If you are anything like me, you’ve been waiting all year
for the summer! The sun is shining on your morning walk. The balmy nights are perfectly
relaxing. And there’s nothing better
than joining your best friends and family for delicious food and a cold drink
at a summer cookout. So why is this
blog titled “Surviving” Summer BBQ’s?
What’s not to love?
Well, for many people who have made the effort to eat right,
a BBQ can cause anxiety. You may worry
that you’ll fall off the “health wagon” and lose the habits that you’ve worked
so hard on all year long. After all,
BBQ’s involve loads of not- so- healthy food, tons of alcohol, and friends and
family who may not live the lifestyle that you and I do. Not to
worry! Below are some tried and true
tips, as well as a few smart recipe ideas to help you enjoy your next BBQ
without compromising your healthy lifestyle.
1. Remember, balance is the key to a healthy
lifestyle. There will be times in life
when you may overindulge; an extra glass of your favorite wine, a heaping scoop
of ice cream or maybe even a pile of fall –off- the bone ribs at a cookout. Taking part in the occasional treat is normal,
in fact it’s great! Because if you can
live a healthy lifestyle while still allowing yourself the occasional treat,
you’ve truly mastered balance and that leads to permanent change! The lesson to
be learned here? A little indulgence is
good for you and keeps you from craving or feeling deprived. Just make sure to get right back on track
with a balanced meal at the next opportunity to get your metabolism moving in
the right direction again.
2. Plan for the
event. If you know that you have a
summer cookout planned for this Saturday, aim to be extra consistent with your
nutrition and fitness routine all week long.
Acknowledge the fact that you may overindulge at this Saturday’s BBQ,
and actually plan the “off” meal into your week. Use this “system” of acknowledging the “off”
meal and planning it to help you to make extra effort all week to eat clean,
balanced meals every few hours. Let the
fact that you’ll be indulging on Saturday spur you to kick butt at the gym and
make the most of every workout all week long.
The process here is both physical and mental. By working extra hard all week to make room
for this Saturday’s fiesta, you’ll physically be in prime fat burning mode by
the time the party rolls around.
Mentally, you’ll be able to let go of any guilt you may normally have
(see Tip #1 above as a reminder about the importance of balance). After all, you’ve worked hard all week and
you’ve planned to relax and indulge a bit with your friends and family. It’s a win, win situation!
3. Believe it or not,
it’s a bad idea to deprive yourself all day Saturday to save “room” and
“calories” for the big event. If you
walk into a BBQ with every type of food imaginable at your fingertips and you
haven’t eaten all day, you are heading for disaster! Always eat balanced meals one hour within
waking and every 3 hours before a cookout.
This way your mind is in control of your food choices, not your empty
stomach! It’s a smart idea to also eat
one hour before the event. Try snacking
on a protein bar before the party to help keep blood sugar stable and allow you
to make conscious food choices when you arrive.
4. It doesn’t hurt to
bring along some healthy and delicious choices, or at least know how to
identify them at a cookout. Do your
best to build a balanced plate with some protein and carbohydrates and keep in
mind that most dishes offered at a BBQ will have more than enough fat (way more
actually!). Whether you are hosting the event or
attending, the following list makes for delectable (and healthy) party food
that everyone will enjoy.
-Try Marinated or BBQ grilled chicken breasts, shrimp, pork
tenderloin, salmon steaks or filet mignon (the leanest red meat) on the grill. Meat, poultry or seafood and vegetable kabobs
are also healthy and a fun change of pace.
-Instead of regular hamburgers, try using 97% lean ground
beef. Serve with all the regular
toppings and whole wheat buns.
-Chop a mixture of your favorite vegetables in large chunks
(corn, tomato, zucchini, red onion, bell peppers) or try whole asparagus with
the bottom of the stalk cut off. Toss in
a bowl with quality extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground black
pepper. Grill until slightly charred to
really bring out the flavors.
-Instead of plain old pasta salad with a few veggies tossed
in for good measure, go in the opposite direction. Use your favorite pasta salad recipe only
make a few adjustments. Triple the
vegetable content (and vary it up- grape tomatoes, fresh bell pepper, onion,
cucumber, banana peppers, etc.) and use the pasta as the filler, not the main
event. Use a reduced fat version of your
favorite dressing such as low fat Italian dressing in place of regular. If using a mayo based dressing, try cutting
the amount of mayo in half and replacing the rest with plain, low fat yogurt-
it will add a little tang and a lot of flavor.
Lastly fresh herbs like parsley or basil really make a dish stand out
from the crowd.
-Try whipping up a low fat dip like hummus or mango salsa
(combine chopped mango, red onion, a small amount of minced garlic and jalapeno
with a splash of lime juice and good olive oil.
Toss with fresh cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper). Serve with home -made baked whole wheat pita
chips. (Hint- Mango salsa also works beautifully
on grilled meat, poultry and seafood.)
-Fresh fruit platters are always well received and a
perfectly sweet way to complete a meal.
Try serving a variety of fruit with a home-made dip of Plain Yogurt,
vanilla extract, honey and lemon zest or try our Pina Colada Dip found in your
Recipe Collection inside your software!
5. Speaking of, check
out some of these BBQ friendly recipes found inside your software in the Recipe
Creamy Shrimp Salad, Boca Burgers, Shrimp and Pasta Salad,
Restaurant Worthy Steak on the
Grill, BBQ Shrimp Kabobs, Grilled Fish w/ Tomato and Herbs,
Pina Colada Dip w/ Fruit,
Strawberry Lemon Frozen Yogurt (try turning these into
frozen pops for easy serving!), Greek
Brown Rice Salad, Cheesy Zucchini (an odd choice for a BBQ
but it’s really good, promise!),
6. Stay hydrated
with plenty of water to beat bloat, fatigue and headaches. If you’re the host, try serving homemade
lemonade with ice water, freshly squeezed lemon and lemon slices sweetened with
Stevia or Truvia.
