Our Blog - 50/50 Fitness/Nutrition

Awesome Spinach Salad

This spinach salad tastes amazing! Spinach is an extremely nutrient-dense food, so you’ll be fueling up on important vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fiber. The recipe calls for raspberry vinegar, which is a flavorful and refreshing alternative to traditional, oily dressing. The fruit and nuts add flavor, fiber and healthy fat.

Servings: 8

Here’s what you need:

  • 8 cups cleaned spinach leaves
  • 3 oranges, peeled, sliced and quartered
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled sliced and quartered
  • 1/8 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 cup strawberries, sliced or whole raspberries
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic raspberry blush vinegar
  1. Combined the spinach, oranges, cucumbers, macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds and strawberries in a bowl.
  2. Add the vinegar and toss well.

Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 99 calories, 3g fat, 14g carbohydrate, 2.6g fiber, and 3.5g protein.

4 Self-Motivating Mind Tricks

Are you struggling with self motivation? Having a hard time getting yourself to your regularly scheduled workouts? Finding more and more reasons to cheat on your healthy diet? I promise you’re not alone!
A healthy dose of motivation coupled with determination will get you just about anywhere you want to go. So how do you know if you’re genuinely motivated?

  • Motivation will tell you to get out of bed for an early workout.
  • Motivation will nag you to put down the doughnut.
  • Motivation makes passing on fries a reflex.
  • Motivation makes a sweat drenched workout exciting and fun.

Motivation constantly reminds you why you do what you do. It compounds and builds on itself. One good day leads to another. Every decision is purposeful and impactful.

Self-Motivating Mind Trick #1: Pinpoint Your Motivator.

Motivation stems simply from having a goal. What is your goal? Why do you want to get into great shape?

Take a minute to really uncover the reason that you want to lose the weight, build muscle, etc.

Don’t say something vague like you want to ‘Be thinner‘ or ‘Look more attractive.‘ Dig deeper – there is a very specific motivator in your life, we just need to find it.

Here are some possible motivators…

  • I want to have more energy to keep up with the kids.
  • I want to improve my health through weight loss to extend and improve my life.
  • I want to lose 15 pounds before my vacation.
  • I want to restore my confidence to wear sleeveless shirts.
  • I want to regain my figure to impress and attract my significant other.

Self-Motivating Mind Trick #2: Make It Official.

When you write something down it suddenly feels official, doesn’t it? Write down your motivator for getting into great shape, and post it where you will see it often—next to your alarm clock, on the bathroom mirror, or in your car.

Each time you see your written motivator take a moment to visualize yourself accomplishing your goal. Try to make the scene as clear in your mind as possible. This is a powerful tool for maintaining your focus and direction.

Self-Motivating Mind Trick #3: Be Practical.

It’s game plan time. You know what you want, and now you need to map out exactly how you’ll achieve it. It is important to be practical in your planning, rather than throwing out ideas that you know you won’t stick with.

With any weight loss goal it is important to 1) maintain a healthy, modest diet, and 2) participate in a consistent and challenging exercise program.

Plan a routine that will fit into your schedule and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Try and avoid day-by-day planning if/when possible. It’s far too easy to find yourself on a slippery slope back to square one, Really try and choose an exercise program that you enjoy. In other words, don’t force yourself to spin every day if you hate spinning. Trying new things is great, but settling on the right things is important.

Self-Motivating Mind Trick #4: Call For Backup.

Enlist the support of your friends, family and co-workers. Tell everyone about your goal to lose weight and get fit, you’ll be surprised how supportive most people will be. By being open about your goals, you’ll likely be an encouragement to others to make healthy changes in their own lives. The accountability means everything when you have a constantly changing day-to-day environment.

And of course…

The most effective way to ensure that you meet your goal is to enlist our support, your health and fitness specialists. Together we will identify what really motivates you. Together we will design a workout routine that fits into your schedule and into your life. And together we will see it through until your goal is met.

Call or email us today to get started on the program that will transform your life. Consultations and fitness evaluations are always complimentary to our members, so take advantage TODAY.

