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Baby Step #3: Get Rid of the Bad Stuff and Snack Well!

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Close your eyes and imagine yourself only eating real, whole foods that are good for you. Flavorful vegetables, succulent meat, fresh fish, creamy avocados, crunchy nuts, sweet fruit, etc. Seems pretty easy, right?

Now open your eyes. Look around you. You can probably walk or drive less than a half mile and see a fast food ad campaign, neon-signed chain restaurant, or a ‘convenience’ store filled with processed junk that is parading around, looking like food. All of these things are bad for you. And you already know that. But, all of the sudden, for some weird reason, you are drawn to them. You want them. You crave them.

All healthy habits are EASY to stick to, unless you’re battling with the temptation of the unhealthy habits. That’s because most of us are literally addicted to eating unhealthy foods that we’ve been eating for our entire lives. Sugars that are found in all processed foods and desserts cause out bodies and brains to have chemical reactions similar that mimic that of a response to opiates. ( So consider this your intervention). Baby Step #3 is to get rid of the bad foods in your house. All of them!

Does your snack drawer look like this?

So what do you do? You do all that you can to minimize your exposure to the ‘bad things’. Since we’re taking baby steps here, let’s just start with your own kitchen. If you’re making an effort to eat only whole foods, then you shouldn’t have ANY non-whole foods in the house. Makes sense right? A person trying to quit cigarettes probably wouldn’t have much success if they kept a pack in their drawers or on their counter tops. The same idea applies to you and your food.

A proper burial

So our suggestion is to raid your fridge, pantry, drawers, ‘secret junk food stash’, desk drawers, and remove all of the non-foods. Be honest with yourself, and remember to check all labels on questionable items ( ingredients that you can’t pronounce are probably not whole foods, or good for your body). This process should feel liberating, simplifying, and a little overwhelming. Step away from the pantry, breathe, and realize that this is the first step to really making a radical change to the way you think about food. The word “food”, in your future, will be defined as something perishable, locally grown if possible, grassfed (meats), and unprocessed.

You may think that your pantry is bare, and subsequently wonder what you’ll be able to buy in order to fill it up again. Since most real foods don’t have a long shelf life at room temperature,  your fridge should become your new pantry – the place you go to first thing in the morning, when you are preparing for dinner, and when you want a tasty snack.

A "Real Foods" Fridge

If your bare pantry looks a little depressing, try cheering it up with a few minimally or non-processed foods such as Larabar, almond or sunflower seed butter, canned fish, raisins, and all-natural,  low sodium chicken broth. They are the closest thing to fresh real foods as you can get, and they are great options for ‘on the go’ snacks. ( Not the broth – save that for soup, silly!)

A Happy Pantry. (Notice the lack of crappy foods)

Now that the bad stuff is gone, you can clear your head, go food shopping for all real foods, find new recipes, and start making food that you body was actually designed to eat!

Here are a few suggestions for Real Food snacks to keep in the house. Keeping foods like these on hand will make it simple to avoid making excuses.

Hardboiled Eggs

High Quality Turkey Breast from the deli counter

Cooked Spaghetti Squash

Boiled Sweet Potatoes with cinnamon



Fruit  (just one piece per day)

Beef Jerky (check out Steve’s Original)

Guacamole ( eat with cucumber chips)

Kale Chips (bake kale in the oven with some olive oil on baking sheet until crispy)


Roasted Squash, Zucchini and Eggplant with seasonings

Chicken Salad (boil the chicken, drain, add olive oil, a bunch of chopped up veggies, some raisins, and some finely chopped almonds)

Tuna (straight from the can, with some olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes)


Homemade Salsa

Bacon and veggies

Smoked Salmon

Pulled pork, chicken, or beef ( cook in slow cooker and pull apart)

Bottom line is that if you replace all of the Bad Stuff in your kitchen with Good Stuff, you’ll find it next to impossible to eat badly, make a bad decision, or to panic and get fast or fast(er) food.

Hope this has helped!