7. Get creative with
your alcohol. I like Skinny Girl Margarita in a glass with a ton of flavored
seltzer water which adds fizz and extra fluid to make the drink last. Light
beer or wine is also a good choice. The rule of thumb with alcohol is, use the
drink to replace the starchy carb in the meal.
So basically you would have your protein and fat with some light
carbohydrates like grilled veggies or salad plus a drink or two. If you must splurge on both carbs and
alcohol, go for a lighter drink like the ones described above and keep it to a
2 drink maximum if possible.
8. Do something active!
At my house we play “bags” (also known as Cornhole to all of you in the
South) or go swimming with my nephews.
The point is, if you keep mingling and keep moving, your less likely to
hover at the dessert table and this means less mindless munching!
9. And my last tip? I
find that after a day cookout, I’m exhausted by 5 or 6 pm, which is frustrating
because clearly it’s much too late for a nap and I’m pretty sure I can’t get
away with going to sleep at that time!
So I take a power walk outside after the cookout. It helps me to burn off some of the treats
from the cookout but most importantly, it rejuvenates me enough to stay awake until
Remember, the summer is all about having fun, enjoying the
weather and family and friends and relaxing!
The great thing is, you can absolutely do all of that while sticking to
your goals with the tips above. Cheers
to an amazing summer!
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
If you’re stabilizing your blood sugar, you know how
important it is to have high quality protein prepared in bulk for the week. I
like to make our “Everyday Chicken” (find it in your Recipe Tab). It’s fast, super easy and gives you tender,
roasted chicken that you can toss in any of your favorite dishes for a boost of
To keep my meals fresh, I’ve been using the Everyday Chicken
in a variety of fun dishes. Here are a few quick single serving combinations
I’ve come up with recently that take only minutes to make if you’ve got chicken
1. In a pan coated
with fat free cooking spray, combine chopped cooked chicken, a handful or two
of spinach and any other chopped veggies you have on hand. Cook until
vegetables are slightly tender. Stir in
your favorite tomato or marinara sauce and seasonings like fresh basil or
oregano. Top with parmesan cheese.
2. Saute chopped cooked
chicken with shredded carrots, snow peas, mushrooms or any other veggie you
have on hand with some fat free cooking spray.
Add freshly minced garlic and a splash of low sodium soy sauce and sauté
until garlic is soft (not browned). Drizzle
with toasted sesame oil and top with fresh cilantro.
3. Okay, admittedly
this combo is not the highest quality (hello sodium) but it sure is good! And
it’s got the balance of protein, carbs and fat to stabilize your blood sugar. If you’ve ever had buffalo chicken dip, you’ll
like this one. Just refer back to this one sparingly so you don’t bloat from
all the sodium! Chop or shred cooked
chicken very small. Put the chicken in a small bowl, add a dash or two of Frank’s
Red Hot Sauce and microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir in a scoop of low fat cream cheese, a pinch
of garlic powder and another dash or two of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. Microwave again for 20 seconds or until heated
throughout. Stir again and serve with
carrot and celery sticks. Add some fresh
fruit on the side if you need extra carbohydrates.
Chicken doesn’t have to be boring- the key is having tender,
cooked chicken on hand for the week so
you can quickly create a variety of dishes on the fly! Make sure to use your “Add Meal” feature in your
Venice Nutrition Online software to create the dishes described above according
to your nutritional parameters. For
more information on how to create balanced meals according to your nutritional
parameters, check out the How to Create Your Own Meals video in your Help
Head Chef and Lead Nutrition Coach of Venice Nutrition
Aaaaah TGIF! Say hello to happy hour, Saturday night
dinner reservations and lazy Sunday mornings.
Hmm…no wonder we have such a tough time sticking to our goals on the
weekend. Think about it; the work week
is typically structured and you probably follow some sort of routine. The weekends are usually hectic, less
scheduled and packed full of activities you just didn’t have time for during
the busy work week.
So how exactly does one stay focused, on track and actually
motivated to achieve their goals
Friday through Sunday? In my experience
as both a Nutrition Coach and long time, committed follower of the VN Plan, it
comes down to three things; getting real
about your goals, having a plan and having fun! Even though your weekends are jam packed, you can still stay
true to your personal goals without investing a lot of time or sacrificing the
fun. Here’s how.
1. If you feel the
urge this weekend to skip your workout or start the day with a doughnut, it may
be time to take a peek at your goals…literally.
I’m hoping by now that you’ve taken the time to break out the pen and
paper and write down both your Short and Long-Term goals, along with your “Why” (your real reason for achieving those
goals). And if you haven’t? Make the time for it today! Sometimes all it
takes is a quick peek at your goals in writing or even a glimpse of the bathing
suit you can’t wait to wear to remind you how important your goals really are
2. Plan your “off”
meal….and love every delicious bite of it!
Take a minute to visualize your favorite meal. Is it steak and mashed potatoes? Pasta and garlic bread? Mmmm…and what about dessert? Right now I’m thinking about White Chocolate
and Cherry Bread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel Sauce. And guess what? I might just have it this weekend!
Here’s the thing. When you eat clean all week, having an “off
meal” of your choice one time a week is a great idea! In fact, we recommend it. Doing
so will help to keep you from feeling like you’ve deprived yourself and it’s so
much more satisfying than mindless munching.
Just make sure that you’ve eaten balanced meals all day leading up to
the “off” meal and you get right back on track at the following meal to
re-stabilize blood sugar levels.
Notice too that we said “off meal” and not off day! It’s a misconception to think that taking an
entire day or weekend to eat whatever you’d like is okay, even if you’ve eaten
well all week long! A whole day of
eating whatever, whenever will only lead to erratic blood sugar levels, moodiness,
and ultimately fat storage. You’ll also
notice that an entire day or weekend of indulging in unhealthy food will cause
you to want to eat unhealthy for days after due to unstable blood sugar levels.
