Tough Times + Menu

“Hard times don’t last, tough people do.”

We had a small discussion at the gym this morning with some members of our nutrition group. I was so excited to have people attend that really want to learn and gain knowledge on how to make macros work for them. I did not do the talking this time, my husband and Coach Judd did all the talking. After listening to them talk, I felt very inspired and encouraged to keep my goals in mind. I might be pregnant but that does not mean that I don’t still have fitness and health goals.

Throughout this journey of working out and counting macros, there have been plenty of times that I have wanted to stop. There have been days of injuries, family dinners that didn’t line up with my macro needs, super busy days where I didn’t plan well, pregnancies, c-sections to recover from…there have been lots of reasons and opportunities to quit. I haven’t quit yet. I get asked often when I will stop working out with this pregnancy and if I am still tracking my food. I won’t stop unless I am made to and I am definitely still tracking my food.

What keeps me moving forward is the routine/habit of it, accountability from myself and others, and the desire to be better. To be able to say that I have been tracking my macros for over four years is a point of pride for me. It doesn’t mean that I have been dieting for four years, but that I have been learning about what makes my body function better, what is “healthy”, how far I can push that “healthy food” boundary while still seeing results, and how sustainable and practical tracking really is.

Tracking your food intake does not mean you are on a diet. For some, they are tracking their calories to actually get in more food. When I don’t track my food, I lose weight because I am overly restrictive. Being able to hold yourself to that standard of tracking daily and tracking it all, is hard. Learning the app you are using is hard. Being disciplined enough to stick to your goals or know when to break those macro goals but still be able to get right back on track is hard work. Mentally, not all can handle tracking because it is not a quick weight loss scheme and it takes time to learn the ins and outs.

Hard times, like the learning process of tracking, make you more well rounded. Having the knowledge of what is good for your body and what you can withstand is powerful. I know when I am going through a tough workout or on the days that I just don’t want to show up, I think about the worst moments I have had in the gym. I think of those days and compare them to my current situation. Nine times out of ten, my current situation is not that bad if I can put it into perspective, so I go. When I am tired, I think about the nights I have stayed up with our children (because they are horrible sleepers) and still managed to make it to the gym. I think about the hardest workouts I have done and conclude that those were a lot harder than what I am about to do. It is a mental game that you can’t psych yourself out of.

On the days where there is cake in the front office leftover from someone’s birthday or PTO has provided us with a ‘thank you’ treat, I have two choices. I can either eat whatever treat is there, plug it in, and forego some of those macros later in the day or I can remember that it might not be worth it. Not saying that whatever treat is there might not be delicious, but that what I have already planned for my day might be better in the long run. I try to keep my treats to a minimum, just so that they are actually “treats” and not the everyday regular food. I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything by skipping whatever is there, but empowered that I can say no with no guilt or regret.

These don’t really sound like “hard times” but for those just starting their tracking journey being able to say no to those little treats can be very hard. Some people receive a lot of grief for skipping that doughnut or bag of chips, instead of a pat on the back for sticking to their plan. When you are tired and hurt, but go to the gym anyway, those that don’t go but are completely capable of going will tell you to sit home, to take a few weeks off. I say go, you can always do something that doesn’t make your injury worse. Getting out of the habit of going, can be detrimental to the progress that you have made and give you an excuse to give up altogether.

Sticking to commitments, like tracking and working out is not easy with the busy lives that we lead, the increasing stress to be the best, the ease of just being lazy, and other commitments. For me, it is about where my priorities lie. For some, their priorities are just to just feel good, for some, it is about a certain number on the scale or waistline, and other people want to be the best of the best. I feel as though this does have a lot to do with the season of life you find yourself in. Josh and I, for instance, are in two different seasons, even though we are married. His goals are completely different than mine right now, but we still support and encourage each other through these different seasons. What is a “hard time” for him to push through mentally, is not the same for me and vice versa, but we still hold each other accountable to reach those goals and continue to encourage each other. When you find yourself in one of these hard times, look for that person that encourages you to keep going. There is always someone out there cheering for you to be successful, whether you realize it or not.


