4 Ways Hiring an Expert Changed My Nutrition

After years of experimentation, I only have a few hard and fast rules left about the way I eat.

  1. Eat whole foods and avoid packaging.
  2. Eat foods that make my body and my mind feel good.
  3. Eat enough to fuel my training.
  4. Eat well and practically.

Usually, that ends up including a lot of fruits and vegetables; little to no dairy; lean meat with every meal; complex carbohydrates; and a lot of healthy fats (avocados, oils, salmon, chocolate, ice cream… wait, what?).

Eating should do several things. You should feel satiated after meals. Your body should regulates itself at a comfortable weight, even with a healthy amount of indulgence (in my case, that means meals out and/or desserts). Your sleep should be consistent and uninterrupted by hunger pangs or discomfort. Your hair, skin, and nails should be healthy.

All those things mean you’re doing something right. 

I can tick most of the boxes, but I still felt the need to change it up. Why?

 

Why I hired a nutritionist

You guys know that I train a lot. I lift heavy. I condition. And I feel like I should be improving faster than I am.

While a big part of CrossFit is trusting the process, it’s important to recognize when professional advice can be a game-changer.

I wanted to do a little experiment to see how changing up my diet would affect my training. So I enlisted the help of a nutritionist I knew through a friend of a friend. 

After asking about my body, goals, training, and habits, she had me track my normal intake for a few days. Then, she put together a plan that changed up the way I was getting my nutrition.

To make a long story short, I’ve bumped up my protein and slightly reduced my fat intake. My carbohydrates are high, but my sugar intake (which I had never even looked at) is limited.

I’m committed to this plan for four weeks. After that, I’ll take note of how my training is feeling, how my body is adapting, and I’ll put together an update.

I’m two weeks in and I’ve already learned a few lessons: Follow along:

 

Sugar is Everywhere

Maybe everyone in the entire world knew this except me, but it is super hard to get a lot of carbs into your system without also ingesting a lot of the Thing of Evil (sugar). I’m not a fan of processed food, so most of my carbohydrates previously came from fruit. Fruit is great - lots of micronutrients, etc. - but it’s also loaded with sugar, which your body treats as any other source of fructose. While I’m by no means cutting out fruit (the micronutrients!), I am being more careful about how much I eat.

 

It’s Not Hard to get Enough Protein

Anytime I’ve shared the exact number of grams of protein I’m eating per day, I get the same response: “Oh, there’s no way I could eat that much protein. It’s just not possible."

Guess what? I felt the same way. And it is possible. It’s not even that hard.

Granted, I bent my rule about processed foods to include protein powder, but it’s clean protein without a ton of additives that tastes good. Combined with 3.5-4.0 oz of lean protein at every meal, it’s been easy to hit my protein goal.

 

Change the Foods, Not the Amount

I’m eating slightly less than I was before, despite my goals of building lean muscle. However, because the ratios are so different, I’m already noticing muscle gains and I just PR’d my deadlift. Clearly, the strength isn’t going anywhere.

Whether you’re looking to drop body fat or increase muscle mass, think about the proportions of your food before doing anything drastic to the quantity. Are you constantly falling below your fat requirements? Are you including enough carbohydrates, especially around your training? Work on that first.

 

Measuring Food is No Big Deal

One of the reasons I was procrastinating enlisting a nutritionist was, in a word, laziness. I knew that I’d have to start portioning and weighing my food and I just didn’t want to.

Newsflash: it’s easy.

Since I cook simple, wholesome foods, it’s no big deal to keep a scale on the kitchen counter and simply weigh out portions onto my plate right before I eat. Any more extensive recipes get calculated in MyFitnessPal first, and then weighed onto my plate.

My experience has been positive so far. My only concern is a slight weight drop, which is not my goal. The scale isn’t a great indicator of anything, though, so I’m not worrying too much quite yet.


The bottom line? When you feel stuck, take a good long look at the areas you can improve or change. You already know them: training, nutrition, and recovery. What needs dialling in? Can a professional help you make those changes? Sometimes, asking for help is the best step you can take.

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

It's been a while since I did one of these! I was pretty lazy with our meal prep for a few weeks, which means we had a lot of tuna salads and leftovers (it happens, what can I say). 

Luckily, I was a little more organized this week. This meal prep is one my favourites. It covers all the bases; it's nutritionally dense, easy to prepare, satisfying, and very tasty. Win-win-win-win. 

 

Greek Skewers & Salad Bowls

1 package Greek Skoulakis Pork skewers (I'm not a huge fun of preseasoned meats, but the portions on these are so perfect that, in a pinch, I'll use them). 

2 cups white jasmine rice (literally any rice that you like to eat) 

1 large cucumber 

1 yellow pepper

1 red pepper

1/2 red onion 

1 head iceberg lettuce (I just love this for crunch and volume. I know traditional Greek salads don't include lettuce. Sue me.) 