Shed the Weight, Mentally

As we dive into the second half of the Weight Loss Challenge, it’s vital to note that while many of our members are striving to get rid of extra pounds, there’s also extra baggage that we all carry around with us, weighing us down mentally. From the death of a loved one to childhood traumas, from low self esteem to having little work-life balance, this extra weight inhibits us from really succeeding at whatever goals we’ve set for ourselves.

I have had many people come to me and say, “I just don’t understand why I can’t accomplish my goal.” People think that they’re doing everything in their power to change, but often something is blocking the person mentally from reaching whatever it is they’re working toward.

Many times, knowledge is really where the power lies. Those who track food in MyFitnessPal are successful in losing weight, simply because they know what they are putting into their bodies. They begin to see patterns in their eating, such as too little protein at breakfast, snacking on the wrong foods, not being able to gauge portion size, etc. And when they realize what the problem is, they can begin to make small tweaks and changes to lead them in the right direction.

My challenge for you this week is to think about what extra weight you carry around with you every day and identify ways you can ultimately shed that extra weight. This can seem daunting at first, but tackle it little by little. You are not going to shed everything in one day, so go in with realistic expectations. Whatever your struggle though, you can overcome it once you acknowledge what it is and take the necessary steps to let it go.  And though it is much easier said than done, when you take control of it, it can no longer take control of you.


by Katie

Cranberry Quinoa Mini Muffins

Here is a muffin that is truly packed with fiber. Whole wheat flour and wholesome cooked quinoa combine with almonds and cranberries for a moist and delicious treat. Cooked quinoa can be used in place of some of the flour in almost any recipe to increase protein and fiber. Servings: 36


Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup unsweetened rice milk
  • 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup safflower oil
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • zest from 1 small lemon
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 1/4 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup organic turbinado raw cane sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 370 degrees F. Place 12 muffins liners in muffin pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium sized bowl combine the rice milk, flaxseed, oil, maple syrup, vanilla, almond and lemon zest.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, ground almond, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones and fold in the cooked quinoa and chopped cranberries.
  4. Use an ice cream scooper to fill each muffin liner 3/4 full. Sprinkle the turbinado raw cane sugar on top of each muffin. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.

Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 55 calories, 2.5g fat, 8g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, and 1g protein.

Roasted Chicken and Veggies


Roasting a whole chicken with veggies is a wonderful meal and is much simpler to prepare than you might think. Make this recipe on the weekend and then enjoy nutritious leftovers throughout your week. Just be wary of the skin and the darker meat! Servings: 5

Here’s what you need…

  • 3 bulbs garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons coconut oil, gently melted
  • 1 Tablespoon each minced, fresh rosemary, oregano, tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • zest and juice from one lemon
  • 4 large organic carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 organic zucchini, cut into 1 inch half-moons
  • 1 cup pearl onions, ends trimmed
  • 1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 hormone-free, organic chicken
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut off the tips of each section of the garlic bulbs. Place the blubs in a small glass pan. Brush the tops with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine the melted coconut oil, fresh herbs, minced garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Set 1/3 of the mixture aside for the veggies.
  4. In a large bowl combine the carrots, zucchini, pearl onions and Brussels sprouts with 1/3 of the herb mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  5. Rinse your chicken and pat dry. Carefully slide your hand between the skin and the breast and liberally rub some of the herb mixture. Rub the rest of the herb mixture over the top of the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and tie the legs together with kitchen string. Place the chicken on a large roasting pan, and surround it with the veggies.
  6. Roast the chicken and veggies for 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, pour 1/2 cup of chicken broth over the chicken and veggies, and place the garlic pan in the oven off to the side.
  7. For the next 90 minutes, pour 1/2 cup of broth over the chicken and veggies every 30 minutes as it cooks at 350 degrees F.
  8. To see if the chicken is done, poke the tip of a sharp knife between the leg and body and see that the juices run clear. Transfer the chicken and veggies to a large platter. Add a couple of the roasted garlic bulbs to the chicken platter, reserving one for the gravy.
  9. To make gravy: Pour all of the roasting pan juices into a skillet and bring to a simmer. Remove the garlic cloves from one of the roasted blubs and smash with a fork. Add garlic to skillet. Mix in the tablespoon of coconut flour, and whisk the gravy as it simmers. Cook for 10 minutes, or until desired thickness. Season with salt and pepper.