Herb Crusted Salmon with Garlicky Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

Crispy Chicken Tinga Taquitos + Lime Avocado Crema

Orzo + Zucchini and Tomato 

Chicken Blueberry Feta Salad

Slow Cooker Herbed Chicken + Rice Pilaf

Herb Crusted Salmon with Garlicky Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoes

I have yet to make this recipe with the salmon. I made it with chicken the first time because I had three chicken breasts leftover from a pack and used those instead of buying more meat. I still used the herb crust with the chicken and it was delicious. I added rice to the meal, just to give it a bit more calories so I would stay full longer. I love these low-calorie meals, but I find myself hunting for a snack two hours later, so in comes some good old rice to save the day! I am going to use backstrap this time and see how that turns out as a sheet pan.

This meal was so simple and tasty. I love a sheet pan dinner when I am meal prepping and especially after a busy week of traveling. This dish is even perfect for counting macros. I can count everything on its own and I don’t have to make a recipe and weigh out servings. I love being able to make a recipe because it is easy to go back in and change numbers when I make that same dish again, but some dishes are so simple they don’t need one. If you haven’t started using an app to track your food, you really should. It makes things so much easier.

*meat of choice
*1 bag/1 lb. fresh green beans 
*40-50 cherry tomoatoes
*Spray olive oil 
*Spray olive oil 

Crispy Chicken Tinga Taquitos + Lime Avocado Crema

This was so delicious. Enchilada Tuesday might become a new thing & these will be what I make every time. Do yourself a favor and make these! You won’t be sorry. For goodness sake, don’t skip putting the tortillas in the oven.

Originally I had 28 grams of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I subtracted the weight of the peppers because I’m not going to eat those. I added them to the sauce for flavor. I only want to calculate what I’m actually going to eat. Instead of using ground chicken or pork, I used chicken breast to not add to the fat content.

To lower the macros a bit you can use one tortilla and eat the extra meat in a bowl. I did this for Josh and split his portion of cheese and avocado sauce between the tortilla and bowl. PS- wait to add the enchilada sauce to the chicken until you have your meat portioned out. This makes the macros more accurate. Lots of extra little steps, but it allows me to be as accurate as possible. Most food labels round-up on the calories, so I need to make sure my method is flawless to not add more errors to the calculations.

For those that are going to be reheated, I will not fully toast the tortillas so they don’t get overly crunchy and burnt when we eat them for lunch the next day. I will finish toasting the next day or assemble and toast them at lunch. Right now I have the luxury of not meal prepping, but 100% still am. It would be super easy to just throw the meat into the tortilla and toast the next day.

If you are back at work and do not have access to an oven, I would opt to skip the crunchy tortilla. A crunchy tortilla in the microwave is not going to taste very good. Keep the tortilla and stuffing separate, heat the chicken, then assemble with cheese and avocado. Keep your fat intake in mind when using the avocado and cheese. It is delicious but can easily put you over on your calories.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for rubbing
*spray olive oil 
1 pound ground chicken, beef, or turkey
*chicken breast cut into strips
1 yellow onion, chopped
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo finely chopped, use to your taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup red enchilada sauce homemade or store-bought
16-20 corn tortillas warmed
*1-2 high fiber/low carb tortilla per serving
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
*10-15 grams per serving 
pineapple salsa, shredded lettuce, and pickled onion, for serving

1 avocado, halved
*3 ounces
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup pickled jalapeños
juice from 2 limes
kosher or flaky salt

Orzo + Zucchini and Tomato 

Sometimes a dish is so simple that you think there’s no way it’s going to be good. This is one of those dishes…I was completely surprised at how great it was, being so simple. Lemon juice, LOTS of tomatoes, zucchini, orzo,

Parmesan, basil, salt, and pepper. Nothing fancy but so good and fresh! I added chicken breast but this would be a great side dish or meal if you’re vegetarian. I’d swap the orzo for #carbanada if you leave off the meat to get in some protein. This time I am going to use shrimp in the dish and use the carba-nada. The carba-nada pasta adds so much protein to it, that I won’t have to use a ton of shrimp.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