And this makes it so much more
challenging to get back on track.
3. Take the time
to journal your meals, timing, water, supplements, and exercise for two
weekends in a row. Then take a few moments
to identify where you are falling off track…you’ll notice that the challenges
you are having are consistent weekend to weekend. Once you are aware of where you might be
going wrong, it’s time to create a solution.
For example, are you going too long without meals during the weekend
days because of endless errands and plain forgetfulness? Pack a protein bar in your purse or car so
you never skip a meal. Are you running out of healthy choices by
Saturday and relying on whatever’s lying around? Make an adjustment in the amount of food you cook
in bulk for the week, such as adding a few extra chicken breasts or more veggies
to have on hand…. If it’s there, you are more likely to eat it. My point is, if you take the time to discover
where you are going off track, you can then create a solution that may make all
the difference in the world when it comes to your results.
4. Make the time
to exercise at least one day over the weekend.
Many people like to work hard and work out hard Monday through Friday
and then take the entire weekend off.
The better choice is to pick at least one day over the weekend for some
kind of exercise, particularly one you enjoy if you have been incredibly active
all week long. It could be as simple as
playing a game of golf, taking a power walk with a friend or even a yoga
class. If your body is sore and fatigued
because of a strenuous week, aim for a calming activity like yoga or a
walk. And always take the time to
stretch, even on your off days. The
extra day of activity will help to keep your metabolism pumping and your body
limber and mobile (ie. injury free).
It’s also the perfect motivation to keep up other healthy habits all
I know how important your weekends are to you. Taking the time to relax and enjoy is a critical
component of a balanced lifestyle. Following
the four tips above will keep you on track towards reaching your goals without
taking up your entire weekend. Here’s to
a fun and healthy weekend!
Valerie Cogswell, Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
A few days ago, a friend of mine (who swears she’s allergic
to her kitchen) called me in a panic.
Her in-laws were coming to dinner and she had promised to impress with a
gourmet meal. The trouble was, the only
“gourmet meal” my friend knows how to cook is instant brown rice and ground
turkey (hey, she’s a health nut!).
Needless to say, her lack of culinary skills had her sweating. And that’s why she called me.
As Head Chef for Venice Nutrition, and a Certified Nutrition
Coach for many years, my goal has always been to teach our members how to
create food that helps to stabilize blood sugar, tastes absolutely delicious,
and most of all…….is simple enough that anyone can make! I have had so many wonderful clients over the
years that stick to the same boring food over and over (hello, baked chicken!)
because they claim they “just can’t cook”.
What I have come to find is anyone can cook a great meal….the key is
learning the basics and stepping outside of your culinary comfort zone to try
So , how did I get started?
Yes, I did go to culinary school but I’m truly convinced that though I
learned some wonderful skills there, I have learned just as much on my own! The confidence I possess today as a cook is
not from my formal education, but from the experiments and culinary endeavors
(and disasters!) that took place in my very own kitchen. Below are some tips that have helped me to
become a confident cook and create meals that I’m proud of.
Start by practicing with a basic recipe that can help to
teach you proper seasoning, different cooking techniques and flavor
profiles. A great example would be to
find a recipe for a soup or chili that appeals to you. Soup and chili are very easy to make, and you
can experiment without worrying about drying the dish out or overcooking
it. You can slowly add seasoning and “taste-test”
it as you go to make sure it’s to your liking.
You’ll also gain a great understanding about different flavor
combinations of herbs and spices that work well together. The other bonus about soups and chilis is they are usually on the lighter side and if they are not, they can be with a little tweaking (swap ground beef for lean ground beef, lower the oil to saute the vegetables, etc.)
Once you have
successfully made one chili or soup, it will help to give you the confidence to
make some adjustments. Perhaps in place
of a roasted butternut squash soup, you decide to use sweet potatoes instead. Maybe you add a little diced apple to the pot
to add a subtle sweet note. Or maybe you
toss in a few pinches of cayenne pepper to add some heat. Maybe in the next chili you create, you skip
the ground beef and black beans and try ground chicken and white beans
instead. Noticing a pattern yet? By successfully managing a basic soup or
chili recipe, you’ll have the confidence to switch it up and make it your own,
or try a new soup or chili recipe altogether.
Other simple, basic recipes that I would recommend you try
to master? Roast chicken stuffed with
lemon, garlic cloves, onion and fresh herbs like thyme is sure to impress and
will feed an entire family. Salads are
simply chop, toss and serve and the options are endless. Vegetables drizzled with olive oil and
seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper and roasted or grilled go with
everything. A baked or grilled fish like
salmon with lemon, fresh herbs (dill, parsley, etc.) and olive oil is a great starter
recipe for all seafood. Find a recipe
for that particular dish and then use those culinary techniques to explore and
master new recipes.
If you are a Venice Nutrition member, I invite you to check out our database or recipes in the Recipe Tab. I promise that even the most intricate looking recipe has been broken down into easy, basic steps and the end result will be simple but delicious. I'm not into fussy food and when I design recipes for our members and clients, I like to keep it simple.
I like to find culinary inspiration in many sources. After all, we can all learn something from
somebody. When I go to a restaurant and enjoy a creative or delicious dish that
stands out, I’ll try to remember what was in it and re-create it at home. For example, I once had a butter lettuce,
pistachio, cheddar and sliced apple salad with vinaigrette at an upscale
restaurant in Boston. I was able to re-create
this dish at home and give it a healthy spin by reducing the amount of cheese
in the recipe and preparing a low-fat vinaigrette. I served it with grilled fish on the side and
enjoyed my simple but restaurant-worthy meal without the big check and tip!
I’m also a huge fan of the Food Network. If you’ve never watched this channel before and
have any interest in cooking, I highly recommend that you tune in. It’s fun and designed to teach home cooks how
to well…..become cooks! The Food
Network has truly changed the way people view the culinary world, myself
included. Because there are so many
types of culinary professionals teaching their point of view and techniques
they’ve developed and perfected over the years, these shows appeal to so many
home cooks. It’s an unintimidating and
inspirational way to learn to love to cook.
