Tool Tip | Nutrition Guides & Calculators.

I collect nutrition guides like some people collect baseball cards. And I won’t trade them either. Allow me to explain…

I almost always pack my lunch for the work week. I also eat 99% of my meals at home. I found that this helps me greatly control my nutrition and calorie intake. If I’m in control of each and every ingredient that goes into my meal, I can control every single calorie or nutrient my body takes in. And who doesn’t like having control?

I am a homebody. I prefer eating my meals at home. Perhaps this stems from being a girl on a tight budget, but I often wonder why pay for something when you can make the same thing for a lot less. It’s a VERY rare occasion that I do go out for food. There have been the occasional “let’s finish this meeting over lunch at such and such a restaurant” while at work. I’ve learned to be prepared for those situations.

Subway Nutrition Guide

I can still maintain my diet, make healthy choices, and enjoy my food without the guilt when meals out actually do happen. I have researched several common restaurant chains near my work where casual lunch meetings may happen. I’ve scoured their Nutrition Guides (I keep these in my car, in my desk drawer, and a few in my “junk drawer” at home). I’ve been able to generate a list of safe food options at places like Subway and Panera Bread for example.

I’ve also used restaurant’s online Nutrition Calculators and print off my meal once I’ve calculated it. (Subway’s calculator here. Panera’s calculator is here.) IF you’re like me and record everything you eat along with the calorie and nutrition information, these are make meal planning and staying on a healthy diet a breeze.

An example of a nutrition calculator I used to build & customize my own meal at Panera. I printed this off to use for future reference.

I’ve come to the point where I know my “safe foods” list by heart. But if I’m at an unfamiliar restaurant, I ask for a copy of their nutrition guide so I can take home and find an option for next time. I don’t ever want to get too picky when I’m dining with friends. If no nutrition guide is available, I’ll generally pick a house salad, ask for a lot of tomatoes, no dressing (or have it on the side) and ask for a hard-boiled egg.

Two pieces of advice for staying health focused while eating out: Don’t be afraid to ask questions about nutrition and always use the restaurants’ nutrition resources.

REMINDER: don’t forget that SlimKicker is giving one of my readers an awesome 7 Quart Stainless Steel Slow Cooker. To enter this GIVEAWAY, visit this post. There’s only a few more days left to enter to win!

7-Quart Slow Cooker, Stainless Steel

Wishing you the best. katie

QUESTION OF THE DAY:
How do you stay on track when you eat your meals out?

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Grocery Love.

I absolutely love to grocery shop. Honest. There is no sarcasm in that statement. Is that strange? I find myself looking forward to the trip to grocery every single week. I only shop for one (me), but I plan this trip each week, browsing weekly sale ads, gathering coupons, and reading up on new recipes that might inspire a new grocery store purchase. I enjoy the budgeting aspect because it’s something I can control and I feel accomplished knowing that I’ve picked out healthy items while staying in my budget.

Grocery shopping is a game. I think about it in these terms: how can I get the best value for my dollar? I define value as: 1.) quality- is the food nutritious and healthy? 2.) taste- will I enjoy the food without wasting any portion? and, 3.) price: is the food within my budget?

Another aspect that makes shopping enjoyable is using the application for my phone called Fooducate. Have you ever heard of it? To use Fooducate, you open the application on your smart phone and scan the bar code on the package. (Or you can enter it manually and search the term.) Then, Fooducate grades the food choice giving it a score (A through D-); it also points out positives and negatives about the item. For example, it will tell you if a controversial/artificial additive is found in the food or if it’s high in sodium/sugar etc. It also points out good nutrients. One of my favorite features of Fooducate is that it offers healthy/healthier alternatives to the item you’ve scanned. Many times this allows me to purchase food that is a grade level better. It’s a helpful tool and eye opening for sure. I highly recommend it.