Please comment below if you’ve had success with this ‘clean out the pantry/desk/drawers/fridge’ method.

Posted in Nutrition Articles | Tagged | 8 Comments

Baby Step #2, Pack Your Lunch

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Your baby step #2 for eating and feeling better is to PACK YOUR LUNCH. Every single day. Just like you did when you were a kid. It wasn’t very hard to do back then, and it’s even easier now. Now that you’ve got a few healthy recipes under your belt, making lunches will be a breeze! Here are a few tips for making sure that brown bagging it is ALWAYS the cheaper, easier, and healthier choice.

Cook For An Army: Double or triple the portions of food you make for dinner, so you always have a reserve for the next day. Lunches are exactly like dinners – they should include a lean meat, a vegetable, and some good fat. So why not just take your dinner to work and call it lunch? It’s a no-brainer and requires minimal extra time, since you’re already cooking.


One man's leftovers are another man's lunch

Buy a slow cooker and Use it Weekly: CrockPot Slow cookers are cheap and require minimal culinary expertise. Let’s make Sunday your slow cooker day. Every Sunday at some point during the day or evening, follow these easy steps and you’ll have no excuse on Monday morning.

1. Buy a big chunk of meat. Brisket and pork roasts are two of our favorites.

2. Spice the meat as necessary (pepper, garlic powder, mustard powder, paprika, chili powder and coriander are all great together)

3. Put the meat in the slow cooker with some liquid (red wine or low sodium broth work well) or if it has a decent amount of fat on it, then omit the liquid. Turn the slow cooker on, and walk away.

4. About 6 hours later, follow your nose to the amazing aroma in your kitchen and your meat will be cooked to perfection.

Keep a Full Pantry/Fridge: Your food choices should happen at the grocery store, not on your lunch break as you drive past countless fast food places and chain restaurants, or while you’re standing in front of a plate of cookies your coworker made. If you make an effort to buy MORE food on your weekly shopping trip, you’ll never be at a loss for a healthy snack or addition to your lunch while you’re at work. Bad food decisions are usually make in moments of desperation and intense hunger. If you always keep good food handy, you’ll never need to make another bad decision.


That’s our fridge!

Multi-Task: It’s as easy as boiling water. Literally. Just take a a few big pots, fill them each 3/4 of the way with water and put something into them. Hardboiled eggs (8 min), sweet potatoes (12-15 minutes), Chicken thighs (10 min), or broccoli (5 minutes, very little water) are great options. Remove from water and season. Some quickies:

1. Slice up your hardboiled eggs and add avocado, chopped onion and Frank’s Red Hot.

2. Sprinkle cinnamon on your sweet potatoes

3. Shred the chicken thighs and put jarred sun-dried tomatoes or pesto and olive oil on them.

Go Semi-Homemade: If your culinary creativity is failing you, or time seems to be moving extra fast on a particular morning, leaving you with few options for an entire meal, then consider bringing something from home and supplementing with something from a local supermarket or deli. For instance, bring a bunch of grilled chicken from home, and add it to a Greek or garden salad from the local deli. Or bring last night’s vegetable leftovers and add some meat from the hot bar at Whole Foods, lunch meats from the deli counter (ask for the brand with the least preservatives), or tuna straight from the can with a little olive oil.

And there you have it. Great suggestions for helping you take Baby Step #2. After reading this post, go back and re-read it, take notes if necessary, and implement what you’ve learned immediately. You’ll feel good that you did, and you’ll officially have no excuse for not being able to pack a lunch for yourself every single day.

What did you think? Was this post helpful? How does your current lunch differ from these options? What is one thing you will do today to help bring you closer to packing a lunch daily? Use your success stories to support the newbies, the non-cooks, and people who have never made their own lunch. Comment below!

Posted in Nutrition Articles | Tagged | 4 Comments

For the Love of Food: Summertime Party Tips and Bonus Recipe!

