Three abs builders that also help your chin ups.

abs dogAre you including exercises that move you closer to doing things you’ve always wanted to do? Maybe you’ve never been able to do a chin up. Or you’d like to be able to do them better. Because chin ups are badass, of course.
There are a lot of factors that come into play when we pull ourselves up to a bar. A perfect chin up is a display of strength, mobility, and control over our bodies.

You might think that a chin up requires mostly upper body strength. You do need to have a strong upper body. Pulling your own weight isn’t easy.

There are all sorts of variations on chin ups. And they all get easier to do if you develop a powerful core. Your abs, your lats, and your glutes need to not only be strong. They need to be trained in a way that makes it easier for you to translate that stability onto the bar.

Strength + stabilizing yourself + proper positioning = better chin ups.

Today you’ll get a few big moves that will help your stability and positioning – and killer abs, of course.

Hollow Body Holds

Why you need them:  see that “hollow banana” shape my body is making? That’s the position that you’ll use on the bar. You can make this exercise easier or harder by how high or low you set your legs. 

Stick them in your workout: try 3-4 sets of holding as long as you can without your lower back kicking in. For me, 20 to 30 seconds is plenty.

Watch the video above to get a full tutorial on this one. Then set your abs on fire. 

Hanging Leg Raises

Why you need them: want to improve your chin ups? Spend time practicing perfect positioning at both the top and the bottom of the position. The photo above shows a flexed arm hang. It gives you more time holding the top of the chin up position, takes some pressure off your lower back, and helps you avoid stress to your shoulders if you tend to lose your position at the bottom while you crunch with your abs. 

You can do leg raises with straight arms too. Both versions require the hollow body position we talked about – avoid arching your back during this exercise and maintain tension through your abs and back. The link above will demo the flexed arm version. Or watch this full tutorial for the straight arm version of a  leg raise:

Make it easier by bending your knees. Make it harder by crunching with straight legs. 

How many: try 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps as one of your ab exercises for the day. 


Why you need them: for an amazing ab adventure, to learn to develop stiffness and control through your core, and as an easier alternative to the hanging leg raise. 

Think about what a hanging leg raise looks like. Now take that position back down to the floor. That’s essentially the starting point of the deadbug. I used to think this move was easy and dumb until I actually did it correctly. 

The most common mistake is bringing the knee too close to the chest. That lets your hip flexor do too much work and lets your abs off the hook. Instead, forcefully exhale your breath with every rep and make sure you feel your abs contract hard. Catch the demo above. And if you’re still not feeling your abs, it can help to try them with a band, as in the following demo.

As you can see, working your core stability translates to helping you do just about everything better – in and out of the gym. 

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Meal Planning Monday: 1.16.2017


I always write these on Sunday, but Monday sounds so much catchier. Anyway, if you’re actually reading this on Sunday, high fives to you for being a go getter. 

It doesn’t even matter when you meal prep: just get it done when it works for you. 

Here’s what I’m cooking and eating up this week for dinner. I also have some badass breakfasts to share. Lunches for me are usually leftovers. I live a glamorous life, I know. 

Sunday (today): Slow cooker cider pork roast with apple thyme gravy. Serving with mashed cauliflower. This recipe is cooking right now. It smells great and was stupid easy to throw together. I skipped the apple brandy and picked up a mini bottle of apple whiskey. Boozy dinner ftw. You can freeze extra meat to use in other things if you won’t be using it up for leftover lunches and dinners this week. 

Monday: Upside down BBQ chicken bowls. The bonus of this is that you can put a huge batch of chicken breasts in your slow cooker with a little BBQ sauce. Cook that 4-6 hours and shred with a bit more sauce. You now have meat for more bowls during the week, or just freeze the cooked meat in individual portions for another day. I like that this recipe uses lots of broccoli slaw. Eat that up, it will fill your belly. 

Tuesday: Slow cooker posole(pork and hominy stew). I’m going to riff off of this Skinnytaste recipe, using the leftover pork from Sunday, though her instructions help you use fresh pork too. I don’t own a pressure cooker (wah!) so I’ll use the slow cooker instead. I’ll serve this with a fresh salad of citrus, avocado, and greens. 

