How Sleep Apnea Can Impact Overall Health

Can sleep apnea actually cause hormonal chaos and even infertility?  It sure can.

My readers know that Brent and I have been on a medical journey over the last 2 years that has taken us away from our intended path of having a baby and led us to a whole new understanding of health.

Since Brent was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor, we have learned that hormones affect more than just reproductive health, they regulate your brain and mental health as well as your heart, blood, digestive, and other vital systems that keep our bodies going.

After medication and a year of environmental changes, Brent’s MRI showed the tumor did not grow and his prolactin levels are in the normal range now. Unfortunately, his testosterone is still low so his doctor is thinking that maybe the brain tumor isn’t the cause.

Brent’s endocrinologist is wondering if sleep apnea is the culprit. Here is what we know and what we are learning about how sleep apnea impacts your health.

Brent was diagnosed with sleep apnea 3 months ago after an at home sleep study revealed low oxygen levels while sleeping. This test just confirmed what I already knew and had been telling him for years (doesn’t wife always know best). Aside from daytime sleepiness and loud snoring, there are common symptoms of sleep apnea that many times only the partner will observe.

The most notable symptom is short periods of absent breathing.

I’ve been kept awake so many times by Brent’s snoring that I know his sleep patterns:

  • He starts with deep breaths and sucks air so hard his entire chest heaves in and out.
  • He struggles so much for air that he actually begins to sweat while sleeping.
  • About an hour into sleep he will sometimes stop breathing for 5-10 seconds at a time.
  • He wakes up often, sometimes without knowing he’s awake.

Sleep Apnea

This unconscious waking throughout the night has actually caused some problems in our relationship. Whether he’s waking up to cough (or spit whatever has been caught in his airway), use the bathroom, or grab a snack or drink from the kitchen, I try to become invisible.

Middle of the night Brent is like an angry, walking beast, unaware of his path or anyone in its way. For this reason, I remain quiet and try to avoid a confrontation at all cost.

The problem is since he’s so tired all the time, he always falls asleep first, sometimes as early as 8pm on the couch. It takes everything in me to wake up this angry beast and hope he peacefully walks into the bedroom and goes back into his slumber. When he doesn’t, a wide range of things can happen:

  • He questions everything I’ve been doing while he’s been asleep.
  • He gets mad if I pick a certain show because I didn’t consult him (in his sleep).
  • He blames me for why he fell asleep in the first place.
  • He’ll put me down for the fact that I don’t have to wake up early like him.
  • The worst is when he asks for sex after being asleep, snoring for hours. When I say no, he gets very angry and takes some pretty good shots at our relationship.

As hard as I try I sometimes find myself in a full argument with a nearly unconscious man who’s snoring has seemed to capture me as its prisoner as much as my poor husband.

I thought this was the worst of it, until Brent’s endocrinologist told us that sleep apnea could be causing major issues in every aspect of his health.

Sleep Apnea

Reproductive Health

At his recent appointment, Brent’s endocrinologist prescribed a CPAP machine to regulate his hormones. What? Could his lack of sleep be causing infertility?

We’ve all heard that our body needs sleep in order to “recharge” and this is so true when it coming to hormones. 70% of the human growth hormone is released during sleep which means most men can replenish all the testosterone they need on a nightly basis. Since Brent is not reaching deep, restorative sleep at night, his body is not producing the testosterone he needs to function during the day.

Aside from low sperm count Brent exhibits no symptoms of “Low T” but there are other hormones impacted when this imbalance occurs, including dopamine, serotonin, and other necessary regulators. When one is out of whack, others are too sending your body into survival mode. When our bodies don’t create it, we look for other means to get it.

For couples trying to get pregnant, low testosterone and low sperm count can be treated with hormone therapy, unless the patient suffers from sleep apnea. Those who suffer from sleep apnea are at risk for heart attack, stroke, and arrhythmia due to decreased oxygen levels, so most doctors will not prescribe hormone therapy until a sleep study is complete and the apnea is resolved.

Blood Flow

Sleep allows our body to repair damage at the cellular level.  Brent works his muscles every day at the gym and at work, but at night he’s not getting the sleep needed to recover.  Since there is a shortage of oxygen in his system at night, his body is creating more red blood cells than needed in order to make up for the shortage. This is why his blood results show elevated hematocrit levels.

Elevated hematocrit can indicate low oxygen levels in the blood. At night while Brent struggles to breath, his system is being deprived of oxygen. His body becomes so accustomed to these low levels that his blood levels remain elevated throughout the day.

Although symptoms of high hematocrit usually include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, and muscle pain, it could cause serious illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.

We now know that sleep apnea can cause chronic health conditions and may be causing more problems than a pillaging, angry beast in my bedroom at night. The CPAP machine may not be Brent’s ideal sleeping partner, but when I see him with that mask on, he looks like superhero to me.

Want to see Brent’s CPAP journey? Click here.

The Problem With Healthy Eating

The problem with healthy eating, is my family.  My kids want to eat junk and turn their nose up at my healthy meals, and my husband is hungry ALL THE TIME.  I know it boils down to personal responsibility but the struggle is real!  It’s a constant battle for women, who are trying to feed their family and make them happy, while maintaining their own health goals.

As far as the gym, I have nobody to blame but myself.  After a 5 week gym hiatus I have about 10 pounds to lose in 6 weeks if I want to be bathing suit ready for our beach vacation.  With that as my motivation, I’m hoping to make that goal possible.

so, What’s My plan?

If you’ve read some of my past health and wellness posts, you know I hate the gym, but it has to become my friend again.  I’ll be back at the YMCA 4 days a week for my Body Pump, Body Combat and Tabata classes.  Each class is an hour and kicks my butt in all the right ways!