Nutritional Analysis: 251 calories, 14g fat, 113mg sodium, 19g carbohydrate, 7g fiber, and 17g protein


Do you believe in second chances? Help me save a life…

Originally posted on July 23, 2014

Manslaughter has to be one of the most gruesome, chilling words in the English language. There’s no questioning its meaning, its unsettling nature, and it’s fierce impact. It takes on a connotation far more profound than even murder, killing, assassination. I mean, who could fathom “slaughtering” another human being? Okay, so maybe it wasn’t purposeful. Somehow, placing “involuntary” in front of it, doesn’t seem to diminish the intensity of the word. So when is justice finally served in an involuntary manslaughter? Unfortunately, in this case, it isn’t. And it’s something I’ve been struggling with, almost hiding behind, for quite some time. I had been afraid to talk about it, to ask for help, and to finally find the answers that I so desperately needed…until now. And I need your help. I’ll try and make this as quick as I can…

In January of 1994, my biological father, Randy Matthews, was leaving a bar in Texas after having more than his share of beer (he later blew a .2x). He decided to head to his brother’s house, just down the road, for a place to crash for the rest of the night. He had just recently made his way back down to Eastern Texas from Massachusetts, and wasn’t entirely familiar with his surroundings. Nevertheless, he started off on his way in a brand new 4 x 4 Ram, lifted, with over-sized tires and a custom exhaust (loud!). With the radio blaring, he paid little attention to his surroundings. He knew he’d find good ol’ Hardy Road one way or another…or so he thought. He never did make it to his brother’s that night. In fact, he never saw his brother (my uncle) again.

After several minutes of cruising along, his heart dropped when he caught a glimpse of one of those bright red “WRONG WAY” street signs. You know, one of the signs that always makes you second guess yourself when driving onto the on-ramp of a new highway for the first time? So it all started with one small mistake. He had made a wrong left-hand turn at the previous intersection and suddenly was forced into a decision. We all know that drunk driving and quick, spur of the moment decisions don’t tend to turn out well. You can see where this is going. So here’s the scenario: He was at the base of a short, somewhat steep hill, travelling approximately 40 MPH. It was just after 2 AM and there was hardly any traffic to speak of. Up ahead, just as the hill began to crest, he noticed a familiar landmark – a rusty, old train station that he associated with Hardy Road, about 30 seconds off. In his mind, he had two choices. He could either a) make himself more vulnerable to potential oncoming traffic by attempting to swing the big diesel truck around, or b) speed up and take a quick left up at the top of the hill. He chose the latter and stepped on it. So now, travelling faster and faster and beginning to lose control, the truck shot up the hill, peaked, and the suspension coils begin to lift, raising the entire front end, and making the truck even more of a monstrosity as it tore up and over the once distant horizon. At this point, it was too late. By the time the truck evened out, it was already powering its way up and over an oncoming car, causing massive destruction. Two of the passengers, a little girl and her father, were pronounced dead on the scene.

My father was given 20 years for involuntary manslaughter. There’s that word again. I was 4 at the time. It took another 14 years for me to find out the truth about that night and my father’s whereabouts. He’d been locked away all that time, missing my entire childhood. For a long time I really wasn’t sure how I felt about it and how to really process it. So, I left it alone. I had (have) two brothers that I’d never even met, a dad in prison, and I was just starting college. It was all so overwhelming, you know? Finally, it was that second Summer home from school that I worked up the courage to write him. That first letter took me hours and hours to compose. It was my first impression, after all, it meant everything to me. I was so terrified that I wouldn’t get a response, that I’d find someone who really didn’t care about me after all, and what I’d become. I would have been devastated.
So let’s fast forward to the start of this year… 19 years from the date of the accident and I’m finally starting to form a relationship with my biological father. By then, he’d written hundreds of times, called weekly, and we met for the first time face-to-face (even though it was behind a glass). As the end of the sentence drew (draws) nearer, things were really looking up. I felt like I had someone to talk to about everything, a pen pal in a way… Until three weeks ago when he stopped writing.

