Eat Clean and Win Dinner without Breaking Sweat + giveaway  

Cooking is my thaaaaang! I’ve been going hard in the kitchen since 4rd grade, teaching myself how to make everything from buttery cinnamon muffins to tater tot casserole. Flash forward four decades and I’m still in full meal-making beast mode nearly every day. Although, this time as it all goes down a little “healthier” thanks to my role as a clean-eating cooking coach, corporate recipe developer and personal chef (haha) to my family with three teenage boys. Jennifer of The Fit Fork at Snap Kitchen

But sometimes this hardworking mama needs a break and that’s where Snap Kitchen saves the day for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time.  I can count on this convenient healthy meal shop to cure my hangries while keeping me on track with nutritious foods to fuel my running, workouts and active lifestyle. Read on to find out how you can make eating clean at every meal easy thanks to Snap Kitchen. Plus, I’m sharing some of my favorite tips for eating clean and having a giveaway for a $25 Visa Card so you can get your mouth on some of these meals yourself.

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Let’s Lunch! Smart Meal Prep Tips & Recipes #ReynoldsHeatandEat

Lunch, you gotta eat it no matter where you are – home, work, school, errands, gym, airplane. The issues getting in the way of my healthy lunch life are meeting up with friends who don’t have the same concerns about eating “food for function” as I do, finishing a workout that went well past noon and being so hangry that I could eat the entire Shake Shack on my way home, or being stuck on travel and having the only option be airport food. Note – I have a $25 Gift Card Giveaway at bottom of post. 

Lunch Meal Prep

However, I’ve found that with a little bit of front in effort I can prep my lunches in nice little containers for the week on Sunday – the payoff is obviously a healthier meal with ingredients approved by me, less crazy mornings gathering my grub up, and saving money – yes, saving money is good! It means I can pay all the high dollar fees for getting to and entering the races I love doing.

Meal Prepping Tips & Recipes for Lunch!

These are some basic tips that I use every week when putting together my meals and packing them up in to-go containers . If you’re a pro meal prepper, these tips may sound simple. But, if you’re new to the game of big batch cooking and assembly line prep, these useful ideas will help you get started!

Prep your protein.  The slow cooker and grill are my two go-to ways to prepare large batches of beef, chicken and pork for lunches (and dinners) through the week.   On Sunday morning, it’s so easy to stick huge roast or brisket in the Crock Pot and then walk away to enjoy the day. I use darn-big slow cooker (8-qt) so that I can make the most meat possible and have even been known to have two going at the same time! For the grill, Costco-sized trays of chicken or steaks not only are more economical to buy, but will hook you up for the entire week or month – depending on your family size. For fish, fill a rimmed, oiled baking sheet with your favorite filets or one huge piece of salmon and bake in the oven ‘til done!

Get your whole grains, beans & legumes going.  Brown rice, quinoa, and ancient grains hold up really well to making ahead of time and reheating later. Often, I find that pasta gets mushy during its second showing- not always though, whole wheat pasta holds up pretty well.  Use a large stock pot or rice cooker to get the job done efficiently – mine has a 20 quart capacity!   Another benefit of cooking a week’s worth of grains at once, less mess to clean up.

Switch up the sauces & mix-ins.  Often eating meal-prepped lunches can seem monotonous, choking down the same bland thing day after day. However, adding a small serving of sauce or handful of mix-ins is an easy way to transform the same old lunchbox staples into a wider range of flavorful meals – try pestos, Asian-inspired sauces, marinaras, salsas and so on! Even some fresh, no preservative salad dressings make a good option on hot and cold dishes. As for mix-ins, the little “extras” I rotate through include nuts, seeds, cheeses and dried fruits.

Use the right container.  If taking a salad for work, a large mason jar can be layered with ingredients. Keep the dressing on the bottom and delicate ingredients up higher, leaving a little headroom at the top so that you can shake it up right before eating.  I also like to take my soup in a mason jar, placing a layer of plastic wrap over the opening and under the lid to both help prevent leaking during transport and to serve as a splatter guard when reheating in the microwave – you don’t want to put that metal lid in there!  Hot meals can be reheated in a variety of containers, but I am partial to the Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers  (more deets below)– they hold a generous portion, are a great alternative to plastic and can be tossed in the trash so no messy containers to take home.  Store small portions of dressings, nuts, and cheese in baby mason jars, cleaned baby food jars, small plastic containers or snack-sized zip-bags.

Know your food safety rules.  When meal prepping for a week of lunches, remember most pre-cooked proteins and grains will only stay fresh for about 3 to 4 days in the fridge—I prep for Monday through Thursday and then do actually treat myself to lunch out on Friday! You can also prep your “plated” meal, or bigger bags of “ingredients” for assembly later, cool and place into appropriate freezer-storage containers – in the freezer, you can keep the quality for about 6 months.   I refer to this handbook of food storage safety tips from Real Simple magazine often.  If you can’t keep your lunch in the fridge at work, make sure you’re using icepacks than keep your food chilled until chow time.