Due to the weight loss benefits, I’m going to incorporate apple cider vinegar in my homemade salad dressings and to start my morning.  Green tea will also replace any drinks other than water.  To see my recipes, check out my Pintrest board.

Meal Plan

The goal is to eat every 3 hours so I don’t get hungry and eat whatever I can easily grab.  I’m also taking fiber and a probiotic in the morning to help with digestion.

As soon as I wake up:  One cup warm water, mixed with apple cider vinegar, lemon and honey

Breakfast:  1 egg, spinach, tomato bake – or – green protein smoothie w/flax seed

Early Lunch:  Protein and veggie.  This week: Curry chicken with cauliflower rice & stir fry veggies

Late Lunch:  Green salad, no protein.  This week: Modified Cobb and Apple Walnut Salads

Dinner:  Protein and veggie.  Primarily turkey and chicken

Before Bed: Blended chocolate casein shake with scoop of coconut oil

You can find all of this on my 6 week challenge Pintrest board which I’ll be adding to each week. The recipes pinned will have modifications as seen below for the lettuce wraps.  We had them for dinner tonight and they were AMAZING!  Of course my husband, still made himself another dinner.  Why don’t I just make steak and potatoes every night?

I’ll be posting other modified recipes throughout the week.   For now, you’ve got to try these wraps!

Thai Lettuce Wraps

Thai Lettuce Wraps

 

Ingredients

  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 cup minced green pepper
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • I TSP Onion Powder
  • 1/2 TSP Paprika
  • 1 Head Bib Lettuce

Sauce:

  • 2 TBSP Soy Aminos
  • 2 TBSP Hoisin Sauce
  • 1 TBSP Rice Vinegar
  • 1 TBSP All Natural Peanut Butter
  • 1 TBSP Honey
  • 1/2 TSP Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 TSP Powdered Ginger
  • Combine all ingredients to make sauce in bowl, set aside


Instructions:

  1. Put turkey in pan, sprinkle with onion powder and paprika.  Cook till pink is gone.
  2. Add peppers and water chestnuts.  Cook 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add sauce, lower heat and cook 5- 10 minutes

Fancy meals, no matter how large the portions, cannot make my family of 5 happy.  It boils down to whether cooking new, healthy recipes makes me happy, and I think it does, most nights.  The other nights, I think I’ll make them do the work and I’ll put my feet up!

healthy eating


What are your family meal plan struggles?

Empower

The Amazing Gift of Empowerment

Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here,  but in my experience, aside from a quiet, peaceful house, there are few things a mom really wants for her birthday:  

  • A tighter ass
  • Perkier boobs
  • Less jelly rolls
  • A whiter smile
  • Fewer wrinkles
  • A cure for chin hair

Okay, maybe just a few things.  My 37th birthday was yesterday and I gave myself a gift nobody else could give me.  I gave myself the gift of empowerment.  As I stood in front of the mirror looking at myself, fully exposed, I thought about all I had endured.  As a girl, as a single, independent, educated woman, as a mother of 3, as a wife; as a lover, as a survivor, as a fighter, I’m all here.

My presence was the best present I got and I didn’t even mean to give it.  My husband and kids woke me up to coffee and gifts.  Before my amazing hubby left, he gave me a $100 bill and told me to go pamper myself (he’s pretty awesome).  By the time noon rolled around, I was just finishing work on my blog and still in my PJ’s.  I decided to take a hot shower and go from there.  

That’s when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  Usually I see fat, then I silently berate myself for not going to the gym enough or eating like crap lately.  Usually I see wrinkles and droopy body parts that time (and childbirth) has bestowed upon me.  Usually I see spots, and paleness, and unwanted body hair, and the list goes on, and on, and on.  

Usually I see flaws, but on my 37th birthday, I saw sexiness and felt empowered.  I saw a woman whose strength has carried herself, and her family through sadness, anger, and fear.  I saw lines around eyes that first looked upon the miracle of her daughters.  I saw wrinkles forming around lips that have been given so many reasons to smile and laugh.  I saw soft skin worshipped by a man who loves her.  I saw a beautiful, powerful 37 year young woman.

Did this just happen?  Is it a gift from the universe?  Are my hormones aligned perfectly right now to help me see this beautiful image of myself on the 37th anniversary of my birth?

Nah, although I’m a sucker for Shakespeare, I’m no fortune’s fool.  My life has been a culmination of triumph and failure.  I have overcome challenges and loss.  I’ve created the life I’m living and I’m making a conscious choice not to let insecurity overshadow happiness.

It helps to be surrounded by amazing people.  Parents who aren’t perfect, but have always reminded me of my amazing presence in the world.  My husband who makes me feel beautiful and encourages me in everything I do.  My kids who give me more love than I could ever imagine.  Finally, close friends and family who support me without judgement.  At 37, you pretty much get to choose your circle and I’ve selected carefully.

I spent a lot of time searching for my purpose; wondering, questioning, guilting myself along the way.  I’ve taken a lot of risks in my life in order to find true happiness.  While I will continue to make mistakes and fumble through life, I’ll remember my 37th birthday.  

I’ll remember to take a moment, and give myself the gift of appreciating who I am right now.  From where I’m standing, that naked chick is pretty freakin’ amazing!

3 things you can do to empower yourself today

 Embrace flaws

1.  Embrace your flaws

Our flaws are part of who we are; stop fighting them and start accepting them.  You may never have that squat booty but you’ve worked your booty off to get where you are today.  Eat right, cheat a little, exercise as much as you can tolerate and stop comparing yourself to others who have a different story than yours.