Several tablespoons black olives 

Several tablespoons feta cheese 

Avocado oil 

Dried basil & oregano 

Salt & pepper 

Preheat your broiler. Get the rice cooking. 

Toss the skewers on a sheet pan, and get them under the broiler for 9-10 minutes per side. (COULD THIS GET EASIER?!) 

In the meantime, chop up all your veggies. 

In terms of Tupperwaring these for lunches during the week, I like to pack the meat and rice separately from the salads. Then I can heat up one Tupperware and mix it in with the cold, crunchy salad. So good. 

I drizzle about half a tablespoon of avocado oil in the bottom of the salad containers, then fill them with veggies. Each portion gets a handful of black olives. Mine are topped with 1 tbsp of feta cheese; Damien's are topped with 2 tablespoons, for some extra fats. 

As for meat and rice: my lunches get one skewer and about 3/4 cups of cooked rice. Damien's get 1.5 skewers and the remaining rice (about a cup and a half. 

These lunches keep well and provide a good hit of protein, carbs, and fat. Plus - so many veggies. All the micronutrients. Between this and the morning shakes I make us (protein powder, mixed berries, kale/spinach, ice), I think we're covering the veggie bases pretty well. 

To go alongside, we've got tons of fruit (mandarins, fresh strawberries, apples). Damien's client gave us some KIND bars awhile back, so we're still working through those. We have Babybells, too. 

I'm still not totally on top of the snack game, so let me know if you have favourites! 

 

 

 

 

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

Between visiting family, soaking up the rare Vancouver sun, and training, meal prep was seriously neglected this weekend. I’ve got two ~~recipes~~ (loosely termed) for you. These are our lunches for the next few days. 

 

Slow Cooker Salsa Pulled Chicken

5 chicken breasts

1 can organic salsa (I use black bean and corn, mild)  

1 can pineapple chunks

Turn slow cooker on high. Add salsa and chicken breasts, and turn to coat.

Cook for 3.5 hours, then remove chicken breasts. Pull apart with two forks. Return to slow cooker, add pineapples, and let sit for another thirty minutes.

That’s honestly it. See why I said this wasn’t really a recipe?

Just to make myself feel fancier, I sprinkled this with some fresh cilantro when it was done. I plated (read: Tupperware’d) it on top of….

Roasted Cauli + Sweet Potato 

1 head cauliflower

2 large sweet potato

Coconut oil

Preheat oven to 400. Chop the potatoes and cauliflower, toss in coconut oil with salt and pepper, and roast for ~45 minutes or until nice and soft and brown. I didn't flip or shake or do anything to these while they were cooking, and they ended up really beautifully caramelized on the bottoms. 

These were the only two vegetable-like things I had in the house, so that’s what I used. The pineapple salsa pulled chicken went on top, and ta-da! Meal prep for the next three days was sorted.

Snacks for the week include KIND bars (which Damien’s client gave us), apples, mango, Babybell cheeses, and lots of strawberry-mango-spinach smoothies.

To be honest, I was kind of embarrassed to post this meal prep. It’s basically just me cooking the leftover ingredients I had in my fridge.

Sometimes, though, life gets in the way of making fancy dinners and Instagram-worthy lunches. Recipes like this are how I stay on track.

 

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

Chicken Taco Salad

3 medium yams 

6 chicken breasts 

3-4 tablespoons avocado oil 

1 large head lettuce 

1 large bell pepper (I prefer orange or yellow) 

2 avocados 

1 small can black olives

1 can black beans 

1 package taco seasoning 

1 lime

Cilantro, for garnish

This is one of my favourite recipes to meal prep, mainly because it's super simple - and as you guys know, I'm generally a sloth on Sundays. I've made this with shrimp, ground turkey, ground beef, and chicken. It's always turned out great. 

First things first: preheat the oven to 425. Chop your sweet potatoes to similar sized small pieces, toss with half the avocado oil and salt and pepper. Spread 'em on a baking sheet and get them in the oven. I like mine just soft for this recipe, no crisp, so I usually aim to have them in for 30 minutes.  

Get a pan on the stovetop and add the rest of the avocado oil. If you don't use non-stick pans, you may need a bit more. Season your chicken breast with salt and pepper, and make sure the pan's hot; then add them in and leave them for 4-6 minutes (depending on thickness) before you flip 'em. 

In the meantime, roughly chop your lettuce and vegetables (leave the avocados, for now). I usually start assembling the salads in Tupperware at this point. Lettuce goes on the bottom, then peppers, olives, and black beans. I add 1/4 avocado to my three portions (and 1/2 an avocado to Damien's) then make sure I squeeze lime juice over everything. 