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Those of us have tried to make positive changes to their diet know that weekdays are always easiest. That’s because weekdays are filled with trips to the grocery store, lots of cooking, eating leftovers, and packing lunches. Buy good food, cook good food, eat good food, repeat.

It’s on the weekends, holidays and parties when we totally forget how to eat.  Social gatherings hold a special place in our brains – they signal a “letting loose” that involves doing things you might not normally do on a typical day, or indulging in things that you wouldn’t have had if you were at home. Unfortunately, one indulgence at a party might send some of us on a depressing downward spiral back to our old eating habits.

Sure, there are a ton of reasons as to WHY you over-indulge or make bad decisions at parties…

‘I ate four slices of pizza because that’s all there was to eat at the party.’

‘My friend had a cheese steak and then dessert and she’s so skinny, so I figured that I could eat it, too’

‘It was a birthday party. I HAD to eat cake.’

Sure, those excuses are real. But they’re lame, and can be torn apart in a second.

With 4th of July and summer BBQs right around the corner, here are a few tips for avoiding having to make excuses for your bad decisions. These suggestions should help you stay on track and still enjoying the summertime cookouts, birthday parties, happy hours, and holidays.

If the party is serving bad foods ( ie: processed foods or meats, sweetened sauces, chips and sour cream dips, cake), try these tips:

Make it a Potluck: A great way to ensure that you can eat right and avoid bad foods without offending the host is to offer to bring a dish of food to share with everyone, even if it’s not a potluck. Baked or grilled chicken wings, meatballs, grilled veggie platter,  fruit salad, salsa or guacamole are great options that just about everyone likes. Fill up on your own dish early into the party, making you less likely to ‘graze’ or make bad decisions later. (remember, spacing out your four brownies throughout the party doesn’t make it any less of a cheat).

Play With Your Food: Just because the host of a party is serving certain foods contain bad things like bread, tons of cheese, or sugary sauces, doesn’t mean that you can’t touch them. Actually, you have to touch them a little more. Go ahead, take the burger out of the bun, scrape the mystery sauce off the chicken, and remove the layer of cheese that’s covering the veggies. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. And you might get some weird looks, but who cares? You look good and feel good. Give them a weird look back.

Use the Buddy System: Life is hard to do on your own. Having someone there to help celebrate your victories, to ease your pain when you are down, and to help you get through the tough times, is sometimes the only way we get by. Casually communicate your eating habits to your friend, significant other, or someone that you plan on seeing the entire night. By telling them what you are and aren’t going to eat, it makes you more accountable for your actions, and it put someone else on your side. If they aren’t supportive or if they make fun you, then ditch them. If they are your friend, they’ll help you get through the evening’s food choices, and you’ll be able to share your accomplishments with another person.

Pre-Game! Chances are that you know about a party before it happens. On the morning that you are planning to go out, pack an extra meal. Before you leave for the party, eat that meal. Even if you’re not super-hungry. That way, when you walk past the table of horrible of food choices, you will be relaxed and satiated, not ravenously hungry and suddenly nervous. It’s much easier to make a good food decision when you’re not hungry (kind of like that rule about not going to the grocery store when you’re hungry).

Starve to Death: If you do  find yourself out without a single food option that looks remotely normal, show off that self-control that allowed you to make the decision to eat better in the first place. Skip this meal and eat a real dinner later when you get home. No one has ever ‘starved to death’ because they didn’t eat pigs in a blanket or ice cream at a party. Indulge in the juicy gossip, the cool atmosphere, or the cute guy/girl you just met, and save the good food for later.

If you make a bad decision, it’s not the end of the world. It is, however, a decision on your part, and not a ‘mistake’. Being accountable for your actions will help your success in the long run.

Turn it around: You see the plate of cookies. They seem to be calling your name.  You eat a cookie. You immediately feel a little guilty. Well, as long as you’re already guilty, you might as well keep going—- wait, what? No! If you make a mistake, its OK. It’s not going to change anything in the long term.  ‘Cheating’ by eating a cookie is one thing, but cheating by eating an entire platter of cookies, and then some cake, is another. If you make a bad decision, turn yourself around and head back toward your goal of making the night a success. Don’t harp on it and turn it into a worse decision.