Still have soup leftover? This will freeze just fine to live another day. 

Wednesday: Winter citrus butter salmon. Serving with a wild rice blend and steamer bag broccoli. This recipe sounds incredibly good. I’ll likely go light on the butter and need to sub regular oranges for the blood oranges unless they appear in the market soon. 

Thursday: Leftovers if we’ve got them: or soup from the freezer. 

Friday: Taco Friday is not #tacotuesday. But if I make a giant batch of seasoned taco meat, I can eat a taco on Tuesday and feel cool. Freeze some extra meat for tacos any time. I have tons of ground turkey in my freezer, so I’ll use that plus some low sodium taco seasoning. Or make your own. I usually opt for small corn tortillas – they’re low in calories. Lower carb tortillas work well too. And I’m perfectly happy to make a taco salad out of taco meat, tons of veggies, and a little guacamole. 

Saturday: Beef bourgignon (stew with red wine). A lazy kind of winter day meal to fill your kitchen with good smells. If you make a big batch, this freezes really well too. I’ll serve it with just a little crusty bread along with the veggies in the stew. 

Have a recipe that rocks your world? Leave a comment and tell me all about it. Have a great week! 

Citrus soy cod en papillote (that’s fancy talk for fish packets, yo).


Fish en papillote just means “in paper.” Or in foil. You’re going to make a packet. You’re going to use some fish. And you’re going to have a low calorie, high protein meal that tastes like you can’t believe you’ve been missing out on these. 

I set out to create a low calorie meal that I could use on days when I want a big meal, a dessert, or maybe a bourbon or two. 

The best part of this is that the cod is incredibly tender and flavorful – not fishy at all. And cooking fish in packets leaves you with almost no cleanup to do after you eat. Hooray! 

I used individually wrapped cod portions from Costco. My recipe is for just one portion, but go ahead and double, triple, or quadruple it if you family likes fish. Mine are still unbelievers, but they’ll come around eventually. 

134 calories|1g fat|3g carb|24g protein|1g fiber

Citrus soy cod packets
Serves 1
A low calorie, high protein, tasty way to enjoy cod.
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
  1. 1 sheet parchment paper or foil
  2. 4.5 ounce piece of cod (size doesn't matter all that much for cooking time. I used thawed frozen cod from Costco.)
  3. 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  4. 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  5. 1 clove garlic, minced
  6. 1/4 large zucchini, cut into thin slices
  7. 1 slice of raw onion, cut into smaller pieces
  8. 1 wedge of lemon
  9. Nonstick cooking spray -preferably olive oil spray
  1. Heat oven to 425F.
  2. Lay out the parchment or foil onto a baking sheet. Spray the parchment with a bit of spray for just a wee bit of extra flavor and fat.
  3. Lay your zucchini pieces and onion onto the paper, and place the cod on top of that.
  4. Sprinkle on the garlic and ginger. Drizzle with soy sauce and squeeze the lemon wedge on top of that. You can also cut the wedge into small pieces and place into the packet.
  5. Season with a little salt. Now roll up your packet so that there's a bit of room in there but it won't come open.
  6. Place in oven and cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork when you open your packet. Serve.
Amy Dix

High protein, low calorie frittata with poblano and turkey bacon


I think I shall call this a “brotatta”. Because the bros and lady bros will love this for a high protein meal or snack that is remarkably low in calories. But it’s not low in flavor. 

I don’t mind using whole eggs with egg whites in my fritattas and omelets. The nutrition from the yolk is good and you don’t need to worry about the cholesterol. Yet if you want to shave off a few calories and leave room for extra bacon, that’s cool too. 

I experimented with an ingredient I love to diss: turkey bacon. I’m an Iowan, and we love good, porky bacon. But my challenge was to create a leaner, meaner frittata without skimping on flavor. And honestly, tossed in the frittata, I still got that smoky bacon flavor for only 35 calories in 2 slices of the turkey “bacon”. I used Wellshire uncured turkey bacon. It’s low in sugar and calories. But I’ve heard Oscar Mayer makes a tasty turkey bacon too. Use whatever you like for your meat if you decide you’d like your frittata to have some. 