I have learned so much and helped to perfect my own culinary skills and
point of view from watching the Food Network.
When I see a recipe I love, I’ll brainstorm on ways to lighten it up and
many times figure out how to simplify it as well. I’ll then test the dish in my kitchen at home
and put a creative spin on the recipe to make it my own.
Other ways to find inspiration? When you are done reading this blog, stand up
and head to your kitchen. Open up your
kitchen cabinet. I can guarantee you
have a few cookbooks on hand that have collected dust over the years. Peruse the pages and keep an open mind. What recipe catches your eye? What picture makes your mouth water? That’s the recipe you should create
next! Book mark that page, copy down the
ingredients to your grocery shopping list and get cooking!
Do you have a friend or family member who always manages to
wow his or her dinner guests? You know
who I’m talking about. The friend who
makes the stickiest, fall –off- the bone BBQ chicken on the grill or the aunt
whose famous pasta and meatballs are to die for. Ask them to teach you one or two of their
favorite recipes in your kitchen. Offer to purchase all of the ingredients and
invite them to stay for dinner. People
that love to cook also love to show off their culinary skills and would more
than likely be happy to help. Observe,
take notes and ask a lot of questions.
Pretty soon it will be your dish everyone is raving about.
Cooking is a skill that can be learned, perfected and
mastered. The key is putting yourself
out there and trying something new. The
old saying, “practice makes perfect” may be a cliché but it’s true, especially
when it comes to being confident in the kitchen. Try something new and before you know it, you
will be a confident cook who is not afraid to wow your own dinner guests. Eat well! And don't forget to be adventurous..you may just surprise yourself!My best,
Head Chef and Lead Nutrition Coach
We all know that starting a new nutrition or health plan isn't easy. It takes time, education, support and some mental planning. There are road blocks that can trip anyone up and derail even the most dedicated person from reaching their goals. Here Mark Macdonald, creator of Venice Nutrition and author of NY Times Bestseller, Body Confidence, reveals how to move past any obstacles when embarking on a healthier lifestyle.
What are some of the concerns people have when beginning a
Time is by far the biggest concern. We are all looking for more time, and the
difficult part about taking on a solid nutrition plan is that it takes
time. Think about anything you do in
life that fulfills you; building a
business, being in a relationship, raising children, etc…the list is
endless. My point is that everything you
want to be great at takes time and your health is no different. Most
people start a nutrition plan without any idea of how they are going to work it
into their world and this is a big reason why so many people fail.
You must carve out time in your life, make room for your
health and treat it like all the other core parts of your life. Making your health a priority is not the
easiest thing, but what you get from it is everything….
What are some mistakes people often make when starting a
The biggest mistake is setting unrealistic goals. It goes back to the feeling of being at your
“tipping point”, you emotionally cannot take it anymore and need to get the
weight off. The challenge with this
mindset is that your current lifestyle is why you put the weight on in the
first place. So you set a goal based on
emotion and forget to look at the effort it will take to achieve that
goal. As you begin the plan, you
progress but not fast enough in your mind, then you become de-motivated and
choose to abandon the plan.
This can easily be avoided by simply setting goals based on
the effort you can initially put into your health. Each week you can re-address your effort and
results and then make the necessary adjustments to either increase your effort
or change your goals. The reality is
that with the right plan all health goals can be achieved, the only unknown is
the time frame in which you will achieve your goals. Everything in life is an ever evolving
process and your health is no different.
There are many variables that determine the pace of your results. Staying present with your goals and evaluating
them on a weekly basis keeps your emotions in check and sets you up to win.
by Mark Macdonald, creator of the Venice Nutrition system and author of NY Times Bestseller, Body Confidence
Nine years ago, when I became a Venice Nutrition Coach, I had the pleasure of working with one of my very first and most memorable clients, who we’ll call Sally. Sally walked daily and ate a “sensible” diet yet still struggled with an extra 30 pounds of body fat, major sugar cravings and low energy in the afternoon. As we delved a little deeper during her consultation and talked about lifestyle including her profession, it became very apparent that Sally’s poor habits at work were causing her to gain an extra 5-7 pounds each year. If she stayed at her current job and kept the same poor habits for even another few years….well you do the math! Even more shocking? As I continued to coach clients, male and female from all sorts of professions, I found that 80% of my clientele was sabotaging themselves everyday at their jobs. I realized that even though my client’s jobs differed, their challenges were essentially the same. Thus, the Is Your Job Making You Gain Weight List was born. Now it’s time to share the list with you and point out the common workplace pitfalls as well as real-life solutions to overcoming them for all of us struggling to be fit in the workplace. The result? A leaner, healthier, happier, more energetic YOU, in and out of the office!
So, do you work in a cubicle or at a desk job?
If the answer is YES, it’s time to find some creative ways to be healthier during your 9 to 5. How can a desk job be detrimental to your health? Surprisingly, there are a lot of ways. Remember back in high school or even college, when you could eat whatever you wanted but you were active enough to stay fit and lean? Fast forward 5 or 10 years. You’re now sitting behind a computer all day, a headset attached to your ear, with an extra 15 pounds of unwanted body fat stuck to your middle. How did this happen? The answer is simple. When you are sedentary or even less active than you were as a teen or young adult and your eating habits don’t improve to accommodate this lack of activity, your body starts to lay down fat cells and your metabolism slows. Sound familiar? If so, read on to learn what you can do about it.
1. Know that it all starts with your nutrition. In fact, that’s about 85% of the equation! Your Venice Nutrition meal plans have been specifically designed with your goals, body composition and health in mind and will stabilize your blood sugar so you can burn fat, build lean muscle and increase energy all day at work.