Reynolds Heat and EAt disposable containers

As I mentioned, I am digging these Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers (I purchased mine at Walmart on the food storage aisle where you find foil, plastic bag, wax paper, etc.).  Available in two sizes, these toss-away lunch tubs are a great alternative to plastic and are made with plant fibers.  The clear lids allow you to see what you’re grabbing from the fridge, but need to be set aside during the reheating process. Reynolds Heat & Eat disposable container at Walmart

Reynolds Heat & Eat disposable ContainersCheck these out for yourself by picking up a pack of new Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat Containers at your local Walmart – found on the food storage aisle. They are very reasonably priced and you can even save an additional $1.00 on one pack of Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers with this coupon.

Here are some recipes to get you going:

roasted-tomatoes-in-turmeric-sauce“Go for the Gold” Turmeric Hummus  can be tossed with pasta or zucchini noodles for a healthy option to a creamy sauce – another perk is that there is also added protein.

 

 

Beef Blue Cheese Date Jar Salad is full of protein and Iron Super Iron Boosting Beef, Blue Cheese and Date Salad relies on pre-prepped sliced steak from the freezer (or freshly cooked) and layers up nicely in a jar for on-the-go lunching. I’ve even eaten this one in the car!

 

Maple Pecan Raisin Butternut Squash Quinoa - thefitfork.comMaple Pecan Butternut Quinoa is a delicious fall-inspired salad that can be taken to work or school and eaten warm or cold.  Here’s a little tip, double up when cooking the quinoa for this recipe and bag the rest in the freezer for easy dinners later.

 

Shrimp & Sugar Snap Pea SAlad with Lemon Gremolata easily packs into a lunchbox served cold.Shrimp & Snap Pea Pasta with Lemon Gremolata – This is another dish that is just as good cold as hot. If meal prepping for lunch, I always leave the delicate veggies raw so that when I reheat, they don’t become mushy!

 

 

 

 

15 minute Beef & Veggie Fried RiceBeef & Veggie Fried Rice: I typically use sirloin or flat iron steads for this one, but prepping to eat several days in a row, I will swap up the meats with chicken, shrimp or just simply extra scrambled eggs for protein variety.

 

Don’t forget to GET YOUR $1 OFF COUPON for Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers!

walmart-25-giveawayEnter giveaway for a change to win a $25 Walmart Gift Card so you can try Reynolds™ Disposable Heat & Eat containers yourself! Ends 10/20/2016 at Midnight CT.

Enter via Rafflecopter app below:

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Protein Timing for Endurance Athletes + Thermos® Shaker Bottle

Thermos Brand Shaker Bottle
Before I get on my soapbox about protein, let me tell you this post is sponsored by Genuine Thermos® Brand Shaker Bottle.  Of all the shaker bottles that have come and gone (quickly) my life, this one is a keeper and hands-down the best!  It’s made of safe materials, shatter-proof (important if you’ve seen some of my workouts), and resistant to leaks – the lid screws on tightly and there is actually a push-button release cap on the spigot!

Breaking up with these old shaker bottles wasn't hard to do!

Breaking up with these old shaker bottles wasn’t hard to do!

As one whom has spilled time and time again, over the front of my shirt, on the car upholstery and all inside my gym bag, this “leak proof” feature is a huge selling point with me. Anyway, Thermos®  is holding a giveaway for 10 of these very-impressive vessels – go here to enter! And read down to the bottom of the post where I have more deets on this must-have nutrition gear for the athlete. Now, onto the protein . .

PROTEIN TIMING FOR ENDURANCE ATHLETES — RUNNERS, TRIATHLETES, SWIMMERS, ULTRA MARATHONERS, OBSTACLE COURSE RACERS, MOUNTAIN BIKERS, ECO ADVENTURE TYPES, MUD RUNNERS, ROWERS, SKIERS — I’M TALKING TO YOU!

Timing IS everything, especially when it comes to protein and the endurance athlete. Not only does adequate protein consumption provide sustained energy for the day’s routine activities, it helps to rebuild muscle taxed by strenuous exercise, and makes it easier to maintain a lean body mass, even as we age.  I’m excited to share with you what I’ve learned over years of listening to and working with various experts on the topic and sharing the personal protein strategy I use to keep a low body fat percentage and fuel my performance as a runner and obstacle course athlete.

Jennifer Fisher - Beef Sirloin Steaks

What? Is this too much protein for one meal?

How much protein is enough or too much and how much do you eat? I get this question all the time. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound – that’s about 56 grams per day for the average non-active man or 46 grams per day for the average non-active woman. This RDA calculates out to about 10% of suggested daily caloric intake. You might be surprised to find out that the 45 to 56 g protein just mention is the equivalent of 6 to 8 ounces of a lean animal-based protein like chicken, fish or beef! However, the modest RDA was set a long time ago, during a time food rationing during war, and is widely considered by most nutritionists to be the minimum amount needed to keep from becoming malnourished and sick!  Today’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that we should be taking in from 10% to 35% of daily calories from various forms of protein, depending on our needs and activity levels.

