Cooking + Menu

Part of the problem with counting macros is cooking food that is not boring. Most people stick to the basics when they starting counting macros (or calories) or they eat a lot of processed foods and trust what the box says. All of the above can produce results, but you will likely give up. Boring food is, well boring. Eating all processed foods is usually pretty unhealthy and the nutritional information is not always correct on the label.

I picked up a juice for my kids the other day. The calories said 20 per serving. The bottle was only one serving, so I got it without even looking any further. Well turns out, the bottle had much, much more than just twenty calories. I did not bother to look further down the label to see that there were actually 18 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Nothing close to 20 calories. Seventy-two calories isn’t a ton, but that sure isn’t twenty.

With food labels and nutritional information being dishonest, it is no wonder people have a hard time losing weight. If a label says low carbohydrate, no sugar you can bet it will be loaded with fat. If the information says twenty calories, you might want to do the math on your own. I get there is this whole ‘net carb’ fad going on, but for me, a carbohydrate is a carbohydrate. If it goes into my mouth then I am going to count it, no matter what.

For those just starting out on their macro counting journey have a long road ahead of them. There is a lot more to counting macros than meets the eye. You have to learn the ins and outs of an app to track with, do a lot of your own research to figure out what is really in the foods you are eating (exact macros), learn how to read nutritional labels, figure out what your body needs to lose, gain, or maintain, and then figure out how to cook with macros. It can be intimidating for many people. Just learning the app alone can make people quit. Then finding out that the food in your app isn’t 100% accurate and that nutritional labels aren’t even 100% right really takes the ease out of it.

If only everything was 100% correct and honest, it would make the daunting task of counting macros much, much easier. I can say that I have been doing this for almost 5 years now and I didn’t start out creating custom recipes and certainly didn’t look up the USDA food facts starting out. I didn’t weigh out all my servings, I measured them. I was not 100% accurate in my attempt, but still saw results. I was headed down the right path. I would scoop out “equal” servings of spaghetti or pasta, instead of weighing the entire cooked amount, then dividing that by my servings. For me (now) this is common sense before I never thought to do that.

I was trying and eventually, I got Josh and myself on a path that seems to be the most accurate. I weigh out everything. I don’t scoop out my servings. I know the exact weight of one serving. I can manipulate every recipe I come across and make it work for us, usually. There are some recipes that I just don’t even bother trying to make substitutions with, but for the most part, I can make minor changes and make the meal healthy, while maintaining the taste.

The problem most people seem to face is their lack of knowledge and drive to learn. If people would put in the time and effort to learn what is in their food, they would (I hope) make smarter choices. Step one is knowing what you need. Step two is figuring out how to meet those needs. Step three is putting your new-found knowledge into action and doing so, consistently. It sounds simple, but with the ease of processed foods and lack of will power, people fall short or more often really exceed their needs and are usually not very consistent.

Ultimately, I would love to do a cooking class for those that seem to have trouble eating the same bland foods and would likely be more consistent if they knew how to accurately track the meals they cook. Eating while tracking does not have to be boring. You do not have to eat chicken breast with rice and drink protein shakes for the rest of your life to see results. That is not a healthy way or a sustainable way to meet your goals.

No one said you can’t have Oreos, cake, cereal, peanut butter, alcohol, etc. you just have to realize that those things come with consequences. You are going to have to plan for those kinds of foods. This does not mean eating a boring lunch and supper to accommodate for such things, but knowing what substitutions to make and which recipes pair well with those type of foods. If you have been following along with me on this meal prep/planning blog, you can easily see that the food I cook is far from the boring/bland meals that most people think of when they envision meal prepping.


M E N U

Healthy Chicken Parmesan Kale Salad

Black Bean Tacos + Avocado Cilantro-Lime Sauce

Steak + Warm Asparagus Salad

Greek Chicken Traybake

Sweet Potato Fry Steak Salad + Blue Cheese Butter


Healthy Chicken Parmesan Kale Salad

I love salads like this during the summer. They are easy and light, which is great for the busy hot summer days. I certainly don’t want to spends hours in the kitchen during the summer to meal prep. Summer is an ideal time to test out some new go-to recipes! I will do a review next week.

The one con to salads like this is the lack of macros. It doesn’t seem like that would even be an issue, but when you have a very low calorie, low fat, high protein meal you will likely come up short on your goals after supper. The great part about that is, more snacks! You will need to plan out snacks or a great dessert to go with this meal. With Josh and I increasing our macros, we will definitely need something after this meal.

I am going to use chicken breast, not a rotisserie chicken and will add in some blueberries for flavor and a little extra carbs.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

Ingredients:
The salad
1 or 2 rotisserie chicken breasts, diced (or any chicken part you like)
*Chicken breast
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
*reduced fat parmesan cheese 
5–6 cups fresh kale, chopped very finely
 
The dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
*omit oil 
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Juice of one lemon
*1-2 lemons juiced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste

*add in blueberries, 1/2 cup per serving 

Black Bean Tacos + Avocado Cilantro-Lime Sauce

This is dish is originally intended to be meatless, but I need more protein than what the black beans provide. I used to use tilapia with this dish, but there was a huge tilapia scare about 3 years ago, so we stopped using it altogether. It was only “safe” to buy the fish from one certain place, so I quit making these and haven’t thought about them until Josh brought them up this past week. I had to scroll to the very bottom of my Pinterest board to find these.