2. Plan and pack the night before. The morning rush is not the time to be packing your food for the workday, so take 15 minutes after dinner to pack your meals. Ask yourself, what time do I wake up in the morning? Can I eat my first meal before I leave the house? How many meals do I need to make it through the workday? For a lot of my clients, their breakdown goes something like this:
Meal 1 (one hour within waking) is breakfast before they leave the house for work
Meal 2 (3 hours or so later) is a balanced meal/snack that they’ve packed the night before, such as cottage cheese and fruit with nuts or a protein bar for example
Meal 3 (3 hours or so later) is lunch that they’ve packed the night before like a salad with grilled chicken or a turkey and cheese wrap
Meal 4 (3 or so hours later) is typically a snack packed the night before to hold them over until dinner at home such as a protein bar or Greek Yogurt Parfait for example
The key is to figure out your “game plan” so that packing the night before is fast, easy and hassle-free for the following work day.
3. Stack up on healthy staples that you can keep at work for emergencies. Let’s say 3 pm rolls around and it’s time to eat, your starving and you've forgotten your afternoon snack. Maybe you grab an extra cup of coffee or head to the vending machine. Sound familiar? You don’t need to if you have a couple of go-to’s stashed at the office. Here are a few simple meal ideas anyone can stash at work:
String cheese & fruit
Cottage cheese & fruit
Deli turkey, nuts and fruit
Protein powder, skim milk, fruit and nuts
If you don’t have a fridge at work, try stockpiling some protein bars (the easiest and most convenient option) or even protein powder in a protein shake cup (with a lid so you can quickly mix it with water) with some fruit and nuts on the side. You may want to invest in a small portable lunch cooler that you can keep at your desk to keep items like cottage cheese and fruit cold. The point is to always have a back up on hand so your always prepared.
4. Avoid your co-worker’s bad habits at work. Everyone has a co-worker who brings in brownies each week or keeps a bowl of M&M’s at her desk. If it’s possible, avoid wherever this food is stashed. For instance, one of my clients worked at a vet’s office as a receptionist and the dreaded “backroom” is full of leftover birthday cake, cookies and pizza from lunch. My client knows this and along with packing balanced meals to nosh on all day, she does her best to avoid the backroom so she can the avoid temptation. If your well meaning co-worker invites you to have some candy every time you visit her desk, let her know that you truly appreciate it and no thank you because you’re on a quest to eat healthier, particularly at work. Then ask her if she’d like a few of your delicious, perfectly dry roasted almonds in return. You may just find a new buddy to make healthy habits with at the office!
5. Beware of take out and dining out too often. I know how important it is that you socialize with your work peers and be a part of the gang. After all, who wants to be the co-worker who turns down every lunch invitation? A good rule of thumb is to plan to go out for lunch with co-workers no more than once a week. This way you are still socializing while not sabotaging your healthy efforts. The truth is, the more we eat out, the less control we have over what goes in our mouths. When you do go out to eat, it’s a good idea to scout out restaurants that offer balanced solutions or check out menus online ahead of time for healthy options. If your job relies on you taking clients out for lunch or you dine out more than once a week, it’s critical to do some research beforehand and find healthy options as well as know how to order correctly. For more information on dining out, please see Tips for Success #11 in your online manual under the Help/Support Tab.
6. Get up and get moving. If you sit at your desk for 8 hours a day without moving around much, you’re losing the precious opportunity to expend energy (not to mention ease aching muscles). Here’s what I did when I worked at a desk job. I made it a point to get out of my seat every 20-30 minutes to get a drink of water, use the restroom, answer the phone and move around a bit while I talk, use the wastebasket, stand up and stretch.... whatever! The point is, I was not sedentary, even though my actual job was. Another huge benefit of moving around is protecting your spinal cord and back muscles which take a beating at an office job. When you sit, your spine is compressed (another reason why so many Americans suffer from back pain- we’re putting in a lot of long hours at our desks these days). When you stand up or move around, you lengthen the spine. Mini stretches are also a good idea to keep your muscles fluid and loose. I know from experience that an injury can greatly deter your daily exercise routine, so avoiding injury while at work is a must.
9. Take advantage of your lunch break- it’s a perfect time to get moving. Pack your gym bag with a change of clothes and sneakers the night before (perhaps after you pack your meals). Then take a walk or hit the gym. It’s a great way to get your workout in before the day is over.
10. Pencil in your workouts. Just like you add any important appointments to your planner, add your workout to make it “official”. I know you’ve heard it before but it works! Adding exercise to your schedule makes it a priority and your always less likely to skip out on a scheduled appointment.
11. Overworked? It’s time to de-stress. If you are not aware of the negative effects stress can have on your health by now, it’s time to learn. Stress causes increased body fat (particularly in the abdominal area), increased risk of disease and obesity and over eating, just to name a few. For a full read up on stress, check out: Combating Stress and Depression, written by Mark MacDonald, located in the Inspirational Messages Section of your Education Tab. Or check out any of the blogs about stress in your Education Tab.
In the meantime, make an effort to de-stress. Book a massage, take some time out or lessen your workload if you need to. Years ago while running a nutrition consulting business, seeing 12 clients a day and training other nutrition coaches, I let my work “run” me. Now I’m in charge and I schedule time for me to unwind every day (for me, de-stressing means working out, reading and the regular myofascial release therapy I receive for my back and hips). The only time we seem to learn how detrimental stress is to our health is when it’s far too late and some of the damage is already done. My advice to you is to start de-stressing now and honor your body, mind and soul. It’s worth every minute.
12. And lastly, keep your goals close. When’s the last time you broke out the pen and paper and re-vamped your health goals? My clients who do this regularly are more likely to work hard at work to stick to their goals. Keep these reminders at work in plain sight….you’ll be amazed at how well they help to keep things in perspective….and keep you motivated.
So what ever happened to Sally? I’m happy to report that with the above adjustments, Sally and the rest of my clients were able to overcome their health challenges and reach their goals, even while at work. And if they did it, so can you!