 

2.  Create an unbreakable circle

I already mentioned how important it is to choose a circle of people who encourage, support, love and appreciate you, but I think we all have people in our lives who make us feel bad about ourselves.  I have 2 at the present moment.  These are people who stalk you on social media and find fault with just about everything you do.  As if we don’t already know what our flaws are, these people find it necessary to point them out.  If you’re like me, you’ve tried to be who you think they want you to be, only to fail and feel even more inadequate.   The thing is, to people like this, you will never be skinny enough or pretty enough.  You will never have a better car or bigger house.  These people want you to feel small, because it makes them feel better about themselves.  

Toxic people usually come in and out of your life, and for good reason.  If it’s possible to prevent them for infecting your life for good, move on.  If not, take away their control by being yourself in their presence. Maybe your happiness will infect them (probably not, but it’s worth a shot).

Note:  If you find yourself comparing your armpit fat to the armpit fat of every new girl you meet, it’s not her, it’s you.  Once you can get over your own issues, you’ll develop better relationships, beginning with your relationship to yourself.

 

3.  Be present

Who you were, and who you are yet to be, can only be controlled by how you handle it right now.  If you decide to hold on the your failures and mistakes, or live in fear of what may be (or what may never be), it will distort the image looking back at you.  

Instead, accept who you are right now. Look at your flaws and remember everything that brought you to this moment.  Say them out loud if you’re finding that voice in your head hard to believe.  I promise you will stand taller when you realize how powerful those flaws are to who you are and why you are here.   

If these affirmations don’t work, seek support.  We all need someone in our life we can talk about our fears and inadequacies.  If you don’t have someone, reach out via support groups online.  If you need information on support groups out there, please let me know.

My 37th birthday was a reminder that while I am not perfect, I am healthy, and happy, and loved, and so proud to be expertly flawed.

Empowerment

 

13 Ways to Save a Life: Inspired by 13 Reasons Why

Nobody wants to be the one asking what they could have done after someone they care about has committed suicide.  Unfortunately, those suffering often don’t ask for help and do everything to protect the secret that is destroying them.  

So, how do we get through to them before it’s too late?  How do we tell them they are loved and that people care?  How do we spare them from further pain when they no longer trust anyone?  

HERE are 13 WAYS TO SAVE A LIFE:

WHAT ANYONE CAN DO

SHARE YOUR STORIES!  Whether you’re a parent, someone who works directly with teens, or just a concerned human being, you can help save a life by sharing your story.

13 reasons 

Those who suffer with suicidal thoughts, say they feel empty or alone.  Sharing your personal stories and how you got through it, could save a life.  It shows suffering teens that their pain is real and by acknowledging it, you’re giving them a chance to feel safe and express their own story.

The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why deals with real high school issues, such as, gossip and how it can destroy a reputation, social hierarchy/bullying, sexual assault, and substance abuse.  This is not a “kids these days” problem, and it’s not one we can ignore.  Real people suffer, I suffered, my mother suffered, and future generations will suffer if we don’t put a stop to it.

So, how do we spare kids like Hannah Baker from a broken heart, a destroyed reputation, and a soul so broken, they feel taking their life is their only option?

  1. SHARE YOUR STORIES!  Stories of teenage sexuality, struggles and overcoming pain  
  2. Stop brushing off teenage drama as natural rebellion and hormones.  
  3. Stop normalizing bullying as a right of passage.

Seems simple, but it’s only a start.  Shows like 13 Reasons Why and your stories will get the conversation going but putting an end to things like social hierarchy in schools and sexual entitlement means changing patterns that have been in place for decades.

WHAT TEACHERS CAN DO

I’m not a psychiatrist, but as a high school teacher, I have experience working with teenagers and here is what I’ve learned:

4.  Give them outlets.  

    • Outlets are a way for them to express themselves and can be anything from writing in a journal, to creating art, or playing a sport. 

5.  Tell them they can come to you with anything

  • When they do, stop what you’re doing, put everything down and give them your full attention.

6.  LISTEN

  • Don’t talk, just LISTEN. Did I say LISTEN?

7.  Offer understanding and validation when they’re done talking

  • Thank them for trusting you to share their feelings with you.  Share a time when you felt that way.  Tell them you’re worried about them but give them confidence by mentioning their strengths.
  • Whatever you do, do not make a generalized statement.  Phrases like “suck it up,” or “you just gotta get through it,” don’t acknowledge their personal feelings and could make them feel even more hopeless.

8.  Offer a safe place

  • A crowded hallway, a lunchroom where they don’t have a seat, can be very overwhelming.  Offer your classroom as a safe place.

I listened a lot and I wanted to save every single one of them.  I never lost one, but I know teachers who did.  It’s devastating and something nobody ever gets over.  So, let’s stop minimizing our kids problems and start dealing with them together.   

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO

Teachers save lives and the burden to reach every student is huge, but it doesn’t compare to the responsibility a parent has to their own child.  In the show, Hannah had great parents.  They were caring and attentive yet she still felt she couldn’t talk to them about what she was going through.  Why?

  • Teens want their parents to be proud of them. They’d never want you to think they’d put themselves in a harmful situation
  • Teens want to spare their parents from pain and worry.  Sometimes it’s because they think they’ll lose their independence and other times they’d rather burden the pain than have you hurting too.
  • Teens don’t want their parents marching into their school pointing fingers at every “bully” who hurt their wittle baby.  Embarrassment is the ultimate betrayal to a teen.

So what do parents do?  I’m a loving mom to 3 girls who are entering this stage of life.  I want to preserve their innocence and protect them, but I know they are entering a world of chaos that I can’t completely spare them from.  Here’s what I can do:

9.  Stop looking for answers in everything and everyone else, and get real with them.

  • My kid is not perfect and neither am I, but as a parent, I always want to believe that my child is better, they’re a representation of me, after all.  This is a flaw!  Allowing our kids to fail and holding them accountable is part of the maturation process.  The key is making sure one mistake doesn’t spiral into 10.