This recipe serves one hungry lady. I attempted to cook this on the stovetop instead of finishing in the oven as I usually do. It worked fine, except flipping the thing was a challenge. It doesn’t matter – just cook it until the egg whites are set. 

If you want a heartier meal, add some whole grains or fruit on the side. For breakfast or brinner – it’s tasty fuel for your day. 

207 kcal|8g fat|4g carb|27g protein|1g fiber

Egg white frittata with poblano pepper and turkey bacon
Serves 1
A high protein, low carb and low calorie frittata for breakfast or brinner.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 8 Tbsp liquid egg whites (that's about 3 egg whites)
  2. 2 Tbsp 2% milk
  3. 2 slices fully cooked turkey bacon (I used Wellshire uncured pre-cooked bacon)
  4. 1/4 cup 2% shredded cheddar cheese
  5. 1 green onion - white parts separated from the green.
  6. 3/4 poblano pepper (I ate the rest while cooking. Use the whole pepper if you like.)
  7. Seasonings: a bit of salt and pepper in the eggs. Optional smoked paprika is excellent too.
  1. Chop your veggies so they're ready to go. Chop the bacon into small pieces too.
  2. Measure your egg whites into a cup and add the milk. Whisk to combine.
  3. Heat a small nonstick pan over medium heat. Saute the pepper and white parts of the green onion.
  4. Add the bacon to the veggies plus any additional spices/seasonings and stir to combine.
  5. Add the egg whites/milk mixture and sprinkle on your cheese. Cover the pan and cook 4-5 minutes until the frittata is lightly brown on the bottom.
  6. If you're skilled, flip it in the pan to brown the other side. Otherwise just keep the pan covered and cook another 3-4 minutes or until the egg whites are fully set.
  7. Flip the frittata from the pan onto a plate. Sprinkle on the green onions. Serve.
Amy Dix

Curried high protein tuna cakes with lemon sauce


Tuna and chicken are classic bro foods if you’re a lifter who needs to pack in a bunch of protein into the day. But it doesn’t need to be boring. 

I tinkered with tuna cakes and came up with a recipe that I’d eat even if I weren’t trying to build some serious muscle. High protein meals are important for fat loss too: they help you retain precious muscle and stay full. 

I designed this recipe to be very light on calories, making it perfect for a small lunch or snack on days when you want to spend your calories on a bigger meal or uh, maybe a few beers later on. 

One note: don’t use liquid egg white for these. It makes them way too goopy. Crack an egg and save the yolk for something else. 

Eat them on their own or pair with a salad for a bigger meal. Either way, I think you’ll love them as much as I do. 

Here’s the video. The full, printable recipe and nutrition info follows. Enjoy!

Nutrition for one serving: mine made 3 cakes:

138 calories|1g fat|6g carb|27g protein|2g fiber

High protein curried tuna cakes with lemony sauce
Serves 1
A high protein, low calorie way to lunch.
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
15 min
  1. 1 pouch of light tuna packed in water (or a can), drained
  2. .75 oz baby spinach, finely chopped (1 handful)
  3. 1/2 cup raw zucchini, grated and drained/squeezed
  4. 2 large egg whites
  5. 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  6. 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  7. 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  9. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  10. salt and pepper to taste, optional sprinkle of cayenne
Sauce for topping
  1. 1-2 Tbsp plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  2. 1 big squeeze of lemon juice
  3. Optional: a small amount of chopped cilantro or parsley to sprinkle on top.
  1. Mix your sauce first and set aside. It's just the yogurt and lemon juice.
  2. Grate the zucchini and squeeze it well. Place into a bowl with the remaining ingredients and combine. Form into 3-4 patties.
  3. Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat and gently transfer the patties to the pan. They'll be slightly loose, but that's okay. They'll firm up.
  4. Cook 2-3 minutes per side and remove from heat.
  5. Top with lemon sauce and eat!
  1. These can be made ahead and reheated. Recipe is for 1 serving, but could easily be multiplied.
Amy Dix

Spicy gochujang turkey burgers with kimchi

spicy-turkey-burgerI love good turkey burgers. I hate dry, tasteless turkey burgers. 

I love high protein meals. I hate ones that are boring. 