Best of luck,
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
We’ve all been there. The alarm clock goes off and the last thing
we want to do is crawl out of bed and exercise.
We give ourselves an out, with the famous, “I’ll just start tomorrow” excuse.
Maybe we justify missing our workout by telling ourselves we look good
and we’re doing our best to get it in.
Now, of course missing a few workouts is fine….but only using your
external results as a monitor if you should miss a workout is a faulty
monitoring device. You see, the
external benefits of exercise (shedding unwanted pounds, burning body fat and
building lean muscle) are only part of the equation. The true power of exercise happens internally
to your body’s systems and the best way to see this is through blood
I’ve been coaching for over 20 years and I like to
teach my clients that if their internal systems are flowing (hormones,
digestion, blood, etc.) then the external results will always come….they go
hand in hand. My goal with this blog is to share the amazing
benefits exercise has on your body that can be directly shown through blood
Before we dive into the exercise benefits, I want to
quickly share that your food and exercise work together to create an optimal
internal environment in your body. So,
step one is to know how to optimally Fuel Your Body.
Exercise activates and strengthens
your muscles as well as helps create a balanced internal environment, but to
get the most out of your exercise it’s critical that you fuel your body
correctly. You see, your body is a
refuel as it goes machine, meaning it needs to be consistently fed the right
food to function optimally. This keeps
your blood sugar stable and your hormones in balance. Your nutrition (fuel) releases your stored
body fat and your exercise burns that fat up.
Here are 3 simple nutrition parameters to ensure your food is dialed in and
your blood sugar is balanced1. Eat every 3 to 4 hours (5-6 meals a day) – Make sure to eat within an hour upon waking, then every
3 to 4 hours and an hour within in bedtime.
Yes, you can eat before bed (it helps to prep your body for the fast
that occurs while you sleep and keep metabolism humming)
2. Eat a balance of Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates per meal – Your body needs all three nutrients to keep its
blood sugar stable. The exception is
your meal before bed. Unless you’re
hungry right before bed, you should stick to protein and fat only.
3. Eat the right amount of calories per meal – Too many calories at a meal causes a blood sugar spike
and fat storage while too few calories per meal causes your body to burn muscle
for fuel. The key is to eat the right
amount of calories per meal to satisfy you every 3 to 4 hours.
Ok, now that we have your blood
sugar balanced your body is ready to reap all the amazing benefits of exercise! Here are 5 excellent benefits that exercise
has on blood test results (keep in mind that great blood work means your body
is great on the inside!) Better Blood Sugar (glucose)
Optimal blood sugar readings are between 80mg/dl &
120mg/dl. This is how it
works….When it’s time to eat a meal and you feel hungry your blood sugar
is around 80mg/dl. Then about 90
minutes after that meal (as long as the meal was balanced) your blood
sugar is around 110 mg/dl. As long
as your blood sugar stays within the 80mg/dl to 120mg/dl range your body
will be in balance and will constantly release stored body fat. Anytime your blood sugar drops below
80mg/dl (typically by missing meals) your pancreas over releases the
hormone glucagon which causes your body to burn muscle, which slows your
metabolism and anytime your blood sugar spikes (typically by overloading
on carbohydrates and calories) above 120mg/dl, your pancreas over
releases the hormone insulin, which causes your body to store fat.
Ideally you want your Fasting Blood Sugar (8-12 hour
fast) to be between 80mg/dl – 90mg/dl.
Since exercise uses sugar and fat for energy, the more consistent
you are with your exercise the better blood sugar reading you will
have. Cardio and strength training
helps your body to more efficiently manage blood sugar levels and keeps your
blood sugar in a more optimal range by utilizing your excess glucose and
balancing out your two blood sugar hormones, glucagon and insulin.
Your A1C is an average of your blood sugar readings
over a few months. The lower your A1C,
the better. A lower A1C it means
your blood sugar is balanced throughout the day. Since exercise helps regulate sugar
levels and balances your blood sugar hormones, the end result is a better
fasting glucose. Since your
fasting glucose is improved, your A1C will naturally be lowered.
Higher HDL (your good
The two types of cholesterol we’re all use to seeing
on blood work are LDL and HDL. LDL
stands for low density lipoprotein (means it has more cholesterol than
protein) and is the “bad” cholesterol.
LDL’s go through your blood stream and leave behind plaque in your
arteries. HDL stands for high density lipoprotein (means it has more
protein than cholesterol). HDL’s
go through your blood stream and pick up the plaque left behind by the
LDL’s. So, the higher your HDL the
better for your arteries! Guess
what’s the number one way to increase your HDL’s? Your exercise! Especially steady
cardio for at least 30 minutes. If
you do cardio at least 4 days a week for 30 minutes at a steady heart
rate, your blood will begin to reflect an increase of HDL’s, which is
great for your blood, arteries and your heart!
Triglycerides are 3 fatty acids and a
glycerol molecule. Basically, they are
the main source of fat in your body.
High Triglycerides have a direct effect on the health of your heart and
cause excess fat storage. So the goal is
to keep your triglycerides low (anything less than 150mg/dl). As I shared, stable blood sugar causes your
body to continuously release stored body fat and your exercise then burns that
fat up in your muscle. So the more
exercise you can do (especially cardio), the more fat your body will burn. This will greatly assist with lowering your
triglyceride level in your blood.
Increased Endorphins will cause
more Balanced Hormone levels (ie. Cortisol, Thyroid, Estrogen and
We’ve all heard of the Runner’s High. Well, that is caused by the release of
neurotransmitters called endorphins (produced by your hormone system). Endorphins cause that sense of “well
being” we all feel after exercise.
I’ve always said that the stressors of life seem less stressful
when you are exercising consistently compared to when you are missing
workouts. This is all because of
Endorphins, and they also do more than just create a feeling of “well
being” they help in balancing your entire hormonal system. You see, your hormonal system works
like a kinetic chain and every link supports the next link. When one link is broken, it weakens the
entire chain and the chain in this analogy is your body.