10.  Make sure they feel safe enough to ask me personal questions rather than relying on technology or the school.

    • I do this by sharing odd questions I had as a teen and funny stories about how I found the answers.  One time I asked my mom what a period was and she said it’s the dot at the end of a sentence.

11.  Be open with them about my own choices and acknowledge how they are affected.  

    • For me this is divorce, marriage, moving schools, but for others it could be parental neglect, substance abuse, etc.  These choices affect our kids and can make them feel powerless.  

12.  Make sure they know that no matter what I will love them unconditionally

    • But also that my unconditional love does not mean their actions will not have consequences.

13.  Make sure they know I will drop everything to bail them out of a peer pressure situation.

    • I’m naive to think this will always happen but giving them the option could be the difference between life or death.  I have given them specific examples of how to do this. No matter the situation or where they are, if they text me 111 and drop a pin, I will pick them up. They can tell their friends their grandma is in the hospital or their mom is being a bitch, or just slip out when nobody’s looking.

You can’t parent high school kids thinking it’s going to be all rainbows, you have to prepare for the storms that come first.  Being open with your kids and making them feel safe enough to come to you is much better than ignoring the problems in hopes they’ll just go away.  If the end result is a Tropical Storm, instead of a Cat 5 hurricane, you’ve done your job well.

The show ends with Hannah saying, “I felt something shift after I poured it all out (on the tapes). I felt like I could beat this, but this time I was asking for help because I knew I couldn’t do it alone.”  Unfortunately, when she went for help she was told her pain was no big deal and she should try and get over it.

Rape is a big deal.  Safety is a big deal.  Protecting our children is a big deal.

State legislatures need to get active in making laws that allow schools to take action in the best interest of students, not funding.  Schools should focus on destroying social hierarchies, rather than minimizing a destroyed reputation.  

Schools do not bear this burden alone.  Many people blame schools for not using social media accounts in bullying cases, but guess what, that’s on the parent.  Parents should have full access to their child’s social media accounts and if you don’t, you can only point the finger at yourself.  If a naked photo of a minor or devastating texts come through that phone at the hands of your kid, why do they even still have the privilege of technology?  

We all have to find a way to work together because whether it happens on school grounds or off, it is embedded in these kids lives forever.

When it comes down to it, no single person is to blame for the death of Hannah Baker, or the 44,000 other people who died in 2015 at the hand of suicide, but we can all do something about it together.  We can all save a life, not just by talking about suicide, but by getting personal.


 

How to Meal Prep Like a Pro: Irish Week

You could say that Irish food is in my blood, because it is.  My great grandparents met on the boat to America and my grandmother’s Irish cooking has stuck with me years after she left us.

I love everything Ireland and always celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a week of Irish cooking.  It’s no secret that this week’s themed menu is Irish!

Before I get to the meal prep, let me give you some tips on dinners.  Irish food doesn’t have to be unhealthy.  There are a lot of options to sub the otherwise carby, saucy food for healthier options.  

I’m not sure how happy my grandmother would be with me turning her delicious recipes healthy but it’s a different time, grandma.  For example, instead of potatoes with my bangers and mash, I used this recipe and made cauliflower rice: 

While Grandma White made THE best cabbage roll, or pigs in a blanket as she called them, I stick to this easy cabbage roll casserole recipe:  

I don’t think she’s too angry with my modern twists, because at the end of the day, I always know to use good beer with my roasts.  Guiness all the way, baby.

Now that I’ve given you 3 yummy dinner options, let’s jump into our breakfast and lunch meal prep.

Menu

Breakfast

  • Corned Beef Hash

Lunch

  • Meat of your choice and Pub Salad
  • Healthier Reuben Wraps

Shopping List

  1. 6 lbs or larger Corned Beef
  2. Low Carb Tortilla Wraps
  3. Bib lettuce
  4. Red cabbage
  5. White shredded cabbage
  6. 1 Sliced Cucumber
  7. 1 ½ lbs Potatoes
  8. 3 Small Onions
  9. 4 Garlic Cloves
  10. 1 Block Cheddar Cheese
  11. 4 eggs
  12. Healthy mayo (made with avocado or olive oil)
  13. Tomato Paste
  14. Pickles
  15. Spicy Brown Mustard
  16. Apple Cider vinegar
  17. 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  18. Olive Oil
  19. Dijon Mustard
  20. 2 tbsp Tarragon
  21. 2 tbsp Thyme
  22. 2 Guiness Beers

1/4 tsp of the following spices

  1. Basil
  2. Oregano
  3. Paprika
  4. Salt & Pepper

Recipes

First you have to cook the corned beef.  Here is the recipe I used and you can let it go in the crockpot while you make everything else.  Once it’s done take out 4 cups (2 for ruebens and 2 for breakfast) and eat the rest for dinner that night!

Corned Beef in the Crock Pot

Combine the following ingredients in the crock pot

*If you have a small crock pot, scale potatoes, cabbage and carrots

  • 5-6 pounds Corned beef brisket
  • 5 Carrots, sliced
  • 1 lb Potatoes, cut in chunks
  • ½ head cabbage, cut in pieces
  • 1 Yellow onion, sliced

Stir together the following ingredients and then pour over meat and veggies.

  • 5 tbsp Brown Mustard
  • 1 cup Sour cream
  • 2 8-ounce beers
  • 1 ½  Tbsp. Thyme

Cook on high 4 hours or best at low 8 hours

Don’t forget to save 3 cups for sliced or diced corned beef!