5 oz uncooked orzo pasta
*200-250 grams (weighed uncooked)
1/2 large zucchini, 1/4-inch dice (5 ounces total)
*2-3 zucchini
1 small plum or Campari tomato, diced
*10-15 cherry tomaotes per serving
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
*1 lemon juiced
kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino
*20 grams reduced fat parmesan per serving

Chicken Blueberry Feta Salad

In an effort to keep the carbohydrates balanced, I try to cook two-three “heavy” carbohydrate meals and two-three light carbohydrate meals every week. I will alternate the high carb and low carb meals between lunch and supper so I don’t go over my allotted carbohydrates every day. I don’t worry about which meal of the day has the high carb or low carb, I just focus on keeping it balanced.

With this salad don’t skip making the dressing, don’t try buying some store-bought version, because it won’t be the same. Any dressing made with lemon juice is right up my alley. I skip the olive oil and just up the amount of lemon juice and it makes it extra healthy. I don’t mind eating fats but I would much rather save my fat for the almonds or avocado, not the olive oil.

For the chicken, you can grill it if you are firing up the grill this week anyway or simply season well and put it in the oven while you get the meat ready for the other dishes. I love cooking my chicken covered on the stovetop, I don’t have to watch it like a hawk, it cooks super fast, and stays juicy.

I like to put a lot of blueberries in each of my salads, but you can put from 1/2 cup to a whole cup. Strawberries are also in season right now and would be a great addition if you can’t get good blueberries. The strawberry patch is a great place to go to, to get a break from in-home quarantine.

Usually, I pick between almonds of avocado. I don’t want to go over on my fat because of one dish. Typically 1/4th of an avocado is 1 ounce. 1 ounce of avocado is 50 calories, 0.5 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of carbs, and 4.5 grams of fat. You can add both, just make sure you watch the calories, fat adds up quickly. Two ounces of avocado are 100 calories and that would is about a fourth of what I would want my total calories to be for one meal. In my opinion, it is just a lot of calories for something so small. Just make sure you weigh it and track it.

*Change I make to meet my macros.

 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
 8 cups mixed salad greens
 1 cup blueberries (* or strawberries)
*1/2 cup to 1 cup per salad 
 1 large avocado sliced
*1 ounce or less per salad
 1 cup almonds
*9-12 almonds per salad 
 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
*10-12 grams non-fat feta
 1/2 large red onion thinly sliced 

 Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing:
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
*omit oil 
1/3 cup lemon juice
*add more lemon juice 
2 tablespoons honey
*1 ounce of honey 
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
*2 tablespoons 
2 cloves garlic minced
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Slow Cooker Herbed Chicken + Rice Pilaf

This is a great easy recipe. I love anything I can throw into the crockpot and just let it cook on its own, especially right now with the kids and I home 24/7. When I cook this I don’t shred the chicken into the dish after it has cooked. I take the chicken out and keep it separate from the rest of the dish. This makes it much easier to count my macros. I weigh out the rest of the food from the crockpot and divide it into 4 containers equally. A lot of crockpot meals I encounter with carrots end up being sweet, but this one is not.

Without the chicken accounted for, the macros for 4 servings the last time I cooked it was 174 calories, 5.8 grams of protein, 31.7 grams of carbohydrates, and 2.5 grams of fat. Make sure to put the chicken on top of the rice mixture, so you can easily take it out and add it into the bowl depending on your macro needs. The recipe calls for you to sear the chicken but if you are in a hurry you can skip that step. It still tastes great.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

1 1/2 cups wild rice
*3/4 to 1 cup
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
*2 cups 
juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 carrot, cut into 1 inch pieces
*17 ounces whole baby carrots
1 cup wild mushrooms, torn
*272 grams 
2 pounds bone-in chicken breast and or thighs
*boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
*spray olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
kosher salt and pepper
4 shallots, halved
1 sprig fresh rosemary 

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