As I shared, consistent exercise, cardio and strength
training, create a more stable environment in your body. This stability triggers more stable
levels of your all your hormones, a few being cortisol (your stress hormone),
thyroxin (your metabolism hormone) and estrogen and testosterone (your
sex hormones that greatly affect your mood).
So, there you have it! If you shift
your thinking about exercise from just a way to get an external result to
actually changing your body from the inside, you are more likely to get moving
and keep moving! After all, excellent blood work is a powerful
motivator and will always reveal your hard work. Just remember that if your body is in
amazing condition on the inside, you’ll be in amazing condition on the outside
too. We’ve heard it countless times,
always work your way from the inside out.
Your body is no different!
By: Mark Macdonald, Creator of the Venice Nutrition System and Author of NY Times Bestseller, Body Confidence
As a Nutrition Coach for over nine years, I know what it
takes to adopt a new health plan into your lifestyle and actually make it
stick. Whether you are new to Venice
Nutrition or need a kick start for 2012, the following tips will help you to
simplify your plan and achieve your goals faster!
1. Start with Stage 1
of your Guide Tab. And please don't skip
any steps! We’ve designed it so each
step in your checklist walks you through the major parts of your software. This
will help you to best understand and incorporate your plan into your life. Skipping steps may lead to confusion…and who
needs that when starting a healthy lifestyle?
After Stage 1, make sure to move on to Stage 2…you’ll learn
how to stay prepared, bust through plateaus, keep things fresh and more!
2. Embrace the
process! Remember that beginning a new
nutrition and fitness program takes time, patience and education. Our most
successful members take the time to learn how their bodies really work. They also embrace every little step of the
journey including the most mundane steps like packing meals and weighing
foods. Why? Because it’s all part of the learning process
and ultimately leads to long term success.
3. Stay engaged! Visit your Education tab and take advantage
of the Webinars, Blogs and Articles written by Mark Macdonald and our team of
coaches. Each article and webinar hits
on points we discuss regularly with our consulting clients and are designed to
increase your skill set and make your life easier. And don't forget to reach out with all
questions on the Forum or at email@example.com. Our team is here to help!
And lastly a few practical tips to help you as you get
started with your personal plan:
4. Plan out your
Sample Day (see Sample Day Meal Plan under your Help Support Tab), especially
if you are new to the plan. It always helps to have a game plan to follow so
you know which meals will work best for you at different times throughout the
5. Pack your meals
the night before for the next day….always (mornings are just too hectic!)
6. Cook a few high
quality food items in bulk for the week like our Everyday Chicken, Individual
Turkey Meatloaves (so good!) a big colorful
salad or brown rice so you always have quick high quality options on hand.
7. Stay motivated and
accountable with your online journal. I
still journal from time to time. Why do
I do it? It keeps me on track and shows me where I’m “off”. Plus I seem to be a little pickier with my
choices when I know I have to record everything I ate (no one likes copping to
an unplanned brownie sundae that you ate out of boredom!)
8. Add workouts to
your schedule like an appointment so you stick to them. I know, I know! You’ve heard this one a million times. The reason you keep hearing it is because it
works. Ask anyone who works out
regularly and they will tell you that exercise to them is as necessary as air
or brushing their teeth. But these same
people who seem to love to workout had to start somewhere and they started by
making their exercise a commitment. Eventually
it became a regular part of their day…like brushing their teeth.
9. Remember how important a good night’s sleep is to your
success! When I’m tired or I’ve tossed
and turned all night, by the morning I crave sugar and my desire to workout is
right up there with “clean out my closet”. When I’m rested, I have a lot more
willpower. Take the necessary steps to
get a good night sleep whether it be to create downtime before bed (turn off
the TV!) or invest in a better sleeping environment (I just bought a brand new,
quality mattress and box spring to keep my body in alignment for a better night’s
sleep). For more sleep tips, check out
your Member Handbook in your Education Tab.
There you have it…seemingly small, simple tips that make a
WORLD of difference to your success. Got
some helpful hints of your own? Please
share with us on Facebook or make a comment on our blog page!
Welcome to Venice Nutrition and Happy New Year!
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef
Here comes the holidays! As a personal Venice Nutrition Coach and Chef for over 6 years, I have learned quite a few tricks on how to survive the holidays while keeping my waist line in check. The fact is the holidays are a fun and wonderful time of year to enjoy great friends and delicious food. You may think that Nutrition and Fitness Experts avoid any type of indulgence over the holidays, but that’s simply not true! We just know how to indulge the right way! Read on to learn some real-life tips to staying on course while enjoying your holiday season.
First and foremost, understand that your normal routine and schedule will change this crazy time of year. There will be more opportunities to over-indulge and maybe less time to fit in a workout. One of the best pieces of advice I can give to anyone is to acknowledge that life is going to get in the way over the holidays and that’s OK. By accepting the challenges beforehand, your more likely to go with the punches when they arise. Perhaps your goals change a bit to adapt to the holiday season as well. During the holidays, I make it my goal to maintain my weight and body fat % and fitness level instead of aiming to achieve more simply because it’s more realistic for me.
All of my clients, myself included, go to holiday parties, indulge in a little alcohol and delicious food and desserts. How can we possibly enjoy all the holidays have to offer and still reach our goals? My most successful clients have learned to “Let it go”. This can be a challenge at first if you are someone who is very “black and white” in your thinking. I have found that when I first meet a potential client, if they have a past of either being “on” their diet or “off” their diet, they usually have never achieved long term success. Why? This “all or nothing” thinking doesn’t allow for permanent results. It is my primary goal as their coach to teach them that a healthy lifestyle includes attending parties and eating not so healthy food once in a while. Basically I teach them to “Let it go”. There’s no need to focus on the extra cookie you ate or the workout you skipped. Right now, right this minute, is another opportunity to get it right and that’s where your focus should be! Another tip? Save the excuses and don’t give yourself an “out”! The worst thing you can tell yourself is, “I’ll get back on track next week, or after the holidays.” You’ll feel a whole lot better and do a lot less damage if you get back on track at your next meal. After all, permanent success is all about balance and living your life and enjoying it.