 

Reubens:

Let me start by saying, ruebens are not very healthy!  I used a version of homemade sauerkraut and homemade thousand island dressing to make this a healthy lunch option.  If you’ve never had a reuben before, don’t even think that this healthy recipe comes close to the real thing.  I’m just trying to keep us healthy here!  

Prepare the dressing:

Combine the following ingredients in a small container to store:

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup clean mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickles

Prepare the “sauerkraut”

Combine the following ingredients in a medium tupperware container

  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon spicy brown mustard

Assemble the reuben wraps by placing a tortilla flat on the plate.  Smother with thousand island dressing.  Add sauerkraut then your corned beef.  Wrap it up and enjoy!

 

Prepare the Pub Salad:

You will have a lot of leftover meat this week so if you’re like me, you’ll want to make sure that doesn’t go to waste.  Pair the beef roast or cabbage roll casserole with an Irish Pub Salad twice this week for a hearty lunch.

 

Prepare dressing for salad:

Combine all of the following ingredients in a salad dressing mixing container

  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons water

Mix well and store.

I always wash, slice and store the salad ingredients to make my week easier.  In this case:

  • Wash the lettuce
  • Slice the cucumber and onion
  • Cube the cheese
  • Hard boil 4 eggs

When you’re ready to eat the salad combine Bibb lettuce with shredded cabbage and top with cucumber, 1 egg, onion, and cubes of cheddar cheese.  Drizzle tarragon dressing.

 

Breakfast hash

  1. Slice the 1 onion, mince 1 garlic clove, dice 2 cups corned beef and 2 cups potatoes.
  2. Melt 2 tbsp olive oil in skillet. Then saute the onion and garlic. Add the potatoes to the skillet and cook until lightly browned. Season with ¼ tsp thyme, ¼ tsp oregano, ¼ tsp basil, ¼ tsp paprika, ¼ tsp salt and pepper. Stir in the corned beef and cook for 5 minutes.1/4 tsp Basil

 

By the end of this meal prep you will have breakfast for every day of the week, enough for 3 reuben wraps and 3 Pub Salads (don’t forget to add leftover meat).   

Remember the bangers and cauliflower mash AND the beef stew AND the cabbage roll casserole ingredients aren’t listed here.  If you want to make those dinners this week, make sure you visit the Pintrest recipe and add it to your list. https://www.pinterest.com/expertlyflawed/week-4-themed-meal-prep/

 

I had an amazing St. Patrick’s Day thanks to some great friends, and some delicious Irish food!  What did you do for St. Patti’s Day?  Add your comments below.

Next week is an All American menu…

 

3 Reasons You Should Start Meal Prepping Today

This week’s Themed Meal Prep is Italian food.  I scoured the pages of Pintrest for recipes that are healthy (low in calories, carbs, and fat) and put together a complete weekly meal plan for you below.  If you’re not familiar with meal prepping, or have been resistant to try it, here are three reasons why you must start with this plan TODAY!

Believe it or not, there are still people who don’t think food prepping is a good idea.  The reasons usually include:

  1. I don’t have time
  2. I don’t have money
  3. I don’t want to eat the same thing again and again.

If you’re among them, I’ve solved these three issues with my Themed Meal Prep, giving you absolutely no reason not to prepare clean, healthy, delicious meals for yourself every week.

  1. You’re not too busy to meal prep!  You’re too busy NOT to meal prep.

We are no longer scavengers, we don’t have to hunt and gather for every meal.  So, why are you making it so hard on yourself when it comes to eating 3 well rounded meals per day?  Meal prepping using my shopping list and recipes are so easy and most menus take less than 2 hours in your kitchen.  Less than 2 hours and an entire week’s worth of breakfast and lunches are done.  Most times, even that night’s dinner will be ready to feed your hungry family.

2.  If you have the money for Starbucks, or Chick-fil-a, or Ruby Tuesdays, then you have money to meal prep.

I get it, clean, healthy foods can be expensive.  There usually aren’t coupons for produce and meats, but I’ve found a way to cut my grocery bill in half.  I’ve done this by making the menus culturally themed.  One week it’s Greek, the next Italian, etc. etc.  Making the menus themed cuts down on the ingredients because you’re using the same ones in different ways.  Genius!  Most of my shopping lists contain less than 20 items, any many will already be in your cabinets allowing you to buy even less.

3.  If you’re bored with your meal prep, you’re not doing it right.

Since my menus are culturally themed, the ingredient list is small and the variety is BIG!  You’ll love the variety of foods and never get bored eating the same thing every day.  Some days I have a salad, some days a rice bowl, some days a wrap.  There are a ton of options!  The best part about Themed Meal Prep is, just when you’ve had enough, the week changes to another themed set of meals.

We all know what happens when we don’t prepare for lunch; we skip it, or end up eating crap. Treat yourself and go out once a week but don’t get frustrated wondering what you’re going to do everyday.  Okay, let’s get cookin’!

MENU

Breakfast:  

  • Frittata Muffins

Lunch:

  • Tuscan Tortillini
  • AntiPasta Salad
  • Caprese with Pork

SHOPPING LIST

  1. 1lb salami (cut 3-4 times at deli counter)
  2. 1 package pepperoni
  3. 1 package spinach
  4. 1 package of romaine
  5. ½ cup red onion
  6. 1 red and 1 green pepper
  7. 1 Lemon
  8. 2 containers sliced grape olives
  9. Jar of Sundried tomatoes in oil
  10. Jar of Artichokes in oil
  11. Small jar of pesto
  12. Small can black olives (sliced)
  13. Small jar green olives (sliced)
  14. Package Cheese Tortellini (I buy whole wheat)
  15. Parmesan Cheese
  16. 6-8 oz mozzarella balls
  17. Eggs
  18. Milk
  19. Olive Oil
  20. Balsamic Vinegar

*Optional:  Peperoncini peppers and pine nuts for antipasta salad

RECIPES

This is so easy it’s going to blow your mind!  You only have to cook one of the three lunch recipes this week!

