Get In Your Veggies! Without Having to Hide Them

I am so excited about spending March focusing on nutrition.  Are you Ready to Be…MindFULL of Nutrition?  Does that scare you a bit?  Do you ever wonder HOW MUCH produce you need?

I turned to Choose My Plate as a great resource for this. Check out their website here.

General guidelines have women ages 31-50 needing about 1.5 cups of fruit daily. This is for women who get less than 30 minutes of exercise daily so it can be increased if you are more active!  In case you’re wondering – children ages 4-8 also need about 1- 1.5 cups of fruit a day.  You can check this chart for more on what a cup of fruit looks like depending on the type!

For veggies, women ages 31-50 need 2.5 cups of veggies daily (again this is for women who get 30 minutes or less exercise each day so it can be increased with increased activity).  Children need 1.5 cups (ages 4-8).  If you want more on this or for other recommendations based on kids age and gender check here).  This page also has a really cool chart based on how many veggies per week you need from each sub group – kinda cool!

Please note these recommendations are generalizations and can change based on other factors!  

So we know we need them….how do we do it?  This is where my great friend Valerie from Nalls Produce.  Valerie is a great resource for all things veggies and produce.  Our family LOVES OUR CSA  with Nalls but it can be tough sometimes to figure out HOW to get the veggies in.  But Valerie never fails to help  – check out her NINE tips I love her involvement in the community and her desire to bring healthy meals to our homes:

Valerie shares:

You want to eat more fresh veggies. You really do. You want to have a crisper that is full of vegetables that you know are good for you and your family, and you want to USE them. You want children that won’t turn up their noses at cabbage steaks. YOU don’t want to turn your nose up at cabbage steaks. But you know that pureeing butternut squash every other day to include in your mac and cheese is not realistic either.

Most of us with moderate to low levels of willpower, children, and responsibilities, the “want” is not enough. New habits are really hard to create. Period.  But you WANT to, right? Try these tricks to make it happen!

    1. Write down your goals. Make them quantifiable and specific. Just saying “I want to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit” is not enough. To be quantifiable and specific you need to say something like “ I want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables with dinner at least 4 nights a week for the next 30 days”. This gives you a specific number that you can measure. The 30 days part – of course you will want to extend this habit beyond the 30 days, but your brain can better handle the challenge of achieving this goal if there is a set end point. At the end of 30 days you will want to look back and evaluate your performance and set a new goal for the next 30 days.
    2. Track your progress Make a chart with 120 circles on it and color in the circle every time you have a fresh veggie with dinner. Place this chart where you can see it every day and have written on it “Fresh Fruits & Veggies with Dinner 4x weekly for 30 Days”. Marking off the circles is a fun way to get your kids involved, too!
    3. Prepare yourself for success!  Stock your kitchen with enough fresh veggies to make this happen. If you come home in the evening late on a weekday and you have no fresh veggies in your kitchen, it is going to be hard to make it happen that night. Buy enough to have plenty on hand.
    4. Buy plenty!   See trick number 3. Also, most of us have a compelling need to not waste food. If you have an abundance of fresh produce but you know it is going to go bad soon, you are more likely to hurry up and use it.
    5. Try new recipes!  If you enjoy playing in the kitchen, find new recipes to experiment with. It can get you excited to play around with new ingredients!
    6. Repeat winning recipes!  There is nothing wrong with knowing you love roasted cauliflower and incorporating it regularly into your meal planning. A veggie eaten is a veggie eaten, it doesn’t have to be a new, exotic, exciting recipe to “get credit”
    7. Reverse plan your meals!  Instead of thinking “What’s for dinner?” think backwards. “I want my dinner to include cabbage, so I will make cabbage steaks. Kielbasa goes well with that, and I will add whole wheat dinner rolls to finish the meal” This works even better when you have the veggies on hand. “I want to use this cabbage — what can I make? Oh, cabbage steaks, plus kielbasa and rolls”.
    8. Grow your own!  Tomatoes and peppers are fairly easy to grow, even for those of your with self-proclaimed “Black Thumbs”. If you have grown the veggies yourself, you won’t want them to go to waste. You will have pride in your accomplishments and will be eager to reap the rewards! Visit a independent garden center, they can get you set up to handle a few plants successfully, even if you have your doubts.
    9. Join a CSA!  Many farms or produce shops offer packages of pre-selected produce on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, or CSAs. They will include a variety of items that are in-season and ready to eat. This forces you to try new things, based on what you receive that week, fills your crisper, and, best of all, forces you to use it relatively quickly. You know that you are receiving another share soon, and you will need the space in your refrigerator.  Hopefully you can try these methods and get some more fresh produce into your diet easily! Sometimes it’s best to just think about ways to manipulate your brain and thought process rather than just thinking about the desired outcome!