Try, try again: So this party was a disaster. You drank your weight in sugary margaritas and you binged on the seven layer taco dip. If your intestinal discomfort the next day isn’t enough to make you change your ways, be sure to change up your tactics for the next party. The only way to change the outcome is to change your actions. If the potluck idea didn’t work, then try eating more before you go, hanging out in a place where you aren’t staring at the food table, or bringing more varied food selections, so you’re covered in the beginning, middle and the end of the party.

DIY: If you want something done right, do it yourself! If you want to indulge in creamy guacamole, spicy deviled eggs, juicy steaks and burgers, marinated chicken or pork, grilled shrimp, roasted veggies, juicy fruits, and dark chocolate, then make it happen! Host the next party, and you’ll really have no excuses. Cook foods that appeal to the majority of people at the party, buy hamburger buns for people who can’t comprehend eating meat with a knife and fork, and relax! Eat until you are full, and enjoy the leftovers. No one will miss the bad stuff, as long as you are filling them with the good stuff!

We hope you find these tips useful for your next party. If you tried them, and they worked, or you failed miserably, let us know! We’re work with you until you get it right.

Here’s a bonus recipe for a 4th of July Tuna Salad that won’t go bad in the sun (or in your belly).

Chop up 1/4 white onion, a small yellow squash and1/2 of a green pepper, into small squares. ( a little larger than ‘diced’)

Open, drain and dump the contents of 3 cans of tuna into a large bowl that has a sealed lid. Add the chopped veggies, about 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, ample amounts of olive oil, black pepper and garlic powder.

Put the lid on the bowl and shake the bowl around until the tuna has mixed with the other ingredients. Leave the tuna in large chunks instead of shredding it small, like in traditional tuna salads.

The image above is not very glamorous, it’s a fresh and colorful dish that tastes great!!

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For the Love of Food: Eat This, Not That.

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So…we’re your personal trainers. You pay us to make you sweat a lot, lift heavy things, and push your body really hard.  What you DON’T pay us for is our advice and suggestions for a healthy lifestyle outside of the gym. That part we give away for free. ( lucky you!)

Why do we do this? Why don’t we just work you hard and send you home? You sweat a lot while you were here, so that must mean you are getting healthier, right? Kind of. Just about everyone who does CrossFit notices a positive body composition change and an increase in aerobic capacity and strength within the first few months, which is great, but it’s not everything. By only concentrating on what you do in the gym, you’re only reaping some of the benefits of the whole experience.

When you pay close attention to what you are putting into your body, and how your body reacts when that happens, you will be able to tweak your diet to ensure that you will have full nights of sleep, energy all day, and make significant progress in the gym. After all, food is a drug for your body. Food can only hurt or heal your body. And why would you want to hurt your body after you’ve spent your time and money to whip it into shape?

Here are a few guidelines for choosing foods that will help you Feel Good, Look Good, Perform Better and Live Long.

1. Only eat real foods. If you can pick it from the ground or a tree or hunt and cook it, it’s probably a safe bet that it’s a real food.  Examples of real foods are vegetables, herbs, beef, pork, chicken, fish, eggs, and olive oil and coconut oil. Edibles that seem like real foods but are NOT are things that require processing before eating, such as grains and legumes (peanuts, beans and things made from beans such as tofu). Also, anything that contains a nutrition label or a list of ingredients isn’t a real food. For example, frozen dinners and pre-made dips and sauces might be made from real foods, but probably also contains some nasty chemicals, fillers and sugars – in which case, you’re better off just making that food at home. Also fruit, nuts and seeds are real foods, but don’t constitute a well-rounded meal. Instead, consider these your real food snacks.