Next, preparation is key. I always tell my clients that if you know you have a huge party planned on Saturday night, then aim to eat well all week. Get in your workouts and drink plenty of water. This way when you indulge on Saturday night, there’s no guilt and very little damage done to your waist line!
Last night I went to a Christmas party. I admit I drank the homemade Cherry Wheat beer. I sampled the hummus and pitas and had a plate of roast beef, ziti and salad. I even ended the night with a sugar cookie dripping with sweet frosting. And I don’t feel guilty one bit!!!! I woke up this morning and had my eggs and wheat toast to re-stabilize my blood sugar. I already have my workout planned for later this afternoon. I made sure to eat well all week because I knew that I had a big party to attend Saturday night. I drank plenty of water last night before I fell asleep. Overall, I followed my own advice. I acknowledged that I was going to indulge a bit at the party, I prepared to do so and I got right back on track the moment I could. I enjoyed the christmas party and I’m still on track to reaching my goals, and so can you. Happy Holidays!
Head Chef and Nutrition Coach
Thanksgiving is only days away and I can’t wait! I love the hustle and bustle of preparing
the menu as the big day approaches and mostly, I love catching up with my
entire family while enjoying the feast.
At my house, we make enough food to feed a small army and
aim to satisfy everyone’s tastes (in
addition to the basics, we make a turkey and
ham, two kinds of stuffing and five different kinds of pies!). And while I used to worry about weight gain
over Thanksgiving, I don’t anymore. Why?
Because it’s all about balance.
Here are my go-to
tips that will help you to enjoy your Thanksgiving Day meal and stay on track with your health goals…no
1. You know Thanksgiving is coming, so be prepared.
Be extra careful with your nutrition the entire week leading up to
your Thanksgiving Day meal. Make sure to eat balanced meals and
choose higher quality (natural, un-processed) foods as often as possible. Try not to have any "off"
meals leading up to the big day either; being consistent will stabilize your
blood sugar and keep you in “fat burning mode”.
Another way to prepare? Add 10 to
15 minutes of extra cardio each day leading up to Thanksgiving.
2. Help with the cooking. Because of my culinary
background, I’m responsible for preparing 90% of our Thanksgiving Day meal. Not
that I’m complaining; I honestly love every minute of it. I’ve found that by preparing the food, I tend
to eat a lot less when it’s time to eat.
Sure, I’m taste testing here and there but after all of the stress and
hard work that goes into preparing a huge feast, I don’t feel the need to
completely stuff myself. I'm not sure why this happens, but every year
without fail, it does! So this Thanksgiving, aim to help out in the
kitchen; you may find yourself eating a lot less at meal time.
3. If you’re a guest,
bring a healthy dish to the meal. Instead of smothering the sweet
potatoes in high calorie marshmallow, mash them with a few tablespoons of brown
sugar, a little real butter and sea salt instead. Prepare a green bean casserole with fresh
green beans, low fat milk and low-fat mushroom soup. Go light on the
fried onions or use sautéed onions instead.
Make mashed potatoes with low fat milk in place of whole milk or
cream and jazz them up with roasted garlic, sea salt and a little butter. Find a reduced-fat gravy online that appeals
to you. Offer to bring whole grain rolls in place of
white rolls. Get creative and
choose lower fat options when possible. You can even find healthier
versions of your favorite dishes online ahead of time and share with the
"chef" in advance to see if you can work
together to create a healthier meal.
Bonus: Try bringing our Whole Grain Cranberry and Walnut Stuffing,
Roasted Asparagus or Sweet Potato Soup, found in your Recipe Tab (“Sides and
Extras”) for a lighter take on some of your Thanksgiving favorites!
3. Remember to balance your plate. Choose a
protein first then add carbohydrates.
Don’t worry about adding fat; there will more than likely be plenty of
fat in each item already. Load up on white meat turkey for protein (skip
the fatty skin) and healthier sides like sweet potatoes, butternut squash and
veggies. If you want to indulge, take smaller amounts of the higher
calorie sides like stuffing to keep blood sugar from spiking too high.
4. Eat slowly and enjoy. Focus on your family
and friends, not just the food. Before going for seconds, ask yourself if
you're really hungry. If so, wait 15 to 20 minutes and see if the
5. Dessert is fine in moderation. I say… have dessert but take a smaller
portion than what you would normally would and savor every single bite. If
you know that dessert is your favorite part of the meal and you may want to
indulge a bit, go lighter on your carbohydrates with dinner.
6. If you have alcohol, choose a small glass of wine
or light beer. Drink a glass of water in between to keep from bloating.
7. If you’re hosting the meal, try to give away the
not-so healthy leftovers by making to-go plates for your guests. Save the
leaner stuff like the turkey and vegetables to have on hand for meals later in
the week. If you’re a guest, take a to-go plate of the turkey and
vegetables and skip the heavier sides.
A few tips: In
general, the least healthy options at a Thanksgiving Day meal are: Gravy,
mashed potatoes, stuffing, and desserts.
White meat turkey, vegetables and cranberry sauce are usually the
Lastly, most of us do overindulge on Thanksgiving. And that’s okay! The key is to get right
back on track 3 to 4 hours later with a balanced meal to stabilize your blood sugar. If it’s
time to eat again and you are not hungry, simply have protein and fat.
For some of us, it takes practice to learn how to let go of
the guilt that can accompany a holiday meal. Obsessing over the fact
that you overindulged is never a good
idea. Just pick back up where you left
off and get your cardio in the next day. Your body will never know the
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Venice Nutrition!
Lead Nutrition Coach and Head Chef