Thursday, February 19