A few months ago I asked the LimitlessCOMMUNITY, “ what are some of your limiting factors for not being as fit as you’d like?”
Two common responses were:
- I don’t know how to cook healthy meals
- I don’t meal plan
Well today is your lucky day!
You and I are about to cover some simple cooking and meal planning strategies, that will have you ready to prepare healthy meals by the time you’re done reading this article.
- We’ll cover which spices go best with different proteins
- How to create your own meal plan each week
- My personal, “what’s in the fridge – I’ll just make that” recipe strategy
- Plus, I’ll introduce you to a few of my favorite foodies, cookbooks, and more
Put on your apron and lets cook ourselves up an article.
One of my worst jokes of all time.
YOU’RE A WORLD CLASS CHEF, YOU JUST DON’T KNOW IT YET.
I know you already know how important your mindset is when it comes to achieving goals, improving, and generally just getting better each day.
Whether you’re an athlete, weekend warrior, high performing executive, or student – your mind and specifically the way you talk to yourself is important.
The minute you tell yourself you’re not a cook, I can’t cook, I don’t know how to cook is the exact instant that you actually become that.
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Psychologist Carol Dweck introduces us to two different mindsets.
- The fixed mindset
- The growth mindset
A fixed mindset is one in which you feel your basic human qualities are fixed. For example, your intelligence, talent, and in this case cooking abilities (and other skills) are set in stone. When you have a fixed mindset you tend to put forth less effort or hard work into developing or improving skills because you’ve already defined who you are.
Example: “I don’t know how to cook.” “I’m not a good cook.” “I don’t like to cook.”
A growth mindset is one in which you believe your abilities can be improved upon through hard work, dedication, and persistence. When you have a growth mindset – learning, loving the process rather than the result, and experimenting are prioritized.
Example: You learn a new cooking skill like how to sauté vegetables. Practice it, continue to improve upon it, and then learn another new cooking skill.
In Professor Dwecks own words:
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
Why do I even mention these mindsets?
Because if you’re defining yourself as someone who doesn’t cook or know how to cook. How hard do you think you’ll try to get better? Not very, right?
A great example of this is found in a study that Dweck and her assistants conducted.
In one particular school there was a group of children classified as “helpless.” If these kids came across math problems that they could not solve it led to them not being able to solve problems that they had already previously solved – some of these kids did not recover the ability to solve these problems for days.
Using different exercises, Dweck and her team trained half of the students to identify their errors in math due to effort but encouraged them to keep trying. These kids learned to persist despite their failures – and eventually succeeded.
The other group, which was not trained to identify their errors due to effort. These kids showed no improvement and continued to fall apart quickly in the face of adversity and to recover slowly from mistakes.
The children that were trained to put forth more effort identified themselves as “problem-solvers” and not failures. In fact, one of the kids when faced with a big math challenge ended up hopping our of his chair, rubbing his hands together, smacking hips lips and announcing, “I love a challenge.” – Stanford.edu
So let me ask you. Are you up for the challenge of learning to cook?
SUPER SIMPLE COOKING METHOD
What I’m about to show you are some top-secret, CSI, CIA, Code Blue, Code Red, and Code Magenta cooking tips.
*Limitless365 Disclaimer: I am not liable for the kitchen debauchery that WILL ensue after learning these techniques.
This top-secret method has been used by world renewed chefs for years. It’s called “Throw It In A Pan And Watch It”
This method of cooking has got me through adolescents, college, and my low back aching 30’s (I know – the worlds smallest violin playing just for me.)
But seriously, this technique has saved me countless hours, headaches, and mistakes in the kitchen.
So how do you do this?
- Grab a pan, wok, or skillet
- Put a healthy fat in the pan (preferably solid at room temperature) Grass-fed butter, coconut oil, but olive oil will do. Use 1 tablespoon for every 4 to 6 ounces (about the size of your palm) of protein that you’re cooking.
- Add a palm to two palms serving of protein of your choice (Fish, beef, turkey, lamb, chicken, eggs) and let it brown.
- Add 1 to 2 fists of vegetables
- Cover it with a lid and let it sit
- Add your favorite spices to taste
- Check on it every 2 to 3 minutes
You my friend have just learned to cook!
CAN I REALLY MAKE EASY AND DELICIOUS MEALS USING THAT STRATEGY?
F*ck ya you can.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a real world example.
A few Sunday nights back I was at my home, starving, and ready to pour my dogs Lincoln and Kai’s food into a bowl and eat that if it would satisfy me… I’m serious.
I do the old fridge, freezer, and pantry routine – You know, that thing you do when you’re hungry and you open the fridge, close it. Then you open the freezer, close it. Then open the pantry, and close it.
There’s nothing to eat. 🙂
I know you’ve done it too – meanwhile all three are stocked. You’re just being a lazy knucklehead.
This was no exception. As I proceeded to close the pantry and was just about to mouth, “damn, there’s nothing to eat.” I caught myself and admitted I was just being difficult.