2. If you eat meat, make sure it’s Grassfed and raised on a small farm. Small farms that let their cows and chicken roam free and eat what they are supposed to eat ( grass, seeds, etc)  produce high quality meats that you can feel good about eating.  Plus, if you are choosing not to eat grains, you are shortchanging yourself by choosing meat from factory farms, where the cows are fed grains (ie: you’re just eating grains that have been processed through a cow. yucky.)

3. End your love affair with sugar. We’re talking all added sugar, honey, stevia, agave nectar, etc. All sugars, even the kinds made from plants, are highly addictive and are out to hurt, not help, your body. Your doctor would never recommend increasing your sugar levels to increase your health. So why do we eat them? Ingesting sugars will raise your blood sugar levels, causing an insulin spike, which signals the body to store away the sugar in your fat cells, rather than using it as energy. The only sugars you should be eating come from fruits, and we recommend to only eat a single serving of fruit per day.

4. No Grains. Ever. At all. We learned from #1 that grains aren’t included in the “real foods” category, but it bears repeating because it’s simple to forget some of the foods that contain grains, such as all breads, cereals, crackers, chips, sandwiches, and anything that contains flour, breading, or the words ‘whole grain’.

Gluten is a protein found in grains that causes some really nasty side effects upon consumption. These sharp little proteins don’t get broken down completely upon digestion, and cause small tears in the lining of the small intestines. This allows nutrients from your intestines to float out into your bloodstream. When this happens, your body doesn’t absorb the nutrients of the food you just ate, and your body recognizes the free floating food particles as foreign bodies, inflammation occurs, and your  body’s  autoimmune response kicks in to help bring things back down to a normal state. Therefore, people who are sensitive to gluten, and even those of us who don’t notice much of a difference either way, are constantly engaging in an internal battle to return your body back to it’s normal state.

Plainly put, our bodies aren’t equipped to digest gluten. More on this here from Whole9, if you’re interested.

5. Beware of dairy. Dairy contains a protein called casein, that acts a lot like gluten and does some pretty bad things to your body. Also, milk contains sugar, which we know is bad for the body. The one exception to this is breast milk, which babies thrive on. Heavy cream and butter from pasture raised cows ( try Kerrygold) contain milk fat, but none of the proteins or sugars that are found in milk, so they are OK in our book, too.

6. Drink Water. And only water. And a lot of it.  It’s the only beverage that will truly quench your thirst without giving you any extra calories or weird chemicals. It should go without saying that all sodas and juices are out, but  sneaky advertising has made many people falsely assume that diet sodas and iced teas are fine, natural, or ‘good for you’. They aren’t. Just stick with water and you’ll start to see differences right away. If you’re attached to the fizz of sodas, try sparkling water. And if you love the sweetness of juices or sweetened iced teas, then squeeze a lemon, lime, watermelon or orange into your water. (Coffee and tea, are also OK in our book. Just don’t overdo it on the caffeine!)

7. Go food shopping often and cook your food every day. Try a new vegetable each week and find a recipe online for how to cook it. Use a slow cooker for meats (they are designed for people who can’t cook or people with limited time). Experiment with new recipes and how to cook and eat meals only using real foods. We have a lot more on the topic of cooking, but for now, we’ll just say -DO IT. It’s surprisingly easy and delicious!

If you’ve gotten this far in the post, you’re might be freaking out a little right now. Maybe you have a ton of questions, of you’re wondering why we recommend you eat this way,  you don’t think this applies to you, or you think it will be impossible to stick to.  Well, the good news is that you don’t have to make the big switch over to this style of eating all in one step.

Over the next few months, we’ll be posting “Baby Steps” to help you through the transition from what you’re eating now, to what your body actually wants.  We’ll explore unhealthy relationships with food, and explain the thinking behind this way of eating.  Finally, we’ll discuss ailments (everything from acne to bloating) and how they can be remedied by eating the right foods.

Now that’s you’ve seen our general diet suggestions, take a moment to read everything over again, absorb the information, and formulate your questions. Post them to the Comments, or email Alycia@crossfitaspire.com for some one-on-one Q&A.

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