How to Make the Tortellini Lunch:

2 lunch servings

  1. Boil tortellini according to package directions – Set aside.
  2. Add ¼ cup olive oil to skillet, saute ⅓ cup red onion and a minced garlic clove
  3. Add ½ cup sliced sun dried tomatoes, 1 cup spinach, and tortellini
  4. Salt and Pepper as needed
  5. Store in two containers for lunches

 

How to Make the Anti Pasta Salad

4 lunch servings

Combine the following ingredients in a large bowl:

  • 2 heads diced Romaine lettuce
  • 1/3 red onion sliced thin
  • ¼ cup small can black olives
  • ¼ cup green olives
  • ½ package pepperoni
  • ½  deli salami sliced
  • Full jar of artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
  • 1/2 container of grape tomatoes
  • *Optional: Toasted pine nuts and peppercini peppers

Divide between 4 containers and store for lunches.

 

How to Make the Caprese Salad

4 Servings

Prepare the Caprese Salad by combining the following ingredients:

  • ½ bag spinach
  • 1 crate halved cherry tomatoes
  • Package of mozzarella balls
  • 2tbsp Pesto
  • 4tsbp Olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt Pepper

I stored this in a container and ate it with leftovers from the week.

I made some delicious dinners this week; Veggie lasagna, chicken bruschetta, and Italian pork in the crock pot.  If you’re interested in seeing those recipes, check out my Pintrest board:  https://www.pinterest.com/expertlyflawed/week-3-themed-meal-prep/

Finally, to prepare the breakfast muffins follow this recipe:

  1. Dice green pepper, red pepper, and red onion – Add 1 cup shredded spinach
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray (spray well).
  4. In a large bowl, beat 10 eggs and add diced ingredients above.
  5. Sprinkle in cheese of your choice (I used shredded mozzerella)
  6. Scoop 1/3 cup of mixture into each compartment.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until the center of the muffin is completely cooked.

So easy and so good!  Next week is St. Patrick’s Day so guess what my themed menu will be?  Irish food!  This Irish girl can’t wait!  See you next week…

I’m sorry for the lack of pictures this week.  I lost everything on my memory card while recording my daughter’s chorus concert (priorities)!  I’d love to see your pictures though.  Please post your Italian Meal Prep pics below.  Happy, healthy cooking!


 

How to Meal Prep Like a Pro: Greek

Do you find yourself staring into a full refrigerator wondering why there’s nothing inside you want to eat?  My kids do it all the time so I’ve made sure to stock “their shelf” with plenty of healthy snacks they can grab and go.  Moms often forget to do this for themselves.  I’ve found a meal plan that keeps the guess work out of what to eat and only takes a couple hours to prep for the entire week of meals!

I love Themed Meal Prep because my menu changes each week and the ingredients are generally the same which saves me time and money.  Each week I choose a theme, search healthy recipes on Pintrest and then prep on Sunday so I’m worry free for the week.

My Pintrest Board for this week

 

Last week, we focused on Asian food which included lots of nuts, soy sauce (or healthier aminos) and garlic.  This week, garlic is about the only similarity as we spice it up with greek food.  A mediterranean diet is especially healthy because of the oils and ingredients like artichokes, olives, and cucumbers.   While I’m not including my dinner recipes here, I made an awesome mediterranean baked chicken that you have to try!

 

Step One:  Put the chicken nugget down and pick your menu theme (Italian, Asian, etc).  My Greek themed menu is outlined for you below.  Just screen shot the grocery list and go buy the simple ingredients.

Grocery List

  • 2lbs chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • Minced Garlic (4 heads)
  • 4 lemons
  • Oregano
  • 6 cucumbers (peeled and sliced)
  • brown rice
  • container of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • feta cheese
  • kalamata olives
  • s&p

Step Two:  Get Cookin’

Once you’re home, start marinating the chicken immediately!  These recipes require the chicken to be in the fridge for at least an hour, longer if possible.  Mix up the chicken as stated below:

  1. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tbsp garlic, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp oregano, 1/3 cup plain greek yogurt and salt and pepper.  Mix well
  2. After mixing, remove 1/4 cup for the salad dressing and place in fridge for later
  3. Add the restof the marinade to a large storage bag and add 2 lbs chicken.
  4. Massage to make sure chicken is fully covered.  Marinate in fridge for at least one hour.

While chicken is marinating, prepare the Tzatziki sauce: 

  1. Mix the following ingredients in a storage container.  1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 diced cucumber, 1 Tbs minced garlic, 1/2 Tbs dill, 1 Tbs lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon zest, S&P to taste
  2. Once fully combined, place in fridge.  This go toward both the bowl and the salad.

After preparing the Tzatziki, prepare the salads

  1. Greek Bowl:  Mix the following ingredients together in a storage container:  2 cubed cucumbers, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 2 Tbs olive oil, 1 Tbs red wine vinegar, 1/2 Tbs minced garlic, 1/2 tsp dried oregano – Store in the fridge until ready to eat
  2. Salad Mix:  Mix together  romaine lettuce, 3 cubed cucumbers,  8 oz cherry tomatoes, 1 sliced green pepper, ½ sliced red onion, Feta cheese, 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives.  Store in a container until ready to eat.