So I opened the fridge and peered around. A bag of mixed veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots) and baby cucumbers.
Veggies… check! I can work with this.
I open the freezer again and proceed to scan. Hmmmmm, shrimp….. scallops.
Protein… check! I can work with this.
I move on to the pantry, chef goggles on.
Lets see, lets see. Salt, lemon pepper, olive oil…
Sounds good to me. Lets do this thing.
I proceed to follow the steps outlined above:
- I grab a pan and turn on the stove
- I grab my olive oil and pour a little in (probably a thumb sized serving.
- I throw in my scallops and shrimp. I’d say about the size of my hand. I let this cook for a little, taste testing when it looks like it has been cooked well enough.
- While the seafood is cooking I cut up the cucumbers and put them on a separate plate. I just tear open the veggie mix bag and throw it in the pan, adding about two tablespoons of water and a little more olive oil. I let the concoction sit for a few minutes, stirring as necessary.
A few minutes later it’s done. I plate it (add a little avocado) and am ready to grub. But it’s missing something. My roommate walks by and grabs the balsamic vinegar.
“Put this on the cucumbers,” he says. So I do.
This is what I get. Pure creative deliciousness in 15 minutes. Hunger and health crushed!
I’VE GOT THE BASICS DOWN: WHAT SPICES GO BEST WITH WHAT FOODS?
A little spice can go a long way but it can be a bit confusing trying to figure out what’s going to go best with what you’re serving, especially if you’re winging it.
Below I’m breaking down the best spices for different proteins. You’ll notice I’m keeping the list to only five spices per protein. Reason being I want you to do less thinking in the kitchen and more cooking.
These are spices and seasonings that should always be on hand. They add flavor and variety to any dish.
- Iodized Sea Salt (or Himalayan Salt)
- Whole Peppercorns (you can grind these on your own)
Proteins, Herbs & Spice Combinations For The Win:
- Beef: Cayenne, Curry Powder, Garlic, Onion, Thyme
- Eggs: Chives, Curry Powder, Dill, Ginger, Red Pepper
- Fish/Seafood: Bay Leaf, Dill, Fennel, Lemon Zest, Turmeric
- Lamb/Other Game Meat: Cumin, Curry Powder, Garlic, Rosemary, Thyme
- Poultry: Bay Leaf, Cilantro, Garlic, Paprika, Thyme
- Pork: Cloves, Fennel, Ginger, Paprika, Sage
If you buy dried herbs they’re best used in combination with healthy oils like olive oil, avocado oil, or when combined with other healthy fats such as grass-fed butter, ghee, or coconut oil. When used like this they end up infusing the cooking oils with tons of flavor.
I like to put a little of the oil I’ll be using in a dish, sprinkle in my herbs and spices, and mix that bad boy around a bit – adding it to my dish as it cooks over a low to medium heat.
Give a little looksie through your kitchen and make sure you have some of these herbs and spices on hand. If not, get to the store and grab a few.
Next time you’re in the kitchen get creative and apply some combinations to what ever protein you have cooking.
If it turns out delicious write down the recipe on an index card and save it for later of save it for another time.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN MEAL PLAN
Ok, now the hard part – am I right?
Trying to figure out WTF or WTH (what the heck) you’re going to eat, not to mention trying to find the time to prepare it eat week can be difficult. But if you want to become the healthiest version of yourself this is going to be a habit that you’ll need to dominate.
For most people Sunday is a day that offers some free time to prepare for the week ahead. I’m going to lay out some strategies for you based on that but feel free to make adjustments so that it works with your schedule.
What is this college? Sort of.
Before you read on I’m going to need you to make some time in your schedule to actually cook healthy meals. One of the biggest excuses that I hear from people who want to be healthier but are not is that they “just don’t have the time.”
Well, guess what – NO ONE has the time. You’re going to have to shift priorities and create time if you want to live a healthier lifestyle.
- Less TV
- Less booking on “The Face”
- Less checking email
- Wake up earlier
Brainstorm a bit. Where can you create some time? And don’t you dare tell me you can’t. If that’s the case please email me here and I’ll create the time for you.
Step 1: Kitchen Walk Through (15 to 30 minutes)
You could do this on Saturday or early in the day Sunday. Simply go through your kitchen and to see what foods you have on hand to work with. Make sure to go through the fridge, freezer, pantry, and any cupboards where you keep food.
You’ll want to make sure you have proteins, vegetables, low sugar fruits, a few starchy carbohydrates, healthy fats, and herbs and spices.
If you’re not sure exactly what foods to look for you can use these lists to help you out.
You can also use this cheat sheet to help you remember some of your favorite foods or favorite foods for different people in your household.
If you don’t have a good pan, slow cooker, and containers to store your food you’ll want to make sure that you pick those up as well. You can use this kitchen makeover cheat sheet to help set you and your kitchen up for success.