Last Thursday, I received a phone call from a prison hospital in Galveston that my dad had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. They couldn’t give me any more details.He had apparently gone in for a routine check-up on some chest tightness. Just like that – a death sentence. I flew out later that evening, a mess, wondering if I’d even get the chance to say goodbye. Upon landing, I confirmed his location and drove 5 hours south from Dallas, down to the hospital to find that he had been transferred 5 hours back north. As it turns out, after they had just finished several highly invasive procedures just several hours before, they decided that someone else needed his bed more than him. So, they shipped him out at midnight, in the back of a transfer van, chained hands and feet to the floor, forced to sit on a metal bench. With all of the transfers and stops along the way, his trip ended up being 10 hours long, no bathroom breaks; The same trip, mind you, that he’s going to have to make to and from the hospital for chemotherapy every single week… fighting for his life in the back of a van.

Dozens of phone calls later, my visit was finally approved. He wasn’t well enough to make the visitation room, so they had to clear the unit of all other inmates, and walk me straight through the prison and into the “infirmary”. I wasn’t allowed into his room per prison policy. I was told I’d be allowed to speak with him through a small opening in the door. At this point, he still didn’t know I was coming and he, himself had just arrived. As I approached the cell, the nurse greeted me and asked me about my Master’s Degree. He had already told her all about me :/ I completely broke down and couldn’t get any words out. It all hit me like a ton of bricks, right then and there. He’d been there an hour and had already started talking about how proud he was. The accompanying officer didn’t hesitate, unlocked the door, and told me to go and give him a hug. It was the first time I’d ever hugged him.
On his discharge papers, his condition was listed as “fair”. “Oh gee, thanks” he said with a chuckle. The cancer has spread from his liver into his lungs, and into most of his other organs. He remains strong physically, aside from the occasional bouts of nausea and shortness of breath. Mentally, he’s depleted. Four days elapsed before someone decided to give him a tooth brush. No paste, so he’s forced to use soap to wash the taste of vomit out of his mouth on a daily basis. Off to the left of the room is a stack of several brown paper bags, each with a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich. The menu doesn’t change much in there. No books, no TV, no friends or family left to visit him. It’s just me and his oxygen tank. He calls it his “little buddy”. We’re about all that’s keeping him alive right now. I’ve decided that I can’t do it alone. I’m not going to get the help of the prison staff and I desperately need your help! Please help me keep my father alive. He was just brought back into my life and I know it has for a reason. I’m just not ready to let him go. I know that together, in prayer, with powerful thoughts and well-wishes, we can give him a glimmer of hope. There’s not much left in that dark, lonely cell.

The prison has stripped away every ounce of dignity and virtually eliminated any preservation of self-worth . He truly had nothing to live for until two years ago. Now, he’s on the fight of his life. And, he’s doing it for me…to show me that he can be an incredible person.So please, regardless of whether or not you believe in second chances, I just want to be able to help my dad to feel loved, like he matters, just one more time. If I have to lose him, I want him to be able to go out on top, like he wasn’t a waste, and he didn’t let me down. Here’s how you can help…

1) Please pray for him. He needs all the help he can get. All he has is God right now.

2) I’ve set up an account to electronically send messages (at no cost), directly to him. Here’s how to access it.

Go to JPay.com
The login name is LettersForRandy@Gmail.com
The password is keephopealive
Next to email, click compose. Feel free to write messages, send articles, success stories, songs, pictures, etc. You can keep them anonymous if you’d like.
Click send and he’ll receive the message within 24-48 hours.

3) Alternatively, you can email any notes to me directly at LettersForRandy@Gmail.com. I’ll be sure to forward them anonymously.

4) You can mail him letters directly using the following address…

Randy Matthews #719515
Estelle Unit
264 FM 3478, Huntsville, TX 77320-3320
*Please note that he can’t receive any packages… just letters and some pictures. All letters are pre-screened, so nothing derogatory towards the prison please. It’s not necessarily the people that are at fault, but the system.

Thank you so much for your support, this has been a very difficult time for me.


UPDATE: Randy passed away on 10/27 at 11:58AM. Thanks again everyone for your support..

Living with Alzheimer’s: a personal story by Katie Lipsmeyer

Since I was a little girl, my mom and I would tell each other that we love one another “the muches in the world past infinity.” See, she is a single mother, and I am an only child, and our bond has been steadfast for the entirety of our relationship.