Cook the brown rice according to the package

Cook the chicken

  1. Remove the chicken from the fridge and drain the  marinade from it. Discard.
  2. Heat some olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add chicken. Cook approximately 5-6 minutes per side. Cooking time depends on thickness and size of the chicken.
  4. Let it cool and then cut into bite sized pieces

At this point, everything should be stored in separate containers:

  • One chicken container
  • One brown rice container
  • One with greek salad
  • One with cucumber salad
  • One with tzatziki
  • Small container of salad dressing from marinade

Then, when you’re ready to eat:

Assemble Salad:  Place desired amount of salad on plate, mix with desired amount of chicken and salad dressing.  You may add tzatziki sauce if you want.

Assemble Bowls:  There’s a trick to these… heat up the brown rice and chicken before placing the rest of the ingredients inside your bowl.  After heating the chicken and rice for a minute or so, add cucumber salad and tzatziki.

*Follow serving sizes that are appropriate for your weight goals.

This should make about 6 lunches for your week.  I made 3 bowls and 3 salads so I didn’t get bored.  The awesome thing about a Themed Meal Plan is just when you do get bored, another awesome menu, with completely different ingredients is coming next week.

Finally, as promised from last week, I said I’d share my breakfast prep with you as well.  This recipe was awesome so if you’re worried about putting eggs in a crock pot, don’t!  The Greek flavors make this healthy egg white recipe delish!  Add it to your grocery list and mix it up in your crockpot while your prepping the lunches to have 12 meals done in under 2 hours!

 

If you would like to see how I assembled my bowls, or hear me talk about this week’s Themed Meal Prep, here’s a link to my youtube channel for the episode connected to this post.

How to Meal Prep Like a Pro: Asian


Each week I’m tasked with finding lunches and dinners that aren’t going to make me run to the closest fast food restaurant for an easy meal.  I’m not the type of person who can eat salads every day, but I do need to eat healthy meals or I guilt myself like crazy.  Am I alone in this?

I found a solution that saves me time and money when it comes to lunches.  I call it (drumroll, please) Themed Meal Prep.  Themed Meal Prep gives me a variety of food options while using the same ingredients to cut down on cost and time in the kitchen.  If you’re like me, and want to eat healthy but get bored easily, you’ve got to start this meal prep plan today!

Step One:  Choose a type of food you like: Italian, Greek, Asian, etc. and stick to it for the week.

Once I find a theme, I like to search for my recipes on Pintrest.  For my first week of Themed Meal Prep, I choose an Asian menu.  All I did was search Asian Recipes on Pintrest and started pinning.

 

Step Two:  Make a list and go shopping!

After I’ve pinned recipes I like, I make a list for the grocery store.  Of course, you’re not going to cook everything on your board.  I usually pick two recipes for lunch and one for dinner that have similar ingredients.  With themed meal planning you’ll notice most of them have similar ingredients so this should be easy!  This week I choose an Asian chopped salad and a Thai wrap that will come from a peanut chicken recipe I’ll make for dinner.   The ingredients listed below are for 3 recipes and will make an entire dinner for my family of 5, as well as ALL 5 lunches for my week.

Grocery List

  • 9 chicken breasts
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of Green onions 
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • Carrots
  • Red pepper & chili pepper
  • Cabbage (or 2 bags slaw mix)
  • 2 Limes (4 tblsp)
  • 1 papaya
  • 3/4 cup Peanuts
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • Gluten Free Tortillas
  • 8 tbsp Soy Sauce (or coconut aminos)
  • Low Sodium Chicken Stock
  • Sesame Oil
  • White vinegar
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Step 3:  Get Cookin’

Reduce your prep time by doing one simple thing, make all the chicken according to the dinner recipe and then divide for your lunches.   Once you do that, you just mix up some dressings and chop some veggies.  Here’s a sample of how I prepped for my Asian themed week.

Dinner:

*You will need to make 2 batches of chicken using the recipe below (unless you have a huge skillet that will fit all 9 pieces of chicken and double the sauce).  Each batch takes about 20 minutes to cook and once finished, you’re done with the stove!

  1. Brown the chicken in a large skillet on medium high heat using 1 tbsp oil.  5-10 minutes on each side.
  2. Reduce heat.  Add 1 sliced red pepper and 3 cloves of minced garlic to the skillet.  Sautee for 5 minutes – If garlic starts to brown, turn down heat.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, 1/3 cup peanut butter, 3 tbsp soy sauce and 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Pour sauce into skillet. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low.
  5. Let simmer, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle green onions over top and save for lunches
  7. Repeat for your yummy dinner.

To Prep Your Salad:

  1. Take 2 chicken breasts from the peanut chicken recipe and add to large tupperware container
  2. Add rest of cabbage mix (about a bag and a half), shave 1 large carrot into container, add small chunks of one papaya, 1/2 cup cilantro, 1/2 cup, green onions
  3. *NOTE!  This is a double batch because you will use this for your wrap as well!  Also, make the dressing in a separate container for storage (otherwise your salad will only store for a day).
  4. Whisk together 4 tbsp soy sauce or aminos, 2 tbsp lime juice, 4 tbsp brown sugar, 2 tbsp sesame oil, 4 cloves minced garlic and 1 tsp red pepper flakes. Add 1 cup peanut butter (and drops of water as needed).  Whisk until smooth.
  5. Store until ready to eat.  When ready, pour desired amount of dressing over the top of the salad and top with some crushed peanuts.

To Prep Your Wrap:

  1. Take 2 chicken breasts from prepared peanut chicken recipe
  2. Add 1/2 cups cabbage slaw, 3 tbsp green onions, 3 tbsp cilantro and 3 tbsp peanuts to large bowl and toss.
  3. When ready to eat, add chicken and slaw to tortilla.  Drizzle prepared salad dressing over the top and enjoy!

 

Total prep time on Sunday is about 2 hours, but that meant countless hours of free time and less worry on my weekdays.  Not to mention, I’m eating healthy meals and I’m not getting tired of them.  Next week, it’s on to Greek/Mediterranean!