Yesterday’s grocery shopping trip was fun. I had several coupons to use on things I was already planning to buy. (Side note & budget tip: when using coupons, be careful not to clip coupons for things you wouldn’t normally buy. Even though you think you’re saving money, you’re actually spending money that you didn’t intend to in the first place. This is why a list is important. Write down a list and stick to it!) Here’s a shot of the week’s worth of food I purchased yesterday, and remember, it complements things I already have in my pantry, fridge and freezer:

Just a few highlights:

  • Coupons: I used coupons that basically gave me 4 protein bars for $1.00. I had a coupon for Nasoya Tofu that made it less expensive than the generic brand.
  • Bananas: The HUGE bunch of bananas was only $1.22. I’ve never bought so many bananas. Good thing I simply freeze them and use them in smoothies. I’m set for SEVERAL weeks.
  • Quinoa: One of my food goals was to cook with Quinoa. I finally am going to give it a try. I bought a bag of organic quinoa from the bulk food section of the grocery store which saved me about $2.00 for the same amount in the prepackaged section.

This food after coupons was a grand TOTAL OF$22.00

I should note that I did make an additional “grocery” purchase on the way home from Kroger that I am not including in this budget. I purchased a new whey protein powder to try. Mom and Dad had previously given me a gift card, and I used that to purchase the protein powder. (THANKS MOM AND DAD!!!) So, technically this didn’t come out of my personal finances. I’m curious to try this flavor that combines my two favorite food items: Chocolate Peanut Butter. Yum.

*If I would have included this in my grocery total, the combined total would have been $36.88.

After putting everything away yesterday, I had a delicious, protein packed lunch that included a tuna salad (a quick version of this recipe) on a bed of organic spinach and a side of vanilla greek yogurt with blueberries. Lunch also included an exceptionally jar of water.

While doing my Sunday chores of laundry, cleaning and planning out my week ahead, I prepped my lunches for the work week ahead. I’ve been in a tofu mood lately, so I made my Salsa Lime Tofu recipe.

Well, it’s time to start my Monday. It’s looking like a busy week. Wishing you the best. katie

QUESTIONS OF THE DAY:
What’s your favorite brand of protein powder and what’s your favorite flavor?
What does your week look like? Busy? 

Friday Refine | Finances

I’ve had a few weeks to think about today’s Friday Refine. I’ve already refined my Food and Fitness goals. This week I want to discuss Finances. I really believe that healthy living includes having a healthy handle on your finances. We are all guilty of stressing over finances. We can eliminate much of that stress through planning and being aware of where our money is and where it’s going. But first, let’s look at how I’m doing those goals.

Food:

  • My protein intake has been really great. I’m hitting my goal every day. I’m really confident this is because I’m meal planning for the week, at the beginning of each week instead of the day or night before. I’m making protein intake a  high priority, and it’s showing.
  • I’m staying well under budget through mindful grocery shopping and using coupons on things I’m already going to buy anyway. Peruse the internet for your favorite food brands and, more often than not, you can find coupons on their website to use in store. On a side note related to food and grocery budgets, you might find the following article from the WSJ to be of interest. It’s an article that shows healthy food is a better deal than junk food. WIN!

Fitness:

  • I’ve been tweaking and creating a workout schedule to make each workout goal oriented. I’ll have more on that tomorrow because that’s my week’s end.
  • As I discussed in yesterday’s post, I’m looking at each of my old workouts and seeing ways I can improve or redirect my energy and efforts to get the most out of that designated workout time.

And now let’s talk about Finances. First, a little background:

I am thankful that my parents taught me to be financially savvy. They taught me the value of savings, of finding the best deals, for working hard for what you buy. Other than student loans, I carry no debt. My car is paid for and my credit card is paid off in full every month. I’m financially independent, and that’s something I’m very proud of, especially in this economy. (Though I must say a big thank you to my parents for always allowing me to stock up on pantry items and sending me home with toilet paper and laundry detergent anytime I travel home or they come to Kentucky for a visit. Those gestures are much appreciated and help tremendously in savings.)

This past year has been one of my most expensive years of my life. I used to live very conservatively, which gave me the opportunity to grow my savings. I used to rent a room from my brother’s house where the rent was cheap and the company was fun. We hardly used heating and air, didn’t use internet for the longest time, didn’t have the expense of cable, etc. We used that money to save.