I love low calorie meals that actually taste amazing. I hate the ones that disappoint me. 

I have needs, okay? I’ll bet you do too. I had a package of crazy lean ground turkey -97%. That means it is high in protein, low in calories per ounce, but prone to being pretty damn tasteless and dry. 

I decided I needed a turkey burger in my life, and drew upon another low calorie incredient to make them moist. Moist is a really gross word. But it’s appropriate here. Sorry. Anyway, as it turns out, if you shred zucchini and put it in your meats, they won’t dry out. But you also won’t taste the veggies. 

Turkey burgers also need some amped up flavor. So I added Korean gochujang paste for a little heat and depth: it’s the new Sriracha, for you hipster foodies out there. Grab it at the Asian store, or just swap in sriracha. 

I also wanted to include a little Worchestershire sauce for more umami. I think umami means “funky goodness”. Or that hard to describe “meaty” taste that turkey burgers often lack. Some people use anchovy paste or even Marmite, but this is what I had lying around. 

Going with my Asian theme, I included soy sauce, garlic, and some onion in my burger mix. I could have added some sesame oil, but I was attempting to create a truly lean burger. I bound it all together with an egg white instead. Yeah, I’m a fun hater. If you want to increase the calories a bit, definitely sprinkle in a bit of sesame oil because you’ll love life more. 

Top these off with a little kimchi or gild the lily with whatever you like. These are spicy, meaty, high in protein and low in calories. Serve on a bed of greens or on a half bun for a light lunch or dinner. 

162 calories|4g fat|3g carb|28g protein|1g fiber

Spicy gochujang turkey burgers with kimchi
Serves 5
A high protein, low calorie turkey burger that actually isn't dry and tasteless, thanks to a few key ingredients.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
12 min
Total Time
22 min
  1. 20 ounces of 97% lean ground turkey
  2. 1 Tbsp gochujang paste
  3. 1 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  4. 90 grams grated zucchini (roughly half a zucchini)
  5. 80 grams raw onion (roughly half an onion), diced
  6. 1 egg white or 3-4 Tbsp liquid egg whites
  7. Optional: kimchi to top the burger after it cooks. Bun and/or greens for serving.
  1. Grate and dice your veggies. Put into a bowl with everything else except toppers. Smoosh it up. Form into 5 patties.
  2. Heat a nonstick grill pan or skillet over medium high heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and cook 5-6 minutes per side in a covered pan.
  3. Remove from heat. Top with kimchi. Serve.
Amy Dix

Lightened up Greek Avgolemono Chicken Soup

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

If you haven’t had Avgolemono yet, it’s now time. Because it’s a bright, citrusy Greek classic and because this version is easy, low in calories, and still a perfect comfort food for all year round. 

The classic version incorporates lemons of course, along with chicken stock thickened with eggs and orzo. I made just a few small swaps: most notably, using cauliflower rice instead of orzo. 


Someday I’ll be able to photograph food better. It was evening and this doesn’t look nearly as yummy as it is!

There’s nothing wrong with a little pasta in your soup. But on days when I want to eat a lighter meal, using low carb veggies like cauliflower or zucchini noodles helps me shave off significant calories. And the results still taste amazing. 

Also note that this version has a big chicken to “everything else” kind of ratio. That makes it incredibly high in protein for the amount of calories it contains. And perfect for staying full (with room left for dessert later). 

I used egg white in this recipe just to see if I’d miss the yolk. Egg yolks contain plenty of nutrients and I’d recommend including it if you’d like. I, however, wanted to see if I could create a very lean recipe that would leave one with plenty of room left in their day for a bigger meal.

I also wanted more of a thick stew – so I used not so much stock. If you like your soup, well, soupier, add another cup.

As it turns out, with all my tweaks, this soup is still packed with flavor. Give it a try. 

I’ve included the recipe for just one serving: gather your leftover chicken and get cooking. Nutrition information follows. 