When the chicken is just about cooked, I add the taco seasoning. That's because the brand I use asks you to mix it with water and then pour it over the meat. I like to do that as the last step so that it's all nice and hot, bring it to a nice bubble and then reduce the heat for the last few minutes of cooking. 

I recommend letting the sweet potatoes and chicken cool before adding them to your salads. This'll just help keep all your veggies nice and crunchy. 

Occasionally, I'll skip the sweet potatoes and use rice instead. Totally depends on what we have available, and how carbed up I want to be. 

Paleo chipotle mayo is a great topper for this recipe. Drizzle a little bit on right before you dig in, and you'll be a happy camper. 

PS - This makes 3 large man-adult-sized portions and 3 medium girl-adult-sized portions. I generally give us both a similar main protein portion (because gainz), but Damien gets more sweet potatoes, beans, and everything else. 

 

Creamy Rice Pudding

1/2 cup arborio rice

4 cups Almond Milk 

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt 

Cinnamon 

Vanilla 

1/2 raisins, cranberries, or other dried fruit. 

Damien's been asking for rice pudding for close to six months now, so I bit the bullet and made us some for this week's meal prep. There's nothing fancy about this recipe. It's an old favourite of my Mom's - and considering she's literally the best cook I've ever met, I figured I would trust it. 

In the interest of ~health and fitness~, I subbed out whole milk for Almond Milk. I avoid dairy, but feel free to use whatever substitute suits you best. 

Add rice, sugar, salt, and milk to a saucepan over high heat. Bring to just a boil (keep an eye on the heat and a wooden spoon in the pot, because this will overflow quickly) then reduce heat. Stir in cranberries or raisins or whatever the heck you're using. Simmer very gently like so gently it's barely bubbling, for 50 minutes. 

Take off heat, stir in vanilla, and let sit. Top with cinnamon. 

I'm just keeping this in a giant glass container in the fridge, and we're portioning it out as we see fit; I know that if I actually store it in my little jars, I'll just eat them because they look so cute. Yes, I am easily manipulated by cute food. 

I also made us some Kodiak protein banana bread, but I'm not sharing that with you guys for awhile as it turned out a bit dense. The mix is for muffins, not bread, and I don't think I cooked it long enough (impatient, sorry not sorry). It tastes great, but the center was a bit pudding-esque and so has cooled to be very dense. Also, the middle fell. #BakingFail. Oh well, at least it's filling! 

Along with these snacks, we're having apples, BabyBells, pears, and hardboiled eggs. Allllll the snacks, all the time. 

Happy Monday, guys! 

 

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

As much as I love to cook, sometimes I just don't feel like spending my Sundays in the kitchen. That often coincides with days that are 20+ degrees and sunny - weird. 

We had some lofty ambitions for this weekend (pretty much all the fitness, swimming, a lot of cleaning and laundry, laying out, etc.). That meant meal prep had to be quick and dirty. 

These two recipes - paired with various smoothies, fruit, and Babybells - will get us through lunches and snacks for the first three days of the week. That's usually all I try and do at one time. This prep was done in under an hour, which left me with plenty of time to get back to the important weekend activities (like napping in the sun a la cat). 

Sesame Stir-Fry Thing

2 packages ground turkey

Tamari or soy or coconut aminos

Fresh ginger, minced

Honey

2 cloves garlic, pressed

Sesame oil

Sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients and let marinate for as long as you can (up to twelve hours, let’s not get too crazy).

Pan-fry until cooked. Top with sesame seeds. 
 

Serve on brown rice WITH:

Veggies on Veggies 

½ red cabbage, chopped

A lot of mushrooms, sliced

2 cups broccoli

Literally any other vegetables you have

Tamari or soy or coconut aminos

Coconut oil

Chili peppers (a sprinkle)

Sautee the vegetables in order of cook time (harder vegetables in the pan first, softer after). I only add enough soy/tamari to moisten the vegetables a bit and give them some flavor.

Each serving for Damien gets about a cup and a half of cooked brown rice, a bunch of veggies and about two cups of ground turkey. My servings are about 3/4s of his (I honestly just add slightly less rice and more vegetables to mine, because I operate well on a bit fewer carbs than he does).

This will feed us for three lunches each.

 

Chocolate Berry Chia Puddings

6 containers (I use 3 large jars for Dame and 3 small for me)

Chia seeds

Frozen berries

Chocolate protein powder

Almond milk

Coconut flakes

Agave  

In Damien’s jars, I use 3 tablespoons of chia seeds, ½ a serving of chocolate protein powder, and about ¾ cup of almond milk. I mix it together well, then add in about a half a cup of frozen berries and mix to combine. Coconut and agave goes on top.

For mine, I use 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, ⅓ serving of protein, and about ½ cup almond milk. That’s sweet enough for me, so I skip the agave but add coconut. Gotta love coconut.  

(If I’m feeling wild, I also add shaved almonds if we have them, or chocolate chips.)