Want to be a rockstar?  Check out my Themed Meal Prep Menu next week which includes breakfast!  Another meal to check off your weekly worry list.

Let me know what you think about my Themed Meal Prep, especially if you’ve tried it!  If you have any ideas for themes, I’d love to hear them!  Be sure to comment below 🙂


 

Delicious Asian Menu: Wellness Diary Week 1

Valentine’s week was a little nuts for us.  Not because of the sweets, but because of the hustle.  We hustled to get ready for our camping trip.  We hustled to get Valentine’s and treats for school. We had an unusual weekday soccer game and tournament.  We were just in constant hustle mode.  Coming off a crazy week, I hoped for a little reprieve, then life happened, again.

To help make my week successful, I meal prepped on Sunday.  I even invited my mom and mother-in-law over to get in on the fun.  My mom declined, which is another blog post all together, but my mother-in-law came over bags of groceries in tow.  I gave her a list that included everything she needed to bring over for the recipes.  The menu was based on Asian inspired recipes for lunch and dinner, and a few items for breakfast and snacks.

An Asian diet has many benefits.  Since it’s packed with vegetables and light protein portions of chicken and fish, it is a heart healthy option.  The diet follows the Asian Diet Pyramid  which includes balanced portions of protein, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc.  Spices used in Asian food such as, turmeric and cumin, have shown to decrease obesity in people who use them regularly. The oils in place of butter also makes this a healthy option.

My greatest diet flaw is that I get bored and therefore, need a lot of meal options.  Options can be time consuming when preparing various foods at once, or if you don’t prep, it can leave you wondering what to put on your plate when scavenging through your cabinets.  So, my idea was to have healthy lunches and dinners based on a new theme each week.  This week’s Asian theme incorporated many of the same ingredients, keeping my grocery bill low and eliminated confusion in the kitchen.  My favorite was the Thai peanut chicken that I used in just about every recipe last week.

There was just one problem, LIFE.  When the mom guilt set in and my kids begged me to have lunch with them at school, I stopped and bought us all Chick-fil-a.  When I skipped the gym last week and my gym partner got lonely, I showed up to our lunch date fully showered, while she sat in wet gym clothes.  When my family and I went to yoga and passed our favorite ice cream shop on the way home, we stopped for a homemade waffle cone.  When the week got the best of me, I opted for pizza and beer on Saturday night, and Bloody Mary’s on Sunday.

I could sit around and count my flaws like calories, but that will only make me feel worse about myself.  Why do we beat ourselves up instead of celebrating our accomplishments?  I made home cooked meals for my family 5 days in a row.  I ate most of the delicious meals I prepared for myself.  More importantly, I spent a lot of quality time with my kids and volunteered at Special Olympics.  I did things greater than my tiny flaws.  
This week’s diet and exercise flaws resulted in smiling, ice cream eating kids and a happy Saturday night date who toasted me over a veggie pizza.  Cheers to flaws!

Click here to see the complete menu and shopping list?

http://expertlyflawed.com/2017/03/meal-prep-like-pro-asian/

 

Get all the recipes I used this week on my Pintrest Board:

 

Got to Love Greek Food: Wellness Diary Week 2

As you may have seen on my Pintrest board last week, I pinned and cooked some amazing meals last week.  I made many Asian themed foods for lunch and dinner, and some yummy quiches for breakfast.  Unfortunately, one of my most predominant flaws, lack of consistency, showed it’s ugly face and I cheated quite a bit.  From eating Chick-fil-a with the kids, rather than packing a prepared meal, to binging all weekend on restaurant food (thanks Hooters, Chilis, and Tony’s Pizza), I should feel ashamed of myself, but I don’t.  

The only thing I can do, is improve this week.  If I make excuses or beat myself up over it, I’ll stay inconsistent and unhealthy.  I have to improve my mood by getting back to work!  So, I started Monday with an awesome workout and have a class scheduled every day this week, except Friday and Sunday, because every day is just crazy talk.

This week’s food prep theme is Greek/Mediterranean.  I use themed food each week for two reasons; First, I am expertly inconsistent so, new foods each week keep me interested and make me want to eat them (most of the time).  Second, all the recipes use similar ingredients so my food bill stays reasonable, even though I’m using fresh, healthy ingredients.  

I never stick to specific diets, I just try to eat healthy, but I always do a little research before I prep each week.  Here’s what I found on Mediterranean diets:  A mediterranean diet focuses on less protein and lots of vegetables.  Since the recipes have no salt and oil replaces butter, it’s a heart healthy diet that has also been linked to reduce risk of cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.  Last night, I made a tomato, basil, artichoke chicken with sautéed lemon, garlic spinach.  The younger kids screamed, “Ew!” while my oldest   said it looked like a gourmet meal!  I pushed the veggies aside and cut up their chicken for a meal everyone LOVED!  

On Sunday, I prepped Greek salad and rice bowls for my lunches, but I didn’t prepare anything for breakfasts.  That’s a big no, no for me because I’m not a breakfast person.  Nothing ready, means I eat nothing, or I eat crap.  Today, I had cold pizza left over from the weekend… Inconsistency flawed, I don’t know what to tell you.

Life is about balance – at least that’s what I keep telling myself!

I ate that strawberry donut on Sunday… Yummy!

It’s only Tuesday, ya’ll.  If you’d like to see if I make it through this week and all the moments mentioned above, check out my youtube channel this Friday when I post my weekly wellness diary.  I’m sure it will be filled with flaws that should make you feel better about your own wellness journey!  

YouTube:  youtube.com/expertlyflawed

For recipes check out my Pintrest Board:  Week 2 Flawed Wellness