However, in the past year and a half, I’ve moved into the “big” city of Lexington where I pay my own rent, much higher than before. My boyfriend moved to a different state to attend medical school which has created travel expenses on my end (which I gladly accept because he and his family are so worth it). Because of that long distance relationship, I’ve had to add internet to Skype, which made me have to pay for basic cable….etc. There are so many “little expenses” that really creep up on you. If you’re not focused on the little things that add up, your finances will get away from you.

While anyone would like a little more money, I can’t complain. I’m doing okay on my own. I can’t run to the store and purchase everything on a whim. But I can appreciate the hard work I put in to save for things I do want. Most importantly, all of my needs are taken care of and I’m content and happy. That’s all that matters, right?

With all of background now out in the open, there are areas I do want to focus on. And, yes, they focus a lot on my food and fitness focuses. With a lot of potential changes happening in the upcoming year or so, there are few areas I’d like to refine in the way I handle my finances:

  1. Be mindful of small purchases. Every swipe of the debit card adds up. Do I really need that cup of coffee, or should I just prepare it at home. What value am I obtaining by purchasing XYZ’s cup of joe? Do I really need that shirt that’s been marked down for $9.99? Is it truly made of good quality and will I wear it often? Or will it hide in the back of my closet with all the other “on sale” items that I never wear. This idea is VERY similar to mindful grocery shopping. Let’s put an end to impulse buying and actually save that money toward something I really want.
  2. Pay down student loans, even further. With the money I’m saving by not purchasing impulsively, I want to put that toward student loans. I know it’s not much, but I can add that money saved every month and add it to my monthly student loan payments. Anytime I fall under my grocery budget, I’m going to use that toward student loan repayment. That’s extra incentive to stay Food Focused! I hate the pressure of debt, to anyone, over anything. And student loans are such a kill joy, aren’t they? So, I’m seeking to get rid of them.
  3. Look for additional sources of income. I’m not looking for another full-time job. I’m simply talking about ways I can earn a little extra money to put into savings. I have recently become a social media marketer for a beautiful store in TN, The Registry, and I’d like to put more effort in to that. Another source of income can be consignment. Because I’ve added strength toning to my workouts, nothing fits me anymore. I’m basically at a blank canvas for my closet, yet I’m holding on to clothes that don’t fit. Why not try to get a little extra money back for them?

Well, there you have it. Three areas I can realistically refine in my life right now. We’ve looked at Food, Fitness and now Finances. Next week, we’ll talk about Love.

It’s going to be a great day. I’m having lunch with Mom and my brother. (Mom is in town). And tonight, I’m having some friends over for dessert and a flick…Funny Face. Can’t go wrong with a classy Audrey Hepburn movie! Wishing you all the best. katie

QUESTIONS OF THE DAY:
Do you think finances plays a role in healthy living?
What are some of your own finance goals?
What creative ways do you earn extra income? 

(LEAVE A COMMENT: I’d love to hear from you! To comment click on the comment/dialogue box at the top of this post. Or visit my Contact Me page. You’ll find information  on following me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more.) 

Kitchen Nightmare & Vanilla Greek Yogurt.

Okay, so the title is really dramatic. In the land of blogs, they call that a teaser. I was putting together a protein smoothie last night, I discovered that my kitchen scale was low on batteries. Not good. I rely on this scale for every single meal and snack. It’s my favorite kitchen tool. I thought I could simply swap out the batteries for some I have on hand, but I quickly learned that this battery wasn’t your standard AA. It’s a 9 volt. That means I have to wait until after work today to pick one up. This is a must-fix-immediately kind of deal.

Dear Salter, please come back to life. I need you in my life.

Moving on. I conducted a little taste test of sorts for vanilla greek yogurt. For this simple test, I chose two brands: Chobani and Kroger. I wanted to really get a feel for the taste and to see the nutrition difference between a name brand and generic brand.

VANILLA GREEK YOGURT SHOWDOWN

Chobani, Vanilla Greek Yogurt

First, let’s take a look at Chobani Vanilla Greek Yogurt

Cost per container: $1.25
Texture: Super smooth and creamy. Fairly thick.
Taste: The creaminess of theis trea combined with the mild vanilla flavor is fantastic.
Nutrition: Serving Size: 6oz. Calories: 120 Calories from Fat: 0 Total Fat: 0g Sat. Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0g Sodium: 75mg Total Carbs: 13g Dietary Fiber: 0g Sugars: 13g Protein: 16g

Kroger Vanilla Greek Yogurt. Blueberries added by me.