Ahh – these tips are great. I specifically love the idea of setting specific goals and CHARTING them. That makes it fun for the family and makes your progress tangible.  Thanks so much Valerie for sharing with us.

Valerie Nalls is the manager of Nalls Produce, 50+ year old family operated garden center and fresh produce shop in Alexandria Virginia. Learn more about the Nalls CSA program at


A Food Scale and Meal Prep

PrintSo this is my newest purchase at the recommendation of my good friend Corry from Maxx Muscle. This little thing only cost me $20 but blew my mind when I weighed out my chicken. I was way under eating how much I thought 4 ounces truly was.  No wonder I was hungry after lunch. It is easy to use and make sure that you are getting the right amount of protein. Thank goodness Corry recommended I get this!

Notice the big bowl of chicken?  That is part of my favorite meal prep idea! Here is how it works:

Wake up Sunday morning and stumble downstairs. Turn on coffee.  Eat breakfast.

Pull out the crock pot and two packs of frozen chicken breast from Costco. Place in crock pot, submerge in water, turn on high.

Fast forward through craziness of getting kids out the door and to church.

Come home. Chicken shreds just by picking it up. We have hot quesadillas for lunch and I have a bowl of shredded chicken for lunches and busy week nights.

This week I added a step and went ahead and portioned out 5 bags of four ounces of shredded chicken for my lunches.  One less thing to think about.

So my advice this week?

  1.  Weigh your food to really check your portion.
  2. Cook some chicken so you can always have a quick meal!

Do you have a meal prep secret?!? I’d love to hear it!

Meal Planning with a Large Family – Part One

I am so excited to welcome Jennifer to our blog this weekend. Jennifer is mom to 5 incredible children. I have known for a long time (let’s just say we have some pics of us playing pretend chef on a Strawberry Shortcake stove). So isn’t it funny that here we are, sharing tips on how to cook for our families. I am intrigued by her organization, strength, and beauty as a mom. I want to know how she does it – how does she manage her house when I can barely manage my two? So I asked her. The response I got was too good to keep to myself. For the next three nights get ready to learn how she:
1. Creates her meal plans for the week
2. Stays on top of her working grocery list
3. Saves time and money in the kitchen

So tonight, let’s hear about her meal planning strategies. Now of course, as a member, she has access to all the meal plans on the site but she has a great system for creating her own and for expanding on what is provided. I love that she has been doing this and I am learning from her as well!

“When Laura asked me to do a post on Large Family Meal Planning, I laughed. I have been meal planning for years, but I am always learning. So, that wasn’t the funny part. The funny part was I don’t consider myself to be in a large family. My husband and I only have 5 kids. Large families have 10 or more kids, right? ☺
Ok, so how do I meal plan for 7 people? Well, very much the same way you would meal plan for 2 or 4 people. Typically, I plan 1 to 2 weeks at a time. I have a Master Breakfast List, a Master Lunch List, and a Master Supper/Dinner List. I get all three lists out and a calendar or paper where I have written the date and the three meals for each day. (Using Laura’s Meal Planning Guide makes this part easy.)

I fill in any special meals. For instance, we ate supper at my parent’s house last night. So, instead of writing a meal at the Dinner slot I wrote “Grandma’s House.” After filling all things in like that for the next 2 weeks I start back with breakfast.

I like variety. I take my Master Breakfast List (it contains all the breakfasts that we eat, nothing fancy, no recipes, just titles) and one by one plug them into the schedule, trying not to double until they have all been used once. I put easy ones on days we will be in a hurry.

Then I move to Lunch and repeat what I did with breakfast using my Lunch Master List.

Dinner is a bit different. Currently, I’m revamping how I do it so I’ll just throw it out there. I like to rotate between meats. Example-chicken on Monday, Beef on Tuesday, Crockpot on Wednesday, Pork on Thursday, Fish on Friday, etc. Wednesday and Sunday must be super easy and quick clean up due to the schedule of the rest of the day.

Ok, so recap. Four Master Lists. Master Breakfast, Master Lunch, Master Supper and Master Pantry (we’ll cover that tomorrow!). Do not be afraid. I started with just the Master Supper List and it evolved over time to this. So, after all that, making my shopping list is easy. I get my meal plan and recipes out. I go meal by meal writing the ingredients I need to buy that I do not already have. “

So one thing I love is the way Jennifer has a meal plan schedule (consistent things for specific days). I do that too and it really does help.

Thanks for sharing Jennifer and I look forward to tomorrow when we talk about your master pantry list!

Meal Prep – Great Places to Start

Today I just wanted to give you some ideas of places you can start meal prepping. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing (have I said that enough!?!)  So think about some little things you could prep this week to make your life easier next week.