Momma, as I affectionately call her, gave birth to me when she was 38 years old, and while I was a welcome gift to her, she lived a full life before I took my first breath. Carol Lipsmeyer, as the rest of the world knows her, is the second of five children. She was—and still is—a devout Catholic, was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, and she essentially raised her brothers since her mother was rarely around and her father worked three jobs to support his family. She never married. Apparently, she was proposed to a whopping three times, but she said no to each, telling me, “I never found anyone good enough for me.” This speaks to her high standards and feisty nature, for sure!

She went to nursing school directly after high school and worked many years as a Registered Nurse. In fact, she scrubbed in on the very first heart transplant! And still, Momma wanted to challenge herself further and make a good comfortable living for herself. She was one of the first females in the state of Arkansas to become a Nurse Anesthetist, a profession typically reserved for men. She did over 5,000 cases, mostly for open heart surgery, over a span of 40 years. Momma is truly respected for her dedication to the health care system.

When my mom had me, she completely devoted her life to me. She raised me to recognize the value in others and to be a strong, independent woman. She taught me to love deeply and to be vulnerable, in spite of what others may think. She taught me to take risks, to right my wrongs as best as I can, and to forgive others fully. I can go to her with any problem, and she consistently offers sound advice without forcing her opinions. Though she was a relatively strict parent when I was growing up, we have been best friends for all of my 31 years on this planet. She is my biggest advocate.

About five or six years ago, though, I noticed that Momma’s short-term memory was failing. She would get confused while driving in her hometown and would lose things on a consistent basis. In retrospect, I see all these happenings as red flags, but I was in denial at the time. I didn’t want to consider that the fate of the strongest woman I know would be rendered to a terrible disease called Alzheimer’s.

Three years ago, there was no more room for denial, and I had the most difficult talk of my life with her. Both of us sitting on her bed, I told her I knew that she had noticed her forgetfulness and lack of focus and that I had noticed it, too. “Momma, I’m pretty sure this is more than old-age forgetfulness. I think it’s a dementia of some sort, and I’d really like to go with you to a specialist who can assess what’s going on and provide you with treatment. This is heavy and a lot to take in, but I want to keep you healthy and safe. Most of all, I want you to know this is not your fault.”

There has been much stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s for decades now, even though an astounding 5 million people live with the disease today. Many mistakenly liken it to a major mental health disorder, such as schizophrenia or major depression, and those who are diagnosed search for answers as to why this happened to them. I think, though I’m not certain, that my mom believed her own mother got this disease as a karmic payback for being absent in her children’s and husband’s lives.

Thankfully, Momma agreed to see a specialist and has trusted me with her care ever since.

After many, many doctors’ visits over the past three years, Momma now has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. We sold her house, and she currently lives in an assisted living community in Little Rock. She loves her friends and the staff there, but we have decided together it is time to move her closer to me and my family here in Western Massachusetts.

See, just after Thanksgiving, Momma had an abscess in her abdomen, and had to be admitted to the hospital. She subsequently got an infection and wound up with kidney failure, which put her total days in the hospital at sixteen, plus seven days in an unfamiliar rehab facility. She was supposed to spend Christmas with me, my partner, Dave, and my two “bonus sons” here in Northampton, but Dave, Momma, and I ended up spending Christmas Day in her rehab room in Little Rock.

If you’ve ever spent time in the hospital, you know what a drag it can be, but imagine being completely confused, not knowing where you are or really understanding the reason for being there. A stay in the hospital for a regular person can be exacerbated up to seven-fold for a person with Alzheimer’s, e.g. a two-week stay can seem like 2.5 months for an Alzheimer’s patient. Every day, Momma would tell me, “Katie, I just want to go home.”

It was a traumatic experience for her (and for me), and her brain is still recovering from it. Hopefully, she will regain the cognizance she had before this incident, but there is a chance she may not. Never again do I want to be this far away from her when she has an emergency. And so, Dave and I will move her up here in the near future.

I tell you my mother’s story in hopes to, first, bring awareness to the issue of Alzheimer’s, as hers is one of millions. The stories of these radiant human beings need to be told, as they are no longer able to tell their stories themselves. Second, we as prideful people rarely offer such vulnerable and personal pieces of ourselves to a wide audience. But I have found a wonderful community of people in Pioneer Valley Fitness and Energia Fitness over the past year, and I want you to know the struggles I deal with.