Next up, Kroger Brand Vanilla Greek Yogurt-

Cost per container: $0.89
Texture: Very slight but noticable”gritty” texture when eaten without a mix in.
Taste: A bit tart, but unnoticable when I mixed blueberries in.
Nutrition: Serving Size: 6oz. Calories: 110 Calories from Fat: 0 Total Fat: 0g Sat. Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 5g Sodium: 75mg Total Carbs: 10g Dietary Fiber: 0g Sugars: 9g Protein: 14g

Winner Per Round-

Cost: Kroger, savings of $0.36 per container
Texture: Chobani
Taste: When plain, Chobani. With a mix in like blueberries, tie.
Nutrition:  Tie- Though the nutrients are not exactly the same, they are very similar. You must consider what your diet allows. I prefer less sugar, where Kroger wins, but Chobani offers more protein.

So which Vanilla brand do I prefer? While it’s a tough call, I have to consider how I’ll be consuming the greek yogurt. If I want it just plain vanilla, then Chobani wins. BUT, because this girl is on a budget,  the nutrients are very similar, and I always put a fruit into my vanilla greek yogurt, Kroger wins by the slightest mark. The primary winning factor? Budget. (Exception – I’ll be Chobani if it happens to be on sale. When I walk to the Greek Yogurt section of my grocery, I always cross my fingers that will be. I’m not even kidding.)

Vanilla flavor winner. Primary factor? Budget.

HOWEVER, I can’t rave enough about Chobani’s Strawberry Banana, Raspberry or Blood Orange Greek Yogurt flavors! They are AMAZING and addicting, too! Those flavors I won’t compromise. This comparison was for vanilla only.

It’s off to work for this girl. I hope you all have a great Wednesday ahead! Wishing you the best. katie

QUESTIONS OF THE DAY:
Are there any foods that you sacrifice flavor on to save a little money?
OR, are there any foods you won’t compromise flavor, even if the nutrition value is about the same?

(LEAVE A COMMENT: I’d love to hear from you! To comment click on the comment/dialogue box at the top of this post. Or visit my Contact Me page. You’ll find information  on following me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more.) 

5 Simple Ways I Stay Fit At Work.

First, I must say that I really gave my arms a workout yesterday. This week I’m creating a daily fitness plan, goal specific workouts for each day I hit the gym. While I’m still tweaking the plan, I focused on my arms and shoulders during my strength training session yesterday. Because of that great workout out, my body was already a little sore when I went to Zumba. At this point in my life, Zumba is not the workout I benefit most from. I consider it a great way to move after a long day and a great way to connect with people at work, outside of the office setting.

While I love where I work and what I do, I have a typical “desk job”. It would be easy to get caught up in a routine of walking in the office and sitting for 8 hours. But I prefer moving around much more than I do sitting. So, how does one passionate about healthy living  make fitness a priority while at the office? Simple…I modify my work space and my day to accommodate the healthy life I want to live. Here’s how I stay fit and on track during my work day:

1.) I’ve designed my space and coordinated my schedule to make sure my fitness is maintained while on the  job. While I don’t have a standing treadmill in my office (I’m envious of Lindsay’s @ the Lean Green Bean blog), I have propped up my computer and keyboard to allow me to stand. I’ve read in numerous places that you burn twice the amount of calories standing than you do sitting because your body is constantly engaging your muscles and core to provide proper balance. I also read that if you stand for 10 minutes out of every work hour, you will end up burning about 100 calories each day (source).

2.) I keep a water bottle on my desk to remain hydrated throughout the day. I try my hardest to refill it at least once while at work. I also have green tea to keep my energy and my metabolism up. While I occasionally enjoy a cup of coffee at home in the mornings, I try to limit the amount of coffee I drink while I’m at work to limit my caffeine intake.

