5 Ways to Stay Healthy, Even at Your Busiest

I feel like I say this every time I’ve written lately, but life has gotten really busy.

I thought that cutting out a night of dodgeball each week would free up extra time in my weeknights, but in true Katie fashion, I’ve really just used it as an excuse to take on more non-dodgeball activities. My evenings seem to fill up with meetings, appointments, trips to my parents house to do laundry…..and sometimes a girl just needs to hit up happy hour after a long day.

Between work and after-work meetings (slash the aforementioned happy hours 😉 ), I often find myself arriving home after being out of the apartment for 10-12 hours and immediately plopping down on the couch to zone out while staring at the wall to give my brain – and body – a break. Ain’t nobody got time (or energy) to make dinner after a day like that!

Don’t get me wrong — I love my job and I love being busy. However, I also love feeling good about my body and what I’m putting in it. And to be honest, I don’t know that I can say I do right now. I’ve been struggling to find a balance between the two — being busy and being healthy — and I think my lack of substantive updates on the blog probably reflects that struggle.

To give myself some credit, I have been keeping up with my workouts – I still run 3x per week and ran 70 miles in April (which was the same # of miles that I ran in January and February, when I was training for my half marathon). I do strength training 1-2x per week, and I’ve been organizing weekend practices with my Ultimate Frisbee team…

However, I’ve also eaten cheese & crackers and/or french fries for dinner most nights this week.

In the spirit of keeping myself in check, and inspiring others to do the same, I’ve come up with a list of 5 tips for surviving the hectic workweek while still keeping a healthy lifestyle. As always, I’m hoping that writing this down for the world to see will help me be inspired to practice what I preach. That has yet to be seen, but at least I’m trying, right?

1) Break up the day with an actual lunch break

This is one that I could definitely work on. On the days these past weeks where I actually exit my office for at least 30 minutes for some kind of break in the middle of the day, I always end up feeling the most energized. That 2pm feeling of dread and desperation for coffee doesn’t exist on days that I actually see some sunlight or take a walk in the middle of the day. And chances are, if I’m not feeling bored/exhausted, I’m not as likely to dig in to the snack cabinet in the kitchen for a pick me up, either!

2) Eat 3 full meals

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Actually making sure you have 3 solid meals throughout the day is a big help in keeping you energized and also ensuring that you’re taking care of yourself. Of course, for me this is easiest when I do meal prep on the weekends (see above) and have stuff to grab in the morning for nutritious breakfasts and lunches. But making sure you don’t skip a meal is so clutch! I might try to rationalize a crackers & cheese meal as “hey I’m getting my protein AND my carbs!”….but we all know that’s a stretch 😉

3) Get up and move when you can

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I get it…Not everyone is gonna wake up at 6:30am to run 5 miles (and of course take a pre-run #workoutselfie that they then snapchat to all their friends).

If you can, great. But if not, there are other ways to stay active throughout the week that don’t involve your typical workout: Bike to work! Take a break to walk around your office building. Walk to lunch! I always feel like I’m more active on the days I walk to work, even if biking is a “tougher” workout. If you have the option, it’s nice to be able to spend your commute taking a relaxing walk and listening to music instead of struggling to get through traffic. That’s gotta be a good thing, right?

4) Swap out the junk food for healthier snacks

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If you need snacks to get you through the day…Make sure they’re good ones! Luckily, my office keeps some pretty healthy snacks in our breakroom. Pretzels, cashews and almonds…not too shabby! However, I’m pretty sure even the healthy fats in cashews and almonds lose their nutritional value when you have 5+ handfuls throughout the day. I try to buy baby carrots and other random fruits to snack on instead of fatty nuts. BUT I do love me some cashews…old habits die hard.

5) Most importantly….Don’t beat yourself up if you have an off day.

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If you have a rough ass day at work and you want to just come home and have a drink with some chocolate and cheese…Then by all means, just do it. If you snoozed through your workout this morning after yesterday’s stressful late night at work, don’t turn down pizza night with your friends because you can’t afford the calories today.

Being hard on yourself just contributes to the stresses of life. Of course it’s great to have a regular fitness routine, and eat healthy…but we often forget that treating ourselves right emotionally is just as important.

It’s all about finding a balance.

Have a great weekend! Check back next week for a budget update 😀

 

How do you manage stress at work/school? I like taking at least one day out of the week to clean my room and paint my nails – those are my 2 relaxation activities!

