakfast on the run. I love adding a dollop of ghee or coconut cream and warming spices like cinnamon nutmeg and cloves for extra richness in the winter.
- Wash and pick 2 kinds of herbs
Store in a container with a damp paper towel draped over. You will thank yourself over and over. Add to eggs, grains, vegees, even oatmeal! Herbs make any meal feel indulgent and restaurant-quality. I like cilantro and parsley in the winter. Scallions and chives are great too.
Okay, this prep list may sound like a lot, but I promise you can get it all done in one Sunday afternoon. (If you’re fast, 2 hours should be enough time.) Most things take only a few minutes of hands-on time to prepare and once you get it on the stove or in the oven, you can sit back and enjoy the smells coming from your kitchen.
The following are some of the staple pantry items I cannot live without during the winter:
Grassfed Ghee (clarified butter, I cook everything in this and add it to my coffee and oatmeal)
Vinegars, lemons and limes (to quickly flavor anything!)
Almond or cashew butter (great for snacks, sauces, and source of vegetarian protein)
Pumpkin puree (for flourless baking and to add to oatmeal or soup)
Spices (cumin, coriander, fennel seed and turmeric get the most use)
Herbs (wash and cut them for easy addition to a meal during the week)
Primal Kitchen Mayo (very clean ingredients, parve, and can be used mixed with herbs and spices for a quick and delicious marinade or sauce)
Tinned fish (for fast lunches and dinners thrown with grains and greens)
Organic clean tomato sauce (make sure you read your ingredients! There should only be a few and definitely no sugar or canola oil)
Garlic and onions (to add flavor as the base to any dish)
If you have these, you are golden!
2) GET YOUR SWEAT ON!
Winter can be a time of anxiety for many. Less sunlight, cold weather, and holiday weight gain all contribute to stress and decrease in dopamine production—the hormone that makes us happy! In addition we tend to produce more cortisol (the stress hormone) when we are more sedentary, which we tend to be in cold weather. Making sure you get your in your sweat will help with both; cortisol production slows with cardio and endorphins increase. Listening to upbeat music also helps produce dopamine—so throw together a playlist and find an activity that makes you sweat. Doing it with friends is a great way to get together and catch up. I love spin classes on a weekend morning because it makes me feel justified in a nice brunch and an afternoon on the couch J
3) TREAT YOURSELF with some TLC
No, this doesn’t mean face plant into some white sugar white flour laden treats. It means something different for everyone. My treat to myself this winter season is bath salts and a dry brush. When I’ve had a stressful day, I put on some John Mayer (hey, don’t judge), run bath with some of my favorite smelling salts, brush away the dead skin and stress of the day with my bristly brush (which is also great for your lymphatic system and for soft skin) and soak away! Maybe your treat is a new book and a candle; maybe it’s some nice red wine and jazz while you meal-prep. Find what makes your heart smile and make time to do it! (and btw, a spin class on a Saturday morning can also be a treat yourself moment )
For those times when you really do just need a sweet treat, there are two great recipes below for delicious treats you can make with a clear conscience. And I promise, they hold up very well to traditional bakery goods J
Check out my site NatalieZises.com for other fast, delicious, and health promotive recipes!
Okay, that’s all for now. Remember, self care and self-love is not only the best thing to do for you, but for others around you. You can only take care of your children, partner, friends, and family if you have taken care of yourself first. Wishing you all a healthy and happy winter.
To your health,
Flourless Pumpkin Spice Mini Muffins
Yields about 20
Feel free to sub butternut squash or sweet potato for pumpkin puree.
▪ 1 cup pumpkin puree
▪ 1 cup almond butter, preferably organic
▪ 1/3 cup maple syrup
▪ 1 egg
▪ 1 Tbsp Pumpkin pie spice (or 1tsp each cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg)
▪ 1 tsp baking soda
▪ 1/2 cup chocolate chips or your favorite chopped chocolate bar (I love Raaka for their clean ingredients and they’re made in Brooklyn!)
Heat oven to 325 F. Grease or spray your mini muffin pan with coconut oil, or use muffin cups.
Combine all ingredients and lastly fold in chocolate. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Better to under bake then over bake! There will be some carry-over cooking in the pan.
The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies Ever. Adopted from Slim Palate
Yields about 12 cookies
▪ 1 cup organic almond butter
▪ 1/2 cup coconut sugar
▪ 1 egg
▪ 1 egg yolk
▪ dash of vanilla extract
▪ 1 teaspoon baking soda
▪ pinch of salt
▪ 4 ounces dark chocolate coarsely chopped
▪ flakey or coarse sea salt for sprinkling
▪ Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
▪ In a medium sized bowl add all ingredients and mix until totally combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate until well incorporated.
▪ With a cookie scoop or spoon drop 1½- 2 tablespoon sized mounds of cookie dough on to the parchment lined baking sheet spacing them about 2-3 inches apart. This should allow you to only have 6 per cookie sheet.
▪ Sprinkle with flakey sea salt, then bake for 10-12 minutes then let cool to harden for about 5 minutes.