Lightened Up Avgolemono Chicken Soup
Serves 1
A high protein, low calorie soup that's tastes just as bright and flavorful as the original.
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
  1. 5.5 ounces of cooked chicken
  2. 1/2 stalk celery
  3. 1 slice of onion, diced
  4. 1 cup low-sodium light chicken stock (I used Aldi's Fit and Active. Use whatever you like.)
  5. 1 egg white
  6. Zest of 1 small lemon
  7. Juice of 1/2 lemon
  8. 1 teaspoon of dried herbs - oregano is perfect, but thyme or basil would work well too
  9. salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop your leftover chicken into small pieces if needed and set aside. Chop your veggies, zest the lemon, and then set the lemon aside for now. Put the egg white in a small bowl and have it ready to go.
  2. In a small pot sprayed with nonstick cooking spray over medium heat, soften up the onion and celery for 4-5 minutes. Add the herb and cook for another minute or so.
  3. Add chicken stock and allow to come to a simmer. Take a ladle and remove a small amount of the stock. Whisk that slowly into the egg white. This "tempers" the egg white so that it doesn't scramble.
  4. Now add the zest and squeeze the half lemon into the egg white mixture, and return that all to the main pot. Whisk vigorously to incorporate, then add the chicken.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. Then enjoy!
Amy Dix
263 calories|6g fat|5g carbs|44g protein|2g fiber

Meal Planning Monday – January 8, 2017


It’s a new year, and a new you? Nah. Same old me and you. Except with fewer holiday treats most likely. But it feels good to get back to meals that nourish me. Yet still taste great. Here’s my winter menu for a week of healthy but delicious dinners.

Monday: Leftover lean ground beef and mushroom sloppy joes from our freezer. I still use this old school recipe that my mother cooked. Except I stretch the beef by doubling the other ingredients and adding plenty of mushrooms.  I further lighten it up by using 88% lean ground beef and light buns. Serve this with a salad. 

Tuesday: Turkey Meatball Soup with Spinach and Farro holds promise of being fantastic. And I happen to have a shortcut: pre-cooked turkey meatballs. I’ll sprinkle a bit of parmesan from the recipe onto the soup before serving instead of working it into the meatballs. Extra salad for a side sounds good too. 

Wednesday: Maybe I still have an urge to eat Thanksgiving turkey. So I’ll roast a lean turkey breast along with honey roasted squash with cranberries and feta.

Thursday: Surely we’ll have leftover turkey breast. This autumn turkey and apple salad sounds dope. And fast. 
Friday:  Friday is usually the day when I don’t really feel like cooking. At all. The week is over, and I want something easy to make. Ordering pizza is an option, but so are Protein Up Flatbread pizzas. I have some turkey pepperoni, shredded mozzarella cheese, and pizza sauce waiting to go.

Of course, you can get a lot more creative with your pizza. Arugula, fig, and prosciutto is fancypants. Pineapple and canadian bacon is one of my favorites, and even BBQ chicken. Pizza your face off. 
Saturday: I’ve had a craving for Indian food lately that’s been driving me to distraction. If I’m feeling adventurous, I’ll make the labor intensive yet incredible Biriyani recipe from Food52.

If I am lacking motivation for that, the Slow Cooker Butter Chickpeas and Tofu from the blog Delish Knowledge should do the job too – with much less effort. I like to pair spicy Indian food with cool cucumber salads or a traditional raita

Sunday: Have you heard of celeriac? It’s a root veggie with a bright flavor that I love to mix in with mashed potatoes to make them taste amazing. I’m going to use some to make this wintery celeriac and apple soup to pair with a lean pork tenderloin. I’ll keep the pork prep simple, just roasting it with some herbs, salt, and pepper in the oven.  Sundays are my days to kick back with more cooking and food prep. 

Have a recipe you can’t wait to try or that is one of your beloveds? Your bae? C’mon now, share that in a comment below. 

Top picks for healthy fast food that doesn’t taste like a plate of sadness.

photo credit: PTBO Canada. If only we had a Tim Horton's here.

photo credit: PTBO Canada. If only we had a Tim Horton’s here.

Over the river and through the woods… with a few stops along the way for a bite to eat. But have you wondered what to order when you pull that sleigh up into a fast food parking lot?

Or maybe zombies attack. And you’re trapped at Wendy’s. Grab your machetes and a salad.

Or you’re just hangry, out shopping, and the thought of eating a plate of kale overwhelms you with sadness. 