What is an indulgence you never feel guilty about? I think having a glass of wine or 1 beer at the end of the day is one of the best things about being a working adult.

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Lunch Lately & A Super Easy Taco Bowl Recipe

Before I get to pictures of my lunches lately, a few PSA’s:

I announced a winner of my Food Should Taste Good giveaway! Was it you?

Remember my Muesli Protein Bars? They were selected to be a finalist in the Muesli Fusion Recipe Contest! Please click here to go to the Facebook Poll and vote for me! All you have to do is click “Muesli Protein Bars — Blonde Ambition Blog”. First place AND runner up get a prize! Thank you so much to everyone who has already voted!

Ahem. Back to our regularly scheduled programming 😉

Last month when I went to Park City to attend Blend Retreat, I often found myself the recipient of the question, “So what is your blog about?” In fact, I get this question a lot in everyday life. I think most people expect me to say that I think I’m some gourmet foodie, or that I make really elaborate dishes. The truth is, this blog is about making healthy living seem more accessible to busy twenty-somethings (or even just busy people in general!).

Now, I get that when I say “healthy living”, the image that comes to mind is someone who must be 100% preservative-free, organic-only, homegrown, or following the ever so trendy gluten-free diet. (“I’m pretty sure gluten is just anything that is bad for you” hahaha Seth Rogen in This Is the End) But I know that’s unrealistic for most people, myself included.

For me, one of the most important aspects of healthy living is limiting my meals out each week — especially lunch. There aren’t a lot of healthy options close to my work, and salads get old fast. So I aim to prep food on Sundays, or even throughout the week when I have time in the evening, so that I have quick grab-and-go meals to bring for lunch. On days that I’m not working out at lunch, I sometimes have time to bike home and cook a quick meal. I suppose that’s a luxury of living only 7 blocks away from my office 😉

But there are plenty of days when I have to grab an “emergency” burrito out of the freezer, or grab a salad or sandwich from La Bou. And that’s okay! I try to abide by the 80-20 ratio…80% good healthy eats, 20% indulgence. So if I go out to eat or mack on a frozen burrito one day out of the week, that’s not so bad.

Here’s what I’ve been making lately!

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My Lemony Rice & Spring Veggies – perfect for a non workout day, but could work for a workout day too…just add chicken!

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There was one week where I spent about 20 minutes on Monday night cooking up a few sausages and peppers, and had lunch for 3 days. One day I ate them on a tortilla with broccoli, another day with bread like a sandwich. Very versatile!

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Salad is super quick to put together either the night before or in the morning. This one had romaine lettuce, beets, broccoli, and bell peppers…I think some pinto beans were hiding in there too. Make or store your dressing in a mason jar and add when you’re ready to eat!

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You wouldn’t think so, but pasta is actually a great quick meal to make in the morning to bring to work…Especially if you use spaghetti (which cooks quicker than most pasta). Just cook the spaghetti, toss in some veggies like broccoli and kale, plus a squeeze of lemon and some parm…And you have a perfectly portable meal! Plus, the hot spaghetti will wilt the veggies.

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On days when I have time to go home and make lunch, my meals typically look like this. A bunch of sauteed veggies with a side of avocado toast. Can you tell there were beets in this stir fry? Haha.

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evol Burritos are probably my favorite frozen burrito. It doesn’t hurt that Grocery Outlet has been selling them $1 off for a good 2 months now 😉 They are a little heavy on the tortilla, but I read that evol recently took that feedback and changed their recipe to include smaller tortillas. This must be why Grocery Outlet has so many – getting rid of the old product! My favorite is the Bean, Rice & Cheese.

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Now that I’ve totally inspired you to make your own lunch everyday… 😉 Here’s a recipe for an easy lunch (and what I’ve been eating for lunch this week! These Chicken Taco “Bowls” are easy and quick to put together (you basically just layer the ingredients in a bowl/tupperware) and are a really hearty meal. They’re easily customizable, too, so if you don’t like the ingredients I included, sub in whatever you want! I made these Monday night in about 30 minutes, providing me with two grab and go lunches this week!

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Chicken Taco Bowls
makes 2 bowls (but is easily doubled!)