To add protein to this dish we are going to use shrimp instead of fish. Fish is a great add-in, but we have been on a shrimp kick lately. I am going to use the same spices as I did on the zesty shrimp salad with the shrimp. It is the easiest little spice mix and tastes amazing.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

Ingredients: 
Two 15 oz. cans black beans
*1 can 
1 cup salsa
*Fresh salsa in the produce section 
1 tsp. cumin
Corn tortillas
*high fiber/low carb tortilla 
TOPPINGS OF CHOICE
Lettuce, tomato, onion, roasted red peppers, corn, avocado, cilantro, dairy-free cheese, etc.
*cilantro, lime
FOR THE CREAMY AVOCADO SAUCE 
1/2 ripe avocado 
*3 ounces 
3/4 cup cilantro (stems removed) 
Juice from 1 lime 
1 clove garlic 
1 Tbsp. olive oil 
*omit oil
1 tsp. agave (or other sweetener) 
*1/2 ounce honey 
1/8 tsp. salt 

2 pounds shrimp or meat of choice 
Zest of one lime and one lemon 
1/2 ounce honey 
olive oil spray 
2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder 
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Steak + Warm Asparagus Salad

I tried my best to find this Warm Asparagus Salad off of my Pinterest board but kept coming up empty-handed. I went back to my original post and somehow that linked worked. In my process of looking for the original recipe, I found some that were very similar that I could combine with this one and make a full meal!

This time I am going to leave off the egg, to lower the fat since we are going to have steak, and add in a few more vegetables to make it more filling.

I love this salad. It is so easy to make and is meal prep friendly. I usually skip the dressing because the runny egg and the bacon together make such a great flavor. If you don’t like a runny egg then I would suggest skipping the egg altogether and making the dressing. Since I am going to add some additional ingredients and will be skipping the egg, I am going to make the dressing.

I would cook all of this salad ahead of time and go ahead and peel my eggs too. You can always heat the asparagus back up in the oven on hi, broil. I have to reheat mine in the microwave at work for lunch the following day and am never displeased with the texture. Just don’t overcook the eggs when you are reheating them. Typically, I will leave those cold so I don’t risk losing the runniness.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

Ingredietnts:About 30 medium spears (3 bunches)
*10 spears per salad
Olive oil
*omit
6 rashers smoked bacon or pancetta
*bacon (0.5-1.0 ounce cooked per salad 
4 free-range eggs
*1 egg per salad
50g hazelnuts, toasted, chopped
*omit
For the dressing
1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
*omit
2 tablespoons olive oil
*omit
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons smooth French mustard 
*rosemary, salt, pepper

*add-in 
cherry tomatoes 
arugula 
cooked chicken breast

Greek Chicken Traybake

This is probably one of my favorite dishes to make. It is super easy to throw it all in one dish and just cook until the chicken is done. I love finding new recipes for chicken that have a ton of vegetables. I was pretty skeptical because I don’t cook much with artichoke hearts and have never been a fan of them on my pizza. Sometimes it just takes one ingredient to ruin a whole dish.

This dish was SUPER healthy and full of flavor. I stopped people to recommend it to them that are watching their calories. I don’t usually do that. I added rice to my meal because I do need the extra calories, but without the rice, it was the perfect “cut meal”. Make sure you try this one, it would be great for a large crowd and sure to please everyone!

*Changes I make to meet my macros

Ingredients 
1 red bell pepper cut into 2 inch pieces
1 yellow bell pepper cut into 2 inch pieces
*10-12 ounces total bell peppers
1 red onion cut into eighths
2 cups cherry tomatoes
*around 50 total tomatoes 
165 grams artichoke hearts
1 lemon
2 large chicken breasts, cut in half or 4 chicken thighs
*chicken breasts (3-4 for 4 servings)
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
*omit 
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2/3 cup black olives
*15 grams per serving
1/4 cup chopped feta (omit for Paleo/Whole30) 
*12-14 grams per serving nonfat feat crumbles

Sweet Potato Fry Steak Salad + Blue Cheese Butter

Not going to lie, this one is going to be a stretch on my fat. I might even go over…we shall see. I am going to try my best to adjust the ingredients to this so I don’t over-do it on my macros but still have a tasty meal.

Josh loves to challenge my macro cooking abilities, so lets hope I can deliver this time. I will make a few suggestions below but might end up making even more drastic changes as I am preparing it.

*Changes I make to meet my macros

Ingredients:
3 small-medium sweet potatoes, cut into matchsticks
*2-3 ounces cooked potato per serving
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
*spray olive oil 
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1 (8-10 ounce) ribeye steak or 1 1/2 pound flank steak
*sirloin steak
6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
*10-12 per serving 
1 avocado, sliced
*0.5-0.8 ounces per serving 
4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
*2 tablespoons 
3-4 ounces gorgonzola or blue cheese, crumbled
*reduced fat blue cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
*1 lemon juiced 
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoon honey
*1 ounce 
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
*1 tablespoon 
1 small shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
kosher salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

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