We all find ourselves out and about and have to grab a quick bite to eat. Most of the time, whether you cook at home or find yourself cruising the drive through, you’ll feel a lot better if you make a healthy choice. Over the last few years I’ve found a few hidden gems at fast food joints. And my clients who travel a lot have unearthed even more.

One thing to keep in mind if you do find yourself eating out frequently is to watch the sodium content of what you choose. A meal here and there is no big deal. But if you’re a frequent traveler, it may impact your health.

Now for the ideas: I’m no scrooge, so I’ll share my top picks with you today. What constitutes a “healthy” meal?

Healthy is a bit of a vague idea. For me, what I choose falls best in line with my overall nutrition goals. It might not be a perfect choice, but you do the best with what you’ve got. So along come my criteria:

  • 500 calories or less – if you have more calories to play with in your day, your meals can have more food. But I’m in the “small and aging” category and a 400 to 500 calorie meal is about a third of my daily maintenance calories.
  • Protein – the more, the better. It preserves muscle and helps you feel full.
  • Veggies –whenever I can find these at a restaurant, I add them to my meal. They’ve got plenty of vitamins and minerals but also filling fiber.
  • Whole grains – if I do choose to eat some delicious carbs, I usually try to find a fiber-rich whole grain source.

Think it can’t be done? It can!

Under the Golden Arches
Classic fast food chains are losing ground to slightly more upscale, not-quite-so-fast restaurants like Chipotle and Panera. But if you’re traveling on the interstate, your restaurant choices become slim. If we’re on the way to grandma’s, we want to make our stop quick and snappy. Here are a few picks from places that you can find nearly everywhere.


Look, fried chicken is delicious. But it’s also heavy and high in calories. Instead, go grilled. Their Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breast is only 180 calories and has 31 grams of protein. Drumsticks are 60 calories and boast 10 grams of protein. Add a side of green beans for only 25 calories more.

On a wintery day, the large bowl of beefy chili at Wendy’s hits the spot. It’s 250 calories and has 23g of protein and 5g of fiber.

An even better choice is the Asian cashew chicken salad. It comes in at 380 calories, even with the dressing. Yet it also packs a whopping 37g of protein and 6 grams of fiber.


There’s always McDonald’s. I have a few favorites here. When you can get breakfast, the Egg White Delight McMuffin has 250 calories, 18 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber.

For lunch or dinner, the Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken will give you 29g protein and 2g fiber but only sets you back 220 calories. And if you’re jonesing for something sweet, treat yoself to a low fat vanilla ice cream cone. The full size is 170 calories, but you can get a kiddie cone for only 45 calories.

Burger King

Skip the mayo on the BK Veggie Burger and you can get a sandwich that’s 310 calories with 6g of fiber and 22g of protein. And it actually tastes good. 


So this surprised me. You can get a big ass salad at Subway with just about any meat you like and it’s super filling because you pile on a ton of veggies. Yet very low in calories. The Oven Roasted Chicken Salad is only 140 calories yet has 19 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Just don’t ask for a “big ass salad”. They’ll look at you funny.

If you have a craving for a sandwich, order the Rotisserie Style Chicken Sandwich. With cheese, it comes in at 360 calories with 26g protein and 5g of fiber. Skip the heavy dressings and oils and stick to mustard and seasonings – with plenty of veggies packed in.


Beyond the basics.


All my bro friends love Chipotle. I love Chipotle. I ate it so frequently for a while that I needed a break. No, it’s not authentic Mexican food. But if you’re out and about and need a quick bite, this place will help you out. You can customize just about anything here.

My standard order is a salad. I add double chicken, salsa, pinto beans, and just a tablespoon of guacamole from the big container they give. It comes in at around  520 calories yet has 70g of protein. You can lighten this up a bit by just doing a single serving of chicken. Full bros order double though. It’s science.


Apparently Panera discontinued their secret menu of “power” meals. What a bummer –these were all fresh and used mostly whole foods. But there are some solid choices you can still grab. Some of their salads are seasonal and you can’t get them all year round. But most of their salads are relatively reasonable for calories and several are moderately high in protein.