I wonder sometimes if I will get this disease. I wouldn’t wish this fate on anyone, but I have to consider, on some level, that I may too ultimately lose my memory, my identity. One of the many reasons I have committed my life to fitness is because I have a 40% less chance of getting Alzheimer’s if I do aerobic activity for 30 minutes, 2-3 times per week. (All of us do.) And if it does turn out to be my fate, then—in the wise words of Kurt Vonnegut—so it goes. But I’ll put up a hell of a fight before it takes me down.

I don’t know what the future holds for my mother. My wish is that she remains stable for a long time, enjoying precious time with me, Dave, her “bonus grandchildren,” and any other biological grandchildren she may have. Few things remain constant, and I have a great respect for that, but there is no doubt in my mind that we will always love each other the muches in the world past infinity.

How to Set Up an Account on MyFitnessPal

Go to myfitnesspal.com, click “Sign up now!”


Enter your username, email address, and choose a password.

On the next prompt, enter your current weight, goal weight, and other relevant information.

There is a brief, three item questionnaire that will ask you about your lifestyle, workout plans, and overall goal. Be very conservative!

Continue to the next page and print your “Suggested Fitness And Nutrition Goals”. Hang it somewhere that you will be able to see every day.

Click “get started now” to view your profile.

Spend some time getting to know the site, reading success stories, forum posts, and updating your profile. Make it your own!

You should see a link that says “find new friends on myfitnesspal®”…search for username “Justinsgym” and “ktlips101” and send us a request!

For us to be able to view and monitor your diet…

Go into “Settings” at the top of the screen, “Diary Settings”, and choose the nutrients you wish to track (we suggest carbs, fat, protein, fiber, and sodium/sugar)

In the same tab, modify your meal names and times to reflect a typical day. You can use Justin’s as an example.

Scroll down and change your diary sharing to “friends only” or” locked with a key”.  Save changes.

Send us the key via email or using the message tool to let us know your site is active!

Time Magazine – How to Eat Now

Eat at home because it’s good for you, it’s good for your family and it’s far easier than you think, says best selling food writer Mark Bittman, in a recent TIME’s cover story.

In today’s fast paced world we consume over 30% of our daily calories away from home. These less-than-wholesome calories are accumulating around our waists and draining our bank accounts.

So why do we eat out and shun the kitchen? Simple: convenience. We don’t have the time to toil away over a hot stove. However, evidence is mounting that we are paying big for the so-called convenience of outside food.

Obesity related diseases are on the rise, as are the number of folks who are just plain unhappy with how their bodies look and feel. Cooking at home seems to be the first step in our road to healthier bodies.

Here are the top 5 reasons that you should starting cooking and eating at home…

Reason #1: It’s Good For You
Hyperprocessed foods are harmful to our health, and that’s exactly where you’ve been getting the bulk of your calories. Even restaurant food that contains fresh produce, chances are high that the produce is not organic, or local or non-GMO. Most of us are eating less than half of the recommended amount of fiber, fruit and vegetables, which eating at home could quickly change.

Simple meals made at home with fresh produce and organic meats or eggs are nutritionally superior to over-flavored, over-processed restaurant food. Not to mention the high calorie beverages and starters that so often accompany a restaurant meal. When you eat at home you take in more nutrient-dense calories that are higher in fiber.

Reason #2: It’s Far Easier Than You Think
Eating out so often has conditioned our concept of a meal to be one with complicated flavors and accompaniments. This misconception has made us fear the kitchen. But I urge you to reconsider.

Meals made at home need not mirror those ordered in restaurants. On the contrary, simple is better when it comes to home cooking. Plan your entire meal around a couple of pieces of fresh produce and a wholesome, lean protein. No need for complicated sauces or sides – these are where the harmful calories hide anyway.

Reason #3: It Costs Less
Fresh, simple ingredients do not cost much. Especially when compared to the cost of prepared meals. Bittman’s advice on ingredient shopping is to, “Buy what you can afford, and cook it yourself. Rice, beans, bacon, salad, bread –few things are cheaper than that.”

Shopping the perimeter of the store is always a good plan. Here you’ll find the fresh produce, meats, dairy and seafood. Venture into the aisles for oils and spices to compliment the fresh ingredients.