Step 2: Hit The Grocery Store (60 to 90 minutes)
If you already have enough food on hand to prep some meals for the week than you’re ahead of the game. If not, head to the grocery and grab some of them using the charts above.
Never go to the grocery store without a list. I guarantee you’ll forget what the heck you need when you get there and end up wasting time wandering around trying to figure it out or worse, buying junk you don’t need.
Step 3: Creating A Healthy Template
To simplify the process of trying to decide what to make here’s what to do – A little checklist if you will.
Make sure to include these types of foods with each meal:
1. Protein: Chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, fish, or eggs. Serving size recommendations, 4-8 ounces or about 1 palm sized portion for women and 2 palm sized portions for men.
2. Veggies: Broccoli, white broccoli (aka cauliflower), kale, spinach, asparagus. Serving size recommendations about 2 fist sized portions for both women and men.
3. Healthy fat: Grass-fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil. and avocado. Serving size recommendations, 1 to 2 tablespoons or 1 thumb sized serving for women and 2 thumb sized servings for men.
4. Low sugar fruit (optional): Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, rhubarb, and cantaloupe. Serving size recommendations, 1 fist sized serving for both men and women. If fat loss is your goal limit fruit to 1 to 2 servings per day.
5. Starchy carb (post workout meals only): Sweet potato, taro, or butternut squash. Serving size recommendations, 1 fist sized serving post workout only. If fat loss is not your goal another serving or two of starchy carbs won’t kill ya 🙂
Step 4: Keeping It Super Simple (K.I.S.S)
There are a ton of ways you can go about building your meal plan for the week.
Personally, I like to eat the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner the entire week and then switch it up the following week.
- 2 palms of protein (4 eggs)
- 2 fists of mixed veggies (2-3 cups of spinach and onion)
- 2 thumbs of healthy fat (1 tablespoon of grass-fed butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil)
- Water, unsweetened tea, or black coffee
- 2 palms of protein (8 ounces of salmon)
- 2 fists of salad (aka: big ass salad)
- 2 thumbs of healthy fat (1/2-1 avocado)
- Water, unsweetened tea, or black coffee
- 2 palms of protein (8 ounces grass-fed beef)
- 2 fists of veggies (grilled asparagus)
- 2 thumbs of healthy fat (2 tablespoons of coconut oil)
- 1-2 handfuls of mixed nuts (peanut free) + handful of baby carrots + 1-2 pieces of 85% dark chocolate (hey, a man has to live right)
The week after this will look entirely different.
The same meals everyday for a week might not be your thing – But in my opinion if you’re struggling to stay consistent it’s just what the doctor order. It takes so much of the guess-work and confusion out of deciding what to eat each day. And if you remember from this post, your willpower gets depleted as the day goes on – This makes choosing healthier options easier.
Some other things you can do to simplify the meal planning process are to eat the same proteins for each meal but mix up the recipes.
For example, one week you may have eggs for every breakfast but change the recipes. Here are a few of my favorites from friends.
- Poblano Paleo Breakfast Scramble (Paleopron.net)
- Breakfast Frittata (Stupid Easy Paleo)
- Cheesy Egg Muffins (Nom Nom Paleo)
For lunch you could do all chicken but change the recipes. Again, here are a few favorites.
- Curry Chicken Stir-Fry (Ultimate Paleo Guide)
- Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Cups (PaleOMG.com)
And dinner could be all beef or steak, using various recipes. Try any of these recipes.
What ever you decide to do the most important thing is to spend some time Sunday (and maybe one more day during the week) deciding, planning, and preparing those meals so you don’t have to do it on the fly over the course of a week.
BUT I’VE GOT A FAMILY TO FEED, THESE TIPS JUST WON’T FLY WITH MY FAMILY.
So you’ve got some picky eaters?
Ask your kids, hubs, or wifey what some of their favorite meals are?
- Kids like tacos?
- Hubs likes stir-fry?
- Wife loves lasagna?
No problem at all. Theme dinner each night. Monday could be stir-fry night, taco Tuesdays, and lasagna Thursdays. Search the web (or click those links) for some healthier or Paleo options of those meals and have at it – Everyone’s happy?
I’d also ask every one in your family what their 3 favorite proteins, veggies, and fruits are. Make a list of this or use this sheet and make sure to keep the house stocked up with these foods.
OTHER TIPS, TRICKS, AND FINAL THOUGHTS
Having a “go-to” meal is important. Think of it as your in case of emergency break this glass option. it’s for those nights when you get home and are exhausted, forgot to make something, and are ready to eat your own arm.
But instead, no eating of the arm is needed. Because your go-to meal is ready!
A go-to meal is a meal that is easy to cook in large batches and easy to store for at least a week. It should be something you totally enjoy.
- Slow-cooker recipes
Check out those recipes above for some awesome go-to ideas from some friends of mine.
Photo by Katie Smith on Unsplash