In the winter, though, soup sounds even better to me. The new Thai Garden Chicken Wonton broth bowl is 290 calories, contains 4g fiber and 23g protein. A bowl of turkey chili contains 260 calories, 17g protein, and a hefty 16g fiber. Order the apple for your side instead of bread or chips and you’ll have a healthy spanking meal.

I associate Culver’s with delicious but greasy butter burgers. I mean, butter burger. Just say that. So I drove past Culver’s until my friend Angie tipped me off to the Cranberry Bacon Bleu Salad with Grilled Chicken. It has 360 calories and 44g of protein. And bacon. Whoa.


photo credit: peanut butter runner

photo credit: peanut butter runner

Aside from coffee and calorie-laden coffee drinks, Starbucks has a few healthy breakfast and lunches you can enjoy. Some locations carry more things than others. But for breakfast, I love to order a breakfast sandwich. The Egg White, Spinach & Feta Wrap has 290 calories, 6g of fiber, and 19g of protein. And it’s delicious.

The Turkey Bacon Breakfast Sandwich is also a solid choice, especially if you’re craving some bread. It’s 320 calories with 18g of protein and 3g of fiber.


Grab the Grilled Chicken Wrap and you’ll be able to feast for only 340 calories – yet stay full with 15g of fiber and 36g of protein.

Other Quick Tips
You don’t always get to choose your restaurant. Maybe you have a meeting or your family outvoted you. These tips will help you make good choices wherever you land.

  • Order grilled meat instead of fried. And if it comes on a bun, either eat half the bun or ditch it entirely.
  • Look for salads – even a plain green salad can be punched up with a burger or chicken breast to give you extra veggies and a lighter but filling meal.
  • Beware of dressings on salads: they can easily add hundreds of extra calories. Don’t ditch it entirely, because your body needs a little fat to absorb the nutrients from your greens. Just order it on the side and use a small amount.
  • For breakfast, several places now offer oatmeal. If you’re looking for some good whole grain fuel, this is a good choice. Just watch your toppers. Ditch the dried fruit and extra sugar. If you can grab a banana or other whole fruit, add that instead.
  • Choose whole meats and veggies over sandwiches and pasta dishes most of the time if you’re trying to lower calories and amp up protein.
  • For soups, creamy soups are usually high in calories. Order a small cup instead of a large bowl to enjoy these and amp up your nutrition with a side salad.

Phew. We made it. Those are my current favorite finds. What are yours? Share them in a comment below!

Meal Planning Monday: December 18, 2016


Oh hey there! Are you set for the holidays? I just realized that Christmas is only a week away and I don’t have my shiz together quite yet. Meals this week need to be simple. And warm. So warm. 

The requirement for meals this week is that they need to be light, budget friendly, and quick to prep. I’m saving up all my money and cooking mojo for Christmas day. 

Here’s what’s cooking: 

Monday: Autumn turkey burger with spicy honey drizzle. I’ve made these several times now and keep going back for more. Nom nom nom. I’ll serve with a beet salad on the side. 

Tuesday: Tuna cakes with sriracha light mayo sauce and mixed green salad. 

Wednesday: Crockpot pizza chicken and veggies. Low calorie, low cost, low time involved. Plus, you know, pizza. 

Thursday: Leftovers or soup from the freezer. One easy, budget friendly soup I make and freeze is chicken enchiladas soup. It’s cheap and easy. Plus you can throw the whole mess in your slow cooker. 

Friday: Fish tostadas with chili lime cream. I have made my own version of this with the tortilla crusted tilapia filets from Costco. Many supermarkets carry something similar. Cheat your face off and make these fast. 

Saturday: Christmas eve dinner with my family. We’re keeping it simple with a Chipotle style DIY burrito bar. 

Sunday: Christmas Dinner! I’ve never cooked a crown roast of pork before. It looks fancy, even without those weird little paper hats on the tips. Here is my menu:

Crown roast of pork with apple stuffing
My mom’s cranberry sauce
Butternut squash and rutabaga puree
Shaved Brussels sprouts salad with bacon, meyer lemon, and dried tart cherries
Chocolate peppermint ice cream cake

What’s your favorite part of holiday dinners? The main meat? The sides? The eggnog? Leave a comment and share. Happy holidays!

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