Reason #4: It Is Preventative Medicine
In the US the annual health care expenses related to obesity is $150 billion, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Worldwide this number is over $1 trillion annually. These numbers are staggering, and sobering when you think of all the individual lives that are being negatively impacted by obesity.

Rather than waiting for you and your family members to experience the health risks related to obesity, start your own mission to cook simple meals at home and redirect your future. Remember the words of Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Reason #5: It Reduces Body Fat
Eating at home is also one of the best ways to reduce your body fat. Bittman states that meals eaten at home contain an average of 200 calories less than meals eaten out. Let me tell you, a reduction in 200+ calories per meal will quickly translate to pounds lost!

Start today, and don’t be afraid to start small.

Pick one meal that you’ll make at home either today or tomorrow, and write down your simple menu and grocery list.

And let’s not forget the place that a challenging, consistent exercise program has in your quest for good health and a fit physique.

Don’t let this holiday season get the best of you. Take control of your diet right now!

Hey you, yeah you!

It’s about time you do something proactive. Take charge of your health, your weight, your future… once and for all. The kids are back to school, the holidays are fast approaching, and it’s time to face the music. This is it folks, the calm before the storm.

First, the weather cools down, minimizing outdoor activities.

Then, the students flood the area and everyone either a) trudges back to work or b) goes into hiding. The first round of fitness routines quickly falls by the wayside, just like that (we’ll bring you back!).

Football season heats up and the fridge is stocked up with Octoberfest.

Before you know it, the candy isles begin to pop up everywhere to taunt you with those big, oversized bags.

By now, Grandma surely has her sights set on her famous homemade stuffing and apple pie.

Why not some wine by the fire on a cold winter day?

“It’s too cold to food shop, let’s order in tonight honey”.

Finally, we finish with a downright assault of cookies, cakes, holiday party after holiday party, and leftovers galore.

No wonder why so many people tend to struggle, year after year. I don’t want to see another year of inconsistency and frustration with lofty New Years’ Resolutions quickly following suit. I’m sick of that pattern. It shouldn’t have to be that way. Hell, I just outlined half of the issues that strike down each year. So let me ask you this: What do you do when the weather forecasts a major storm? Do you plan ahead, stock up, and dust off the old generator? Or do you keep your fridge full of perishables and your windows open with the dog tied out back?

Maybe you messed up this weekend…ate like crap, drank too much. Maybe you didn’t. You know what? It doesn’t matter. The focus here is on prevention and damage control. Tomorrow, you’re back to work and we’re not about to let another uninspiring week pass you by. You’re stuck in a rut and I hate to say it, but you’re the perfect candidate for winter weight gain. We won’t let you succumb to that, not this year. BUT, it has to start right here, right now, so let’s jump right in.

First step: Print this post.

Next, take a walk to your fridge, open it up and tell me what you see. We’ll keep it as simple as possible…

How many of these items can you find?

  • Salad Greens
  • Three different colored vegetables
  • Three different types of fruits
  • 3 on the go quick protein options (i.e. hard boiled eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.)
  • Pre-cooked or 5 minute throw-together meal options (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) for at least three consecutive days. I can help you with these.
  • Defrosted chicken and/or fish, portioned and ready to cook as needed.

Well, how’d you do? And what does all this mean?

The reality is that if a food is in your possession or located in your residence, either you or a loved one will eventually eat it. If the temptation is there, the decision is easy.

In other words, keep only the food or drinks that you SHOULD actually consume.

In other, other words, enough is enough! Believe it or not, you know enough to be able to begin to identify which foods should stay and which should go, right off the bat. Call upon your own knowledge and judgment and make that initial step. This is about owning up to your decisions. If a food and/or drink isn’t conducive to your goals, why would you keep it? Insert defensive, self-justifying excuse here:

  • I hate wasting food
  • It was on special
  • So and so likes these
  • It’s for special occasions (like this Tuesday, when I’ll have a bad day at work)
  • Etc.

Let’s get real here!

If it isn’t helping you reach your goals, you don’t need it. End of story. So here we go. Perfect day for a kitchen makeover!