Jennifer Fisher - Beef Team Elite Runner

Endurance athletes like marathon runners and triathletes need more protein than the average couch potato, and calories as well. Our busy bodies need protein to more efficiently process carbohydrates into quick fuel and to rebuild (and even grow) muscle. You can’t really eat too much protein, many dieters have had success on a high-fat, higher protein Keto diet. However, when it comes to protein, there is a point of diminishing returns for an athlete. Remember, the body can only process about 25 – 30 grams per meal or snack, regardless of your body size. Plus, when you up calorie intake from protein, proportionately speaking, calories from other areas have to give  — unless you want to gain weight. Plus, training high mileage with few carbs leaves you feeling sluggish and like you’ve got lead in your legs (trust me, I’ve tried). Even the author of fruit and grain-shaming The Paleo Diet broke down and admitted, in a the later-published The Paleo Diet for Athletes, that there is a need for certain carbohydrates in a training diet if optimal performance is the goal.

When should I eat my protein? I’ve seen some people talk about “front loading” protein in the morning to start of the day. Yes and no. Yes, you definitely should be eating protein right upon waking up. Muscles need to be fed; they’ve been in a complete fasting state for the last 8 hours or since the last meal. However, you don’t need more than 25 – 30 grams as previously mentioned; it won’t do you any good (unless you’re just eating it for taste or gains!).

Beef Egg Potato Bake Breakfast Casserole - TheFitFork.com

Start your day with 25 – 20 grams of protein!

Get my Barn-raiser Egg & Beef Bake recipe (above) which has been featured in Taste of Home magazine and on the Hallmark Channel “Home & Family Show”

The optimal plan for protein intake is to space it evenly throughout the day. Americans tend to “back load,” that is, eating it mostly at dinner!  A basic breakdown consists of protein at breakfast, lunch, dinner and possibly a post-workout snack and bedtime snack, depending on your needs. For super intense workouts, you may also consider protein intake with your carbs during actual exercise – protein helps to more quickly process carbs in the blood stream.

Most of us endurance athletes know by now that the optimal window for protein intake after a workout is within about 30 minutes, 60 minutes worst case scenario. Experts suggest that the carb to protein ratio of this recovery snack be 4g carb to 1g protein or 3 to 1.  So remember to bring along a protein bar, shake, nuts or some other protein-rich snack that can be consumed almost immediately after your sweat session.

A simple shake make with protein powder makes a great bed time snack. If you can tolerate milk, use it as your base -- dairy has special enzymes that help facilitate the job of protein while you sleep

Now, onto the bedtime snack. I eat from lights on to lights out! Eating before bed goes against the very rules of what your mother taught you. Curiously, I’ve always craved a protein snack about hour before my head hits the pillow – and was happy to find out I was actually doing my body a positive service. Much of our recover and muscle growth happens at night and it needs long-lasting fuel to do so. Experts say that dairy-based protein snacks are the best picks at night. Apparently, specific enzymes in dairy foods maximize the work load protein. That means my nightly Greek yogurt (or a protein shake made with milk) is a post-dinner winner!

jennifer fisher fit foodie run beef

 

A Fairly Common Protein Day for ME (Remember, it may vary for you):

  • Breakfast: 30g protein from eggs, mug muffin made with protein powder, or smoothie
  • Post-Workout Snack: 20g protein bar, peanut butter toast, protein powder and fruit shake
  • Lunch:  Salad with 30g protein from mixture of leftover meat, beans, etc.
  • Dinner: 25g protein from protein like sirloin steak, chicken breast, salmon with veggies on the side.
  • Bedtime Snack: 20g protein from plain Greek yogurt mixed with stevia and sprinkle of granola.
The Thermos Brand Shaker Bottle doesn't leak thanks to the push-button release cap!

The Thermos Brand Shaker Bottle doesn’t leak thanks to the push-button release cap!

So, back to the Genuine Thermos® Brand Shaker Bottle, its ideal for those protein shakes I’ve been mentioning for breakfast or post-workout recovery. Again, I love the leak-proof design, but also another feature that’s awesome about this shaker bottle is that it features an integrated yet removable stationary mixer that helps evenly blend beverages – no one wants to gag on unexpected protein clumps!  Also, I really appreciate the capacity markings along the side of the bottle – it helps me make my protein drink recipes without having to haul out measuring cups. Plus, it also keeps me aware of how much I’m drinking or not drinking, as the case may be!  Many times I need to see those tick marks reveal to know I’m staying hydrated and getting enough calories/protein for recovery.

 Specs for Genuine Thermos® Brand Shaker Bottle : It sells for about $14.99, holds 24 ounces, is clear with a gray/green lid, and measures 3.8” W x 3.4” D x 9.2” H  (and, yes, it fits in my car’s cup holder). Plastic is BPA-free, impact-resistant and impervious to absorbing odors of flavors from past beverages. And (yay), its dishwasher –safe!

shaker bottle thermos contest

Enter for chance to be one of ten randomly selected winners of in the Genuine Thermos® Brand Shaker Bottle Giveaway! Head over to the Thermos® Facebook page for entry details.

And, don’t miss out on a thing – follow Thermos® on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for exclusive updates and product information.

whole foods gift cardAdditionally, I’m personally hosting a giveaway for a $25 gift card to Whole Foods so you can buy some yummy, nourishing ingredients to put in your ShakerBottle

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