3.) I designate at least half of my lunch hour for working out. There is a small gym down the street that I can walk to easily. Because it is owned by my work, there’s only a tiny monthly fee for employees to use it.  To avoid getting sweaty, I strength tone during this time. My membership in this gym includes group classes that are offered at different points of the day. I take advantage of Zumba after work on Monday’s and Wednesdays. Zumba is a fun way to get moving after a long day at work.

I come to work dressed like the left photo and change midday for a quick workout during lunch. I’m thankful for an office with a door:

   

4.) I bring my own homemade lunches to work every day. This way I can control the ingredients and monitor the nutrients I am taking in. Additionally, brown bagging my lunch saves me money. (I consider being financially wise a large part of healthy living.)

5.) I use the free application FitBolt on my computer. This application gives you an activity every half hour to get you moving. These include a mix of stretches and exercises that can be performed in a small office.

Those are just five simple ways I stay fit while at the office. By the way, some of you have asked about FitFluential. I’m now an Ambassador, and I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity. FitFluential is a unique network of fitness and health bloggers who share their fitness journeys and influence others toward healthy living. You can join and follow fitness happenings here. I’m off to enjoy another day of work, beginning with an early meeting.

Wishing you all the best. katie

QUESTIONS OF THE DAY
How do you maintain fitness while at work?
What are your favorite on-the-job fitness tips?

(LEAVE A COMMENT: I’d love to hear from you! To comment click on the comment/dialogue box at the top of this post. Or visit my Contact Me page. You’ll find information  on following me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more.) 

Surprising Salad & Shopping Smart.

I had such a wonderful weekend with my parents. It seemed too short. For Mother’s Day yesterday, Mom wanted us to take her to a Mexican restaurant right outside of our town. I love Mexican food, but I haven’t had it for the longest time. Quite honestly, I wasn’t too pumped to go because I knew I’d be tempted by the free chips and salsa, queso dips, and worst of all…tortillas. I used to order tortillas and cheese dip as a meal. I’d hate to think what a calorie nightmare that meal was costing me in terms of nutrition. I had NO earthly idea what I would order. I reviewed the entire menu, but even the veggie selections seemed like they would be cooked in lots of oils. The only thing that sounded safe on the menu was under the “sides” section titled “Tossed Salad” and there wasn’t any description. I requested no croutons or shredded cheese. I was expecting simply iceberg lettuce…

 

…but to my surprise, the waiter brought a HUGE delicious and nutritious salad! The green and red peppers were bursting with flavor and the sweet onions were a perfect touch. The tomato slices were insanely large and the meal was really filling. I left the meal completely satisfied. I used to leave Mexican restaurants feeling overly stuffed. But this restaurant knew how to please a flexitarian such as myself.

While I wish I could have visited with Mom and Dad a little longer, I needed to head back to Lexington to prepare for the week. After unpacking my car and making a banana and peanut butter protein smoothie (I missed Krema PB!), I looked through my fridge, pantry and freezer so I could plan out my meals and make a grocery shopping list. Luckily, Mom and Dad saved me a lot of money on my grocery budget this week because they sent me back with leftovers from the weekend. I made my list, gathered my coupons and headed to Kroger.

I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but I have plenty get me through this week without letting any food or leftovers go to waste. I had NO idea that meal planning and mindful grocery shopping would help me save so much money. The grand total for my grocery shopping, including the coupons and “instore savings” was $17.82. That’s well under my weekly grocery budget of $35. Maybe I’m setting the budget too high, or maybe these haven’t been typical weeks. I’ve managed to stick to my list and avoid impulse buys. I’ll be interested to see how the next few weeks go in terms of grocery shopping so I can get a real picture of my typical spending. (A BIG thank you to Mom and Dad for giving me leftovers to use throughout the week!)

Today is my big workout day. I’ll strength tone during lunch and do Zumba after work. Like I said on Friday, I’m coming up with a schedule for goal specific workouts each day of the week. I’m tweaking this schedule now, so I’ll report back to you later on my daily focus plan.

Well, I’m off to make some cinnamon rolls for a coworker. Yesterday was his birthday and he prefers cinnamon rolls over cupcakes. Surprisingly, cinnamon rolls aren’t sounding appealing to me today. I think it’s because it’s Monday and I want to start the work week on a healthy note. It’s eggs and greek yogurt for me!