  1. A kitchen makeover gets rid of the non-nutritious stuff and/or foods that trigger you to engage in poor eating behaviors. Then it replaces the junk with a plethora of health-promoting foods.
  2. A kitchen makeover helps you stay in control and on track. You don’t want to be deciding between a couple of bites of ice cream and a small salad while getting the kitchen ready, waiting for the rest of your dinner to cook. Food decisions in our kitchen need. to. be. foolproof.
  3. A kitchen makeover helps you plan and structure your healthy eating patterns. You’ll appreciate having a safe home base after returning from the “food war-zone,” also known as modern society.

Here’s how it works…

Start with what you know. Gather all the unhealthy foods from your fridge and pantry. Now, get a few big garbage bags. See, I told you this was simple!

If a certain food has redeeming qualities, then you can take it to a local food bank or soup kitchen. If it’s complete junk, trash it. Get it out of the house.

Rule #1 If you think it’s junk, it is.

Rule #2 “But isn’t this a waste of food?” Nope. It’s junk.

Think about this: Would you dig through a dumpster for dinner? No? Why not? Because the food in there isn’t very good for you. It might be expired, rancid, full of bacteria, or at the very least covered in crud. It’s garbage.

So why would you eat foods that have no nutritional value — and which actively take away from your health? How is that different from dumpster diving? Yeah, that’s right…I called you a dumpster diver. So let’s do something about it. Let’s revisit the fridge and cabinets for round 2 of the action plan.

How many of these do you possess?

  • Chips
  • Cheesy snacks
  • Chocolates or candy
  • Soda/sweetened drinks
  • Alcohol, especially flavored/sweetened mixed drinks
  • Instant foods like cupcake mixes and mashed potatoes
  • Margarine and other processed fats
  • Most frozen dinners
  • Most take-out or restaurant leftovers
  • Bowls of candy or other snacks sitting around
  • Flavored nuts

Take a look back at our initial assessment… The percentage here is much higher, isn’t it? You know what? Forget it! It doesn’t matter…just get rid of it!

Ok, so we’ve established some things and made some progress. Great. Now, what’s left? There must be some foods that maybe you just aren’t sure about? Maybe you have a “maybe” pile, per say?

Here are some tricky foods that can seem healthy, but usually aren’t. They’ve gone from something good (whole, unprocessed food) to something that a machine barfed out, something that’s full of sugar and chemicals, and/or something that’s had all its original nutrients stripped out. (No, it’s not “healthy” because it says “fruit” – Check the label.)

Here we go on round 3…weeding out the tricksters!

  • Sweetened yogurt (yoplait) and frozen yogurt (excess sugar!)
  • Breads and bagels, unless they’re made exclusively with whole grains and 100% organic!
  • Breakfast cereals (see above comment)
  • Other baked goods
  • Crackers, even the whole grain ones – too tempting!
  • Granola bars – too many excess carbs
  • Regular peanut butter – difficult to control
  • Fruit juice – don’t need it, no fiber!

A good rule here is to check the labels. Look for forms of sugar such as high fructose corn syrup as well as hydrogenated oil, fractioned oil, and other preservatives with long, difficult to pronounce names.

Ok phew, we’re done.

Wait a minute! – We forgot about the refrigerator door! Here you’ll find some straight chemical and sugar BOMBS.

Maybe it’s time to take a second look? Here are the biggest culprits…

  • Condiments such as BBQ sauce and other sweetened sauces
  • Sweetened relishes, mustards, and ketchup
  • Salad dressings
  • Bread crumbs, croutons, and other dried bread products
  • Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and deli meats
  • Spreads or cream cheeses

These are the types of things that tend to stay in the fridge a while. So why not spend the extra dollar or two on a quality product?

So there you have it! If you’re still in doubt at all, you can ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Does this food come in a bag, box, or plastic package?
  2. Does it have more than a couple of ingredients on the label?
  3. Can you pronounce all of those ingredients?
  4. How far away is this food from what it used to be? (And do you even know what it used to be?)
  5. Is this food perishable? Just about anything good for you goes bad quickly.

Obviously, there are exceptions to all of the above. But if there’s uncertainty, would you really want to test your willpower with them around? Obviously, it doesn’t work…especially with the holiday season just around the corner. There’s no room for error! At this point, to set yourself up for success, the best thing you can do is start fresh. Eliminate the temptation early and get yourself in the right mindset. Remove the obstacles before you even reach them.