Snacks that you can bulk prep might includes:

  • almonds (portion out 12-24 in a bag and have them ready to go)
  • steam edamame and portion in bags
  • wash and cut fruit
  • wash and cut veggies
  • hard boiled eggs

Breakfasts that you might bulk prep:

Lunch ideas:

  • use the meal plan that has the jar lunches (the on the go meal plan)
  • increase portion size at dinner so you have left overs for lunch for the entire week
  • use the left over lunches meal plan from the website so you have lunch for each day without any extra prepping!

Hope these ideas help you pick a meal prepping place to start.


Meal Prep Breakfast

poppersI’m going to share a trick today on how I prep breakfast for the week. We have Sunday night as breakfast for dinner in our house.  The kiddos love having pancakes and eggs for supper and I have to admit so do I. The best part is – I can double up and have breakfasts ready for the week without having to dirty any extra dishes.  One thing that we have discovered and utilized a ton lately is the pancake popper.

In order to have a healthy pancake mix on hand, I prepare this bulk whole wheat pancake mix and keep it in my pantry. Then, on Sunday nights, I have exactly what I need – whole wheat healthy pancakes. All I have to do is scoop out one cup, add one cup milk (we use almond), and 1 egg.  If you want to keep it vegan, you can use ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce instead of the egg.  So this makes a good portion of pancakes for our actual meal.

To prep breakfast, I mix up another batch of batter with the scoop of bulk mix, egg, and milk and go ahead and pour those into the mini muffin pans to make the poppers. While we are eating those little babies are cooking.  I take them out, let them cool, and then place 4 in a ziplock bag (my kids usually eat two a piece for breakfast with eggs and a piece of fruit), and pop in the freezer.  The morning I am going to eat them, I pull them out of the freezer then microwave for about 20 seconds a piece.

This is an easy way to get in a good fun dinner and prep a bunch of breakfast.

Happy prepping my friends!



Meal Prepping and Stocking the Freezer


Let’s talk today about MAKING AHEAD AND FREEZING one dish for that busy / crazy / hectic time of day!!

So how does it work?
1) The easiest way… as you are preparing a meal, simply double it. Freeze the leftovers!

2) The night before you want to use it, simply put it in the fridge to defrost (or if it’s a crockpot meal, defrost it a bit and stick it in your crockpot mostly frozen (adjust the cook time for a little longer time)).

I do this with the unstuffed pepper soup. I make a huge batch in the crockpot, then I have it for dinner, save some for lunch for the next day or two and freeze the rest.  When I am ready for an easy meal one night, I have a serving in my freezer ready to go.

Alright, let’s talk goals for this week!! Pick ONE recipe to add to your freezer to use later!

Do you have a recipe you can double this week?

Here’s also another great resource I found with some good ideas:


Meal Prep – Where to Start

I think when we talk about meal prepping, we can get overwhelmed.  It may seem like we just don’t know where to start. How are we going to have time to chop up all those veggies and fruits and make perfect little containers and …you fill in the rest. Ok friend – take a deep breath. It doesn’t have to look the same for everyone.

Let’s start with a few things:

1) What is your busiest / most hectic / most hurried meal time of the day (B, L, D or snack time)?

2) What do you currently eat during those times?

3) How can you make a few time saving healthy swaps to make that time easier?

Once you have picked your craziest time of day, THAT WILL BE YOUR FOCUS THIS WEEK. It is overwhelming to try and overhaul everything, and realistically, it leads to failure because it’s impossible to maintain everything in a state of chaos. SO. Start in ONE place.

For me, when I first started clean eating I picked after snacks.We were always on the go to a play ground or something and I was always grabbing prepackaged snacks (chewies, granola bars, crackers).  Maybe your craziest time is dinner because everyone is tired and cranky?

So for this first week let’s say you are going to commit to making small changes at dinner time. Maybe that is the time of day that needs the most attention. THAT IS ALL YOU’RE FOCUSING ON THIS WEEK.

Then write out 3 goals for this week:

1) I am going to FIRST start by planning my meals + writing them on my meal plan for the week. I will post this plan on my refrigerator. I will stick to the plan AT LEAST 3 of the 5 nights.
2) I am going to chop veggies ahead of time. I will chop some sweet potatoes to roast and veggies for salad.
3) I am going to have one quick + easy meal on hand for a crazy night (probably supplies to make pita pizzas and salad).

If snack time is hard your goals may look like this:

1) I am going to pick 3 snacks to bulk prep this week.

2) I am going to pick one afternoon and make all three snacks.

3) I will have a healthy alternative on hand for days when I need to grab and go (almonds, cottage cheese, fruit)


So, let’s all brainstorm together. Please share with us your busiest time of day + your goals for the week!