Wishing you the best. katie

QUESTIONS OF THE DAY

What are your smart shopping strategies to saving money at the grocery? If you respond to this question, I may feature your strategy in an upcoming post! 

(LEAVE A COMMENT: I’d love to hear from you! To comment click on the comment/dialogue box at the top of this post. Or visit my Contact Me page. You’ll find information  on following me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more.) 

Mindful Grocery Shopping.

You don’t have to be an expert in the health field to have learned or know of the term “mindful eating”- being consciously aware of what you’re consuming and why you’re consuming it. Have you ever applied this principle to grocery shopping? That’s what I did yesterday. I practiced “mindful grocery shopping.”

Because I’m beginning my strict grocery budget, I really took my time examining what I already had in my house available to eat and what ingredients I had on hand that I could create into a meal with just a few purchases. There’s no reason to buy food and forget you have it or not use it. I don’t ever want to be wasteful. I don’t think that’s being financially smart and it’s not being a good steward of the earth. I took stock of what I already had and then created a list of foods I would need to make a complete meal. Yesterday, I planned my meals out for the week, writing it down on a calender, and then went to the grocery to purchase the few things I needed to complete the meals. I looked for coupons for things I was planning to purchase and headed out the door.

This particular weekly trip to the grocery took more planning and preparation than my normal, “glance in the fridge quickly and see what I need” routine. But I ultimately think this extra prep work will allow me to live more healthfully overall. I won’t stress having to know what’s coming up for my next meal; I won’t be spending money on impulse buys; I’ll be focused on purchasing healthy options at the grocery.

While I’ve been grocery shopping on my own for a long time now, I really was mindful of picking out purchases that were both affordable and satisfied my grocery list needs. I took a journal with me and wrote down the price of everything I was putting in my cart and tallied my total as I continued shopping. Again, this made me mindful of my budget I had set for myself. I weighed produce and calculated the cost down to the penny (or as close as I could estimate). I compared serving sizes. I’ve always been told that sometimes you should by the larger container because the price per ounce is cheaper…well friends, I found a deal where the opposite was true. For example….

This Kroger Greek Yogurt, Plain variety contradicted the idea of buying bigger. The 6 ounce containers were priced 5 for $4 (13.3 cents per ounce) and the large 24 ounce container was priced at $3.29 (13.7 cents per ounce). Though the cost difference was very minor, it was a better deal for me to purchase the individual containers. I know this isn’t always the case, but it made me aware that, bog or small, check the price per ounce.  As a side note, this container still has a little bit of yogurt left from my shopping trip last week.

I had a couple of coupons I was able to use on food I was planning on purchasing from my grocery list. While I didn’t save much from outside of store deals (only $1.75), the fact is I did save some money using them. I’m a firm believer that every little bit you save adds up. These savings were found online. I visited Nasoya and found a coupon for $0.75 off of a package of tofu. I also had a coupon for a free”simple truth” protein bar, normally priced at $1.00. Don’t worry, I’m not trying to turn into a crazy coupon lady, and this blog is not going to turn into a coupon website. I just wanted to make a point that you can save money on the things you are planning on buying anyway. You simply have to practice “mindful grocery shopping”.

While this protein bar was not on my grocery shopping list, this freebie will provide a great snack whenever I’m on the run.

So, for the grand total…I told you I’d report to you what I spent at the grocery. As a reminder, my Friday Refine on Food stated a strict budget of $35.oo. My final total was…$24.07.  I don’t expect that my grocery shopping will be this low every week. But by taking stock of what I have in my fridge (left overs, random produce, etc.) I was able to “find meals” that I didn’t know I had when I meal planned yesterday morning. How about that?

Well, I’m off to finish some breakfast and then head to work. I’m hoping for a productive day. I’ll be strength toning at lunch and participating in Zumba after work. Then I’m off to a hair appointment. I’m in for a busy Monday.

Wishing you the best. katie

QUESTIONS OF THE DAY

How do you practice “mindful grocery shopping”?
Do you stick to a budget? 

(LEAVE A COMMENT: I’d love to hear from you! To comment click on the comment/dialogue box at the top of this post. Or visit my Contact Me page. You’ll find information  on following me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more.)