1 large chicken breast
juice of one lime
salt & pepper
chile powder
cumin
garlic powder
oil, for sauteing

1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup black beans, drained
1 small summer squash
1 handful baby kale (if you use regular kale, you will probably want to cook it a bit with the squash. Baby kale is much more tender)

Combine chicken breast with lime juice and spices in a plastic bag. Squish around all the spices to make sure chicken is coated. Let sit while you prepare remaining ingredients. Cook rice according to package directions if not already cooked. Drain and rinse black beans, and cut squash into half moons.

Heat saute pan over medium-high heat. Add desired amount of oil, turning the pan to coat. Add marinated chicken to pan. Cook about 6 minutes, then turn. Once you have turned the chicken, add the squash. Cook an additional 6 minutes or until chicken is done, stirring the squash occasionally. Remove from heat and let chicken rest on a cutting board while you assemble the bowls.

In two tupperware containers, layer ingredients: 1/2 cup beans, 1/4 cup rice, small handful of kale, and half of the squash. When chicken is cooled, cut into cubes and evenly split between the two tupperwares. You’ll notice the heat from the squash and chicken will wilt the kale, eliminating the need to cook it separately. Store in fridge until needed, and microwave for about 1:30 on high before eating. Eat alone, or with a tortilla!

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20130619-092507.jpgWhat is your go-to lunch at work?

How often do you eat out during the week?

Meatless Monday: End of Summer Skillet

Living in an urban area with no car, you’d think I wouldn’t know how to make myself a good meal very often.

That’s the whole point of city livin’ when you’re young, right? Carrie Bradshaw never cooked. Her dinner always consisted making reservations at a swanky restaurant for a romantic dimly lit dinner date at that week’s hottest new restaurant with Mr. Big or a New York Yankee.

Not that Sacramento is anything like New York City or Chicago or even San Francisco, but hey. It’s not hard to eat out every night when you live within walking distance of half a dozen fairly nice restaurants.

My goal each week is to avoid that trap.

It’s not easy to make meals from scratch every night. I would be lying to you if I told you I did. But I do buy fresh produce from the market (or my parent’s backyard) (or from a box) every week, and it makes a huge difference in my meals. With fresh meat and produce, you can go a long way… especially with the help of Trader Joe’s:

I got most of my groceries from TJ’s in college, but there aren’t very any that are conveniently close to me now (why wait for a ride when I can walk 4 blocks to Safeway?). TJ’s makes it easy to make meals at home. Pre-made sauces, actually appetizing microwave meals, you name it. When I was in SF a couple weekends ago, I stopped in Berkeley on the way back for coffee and chit chat with my long time friend Briana, and was stoked to see she lives right above the amazing Trader Joe.

I picked up some Luna bars, some cookie butter-stuffed dark chocolate, and their Harvest Grain Blend. This stuff is really good — a mix of Israeli couscous, orzo, mini garbanzo beans, and red quinoa — and though it would be fine on its own, it lends itself perfectly to a 20-something who needs a quick dinner, but wants to add their own personal culinary flair too.

This recipe isn’t so much of a recipe as it is a challenge. I challenge you to buy the Harvest Grain Blend…or some other grain you’ve never tried before…and add whatever you want to it! Add your favorite veggies! Or your favorite sauce! I added the last of my parent’s summer garden veggies. I served it with chicken to my parents. Add whatever you want, just add something. Gone are the days that being 20-something means take-out every night. Free yourself! And your wallet 🙂

Now I will get up off my soapbox and just show you all the recipe already.

End of Summer Skillet
serves 2-3 as a side dish

1 Cup Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend (or grain of choice — Israeli couscous, orzo pasta, barley, rice, etc)
olive oil
1/2 small onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 zucchini
1/2 bell pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 small tomato
1 tsp dried basil
s&p

Prepare grain blend per package instructions. While it’s cooking, dice all veggies to a similar size and shape (except tomatoes). Set aside cooked grains when finished.

In a somewhat large skillet on medium heat, heat olive oil and add onions and garlic. Cook until translucent. Add zucchini and bell pepper and cook until slightly soft. You don’t want to fully cook it yet, but you want there to at least be some brown bits on the pan. When this happens, add white wine and use spatula to deglaze the pan. Let the wine bubble until much of the liquid has evaporated.

While your other veggies are bubbling, chop the tomatoes to your preferred size, making sure to reserve the juices. Once most of the white wine liquid has evaporated in the pan, add in both the cooked grain as well as the tomatoes, tossing to make sure everything is coated.

Cook until heated through, and add basil, salt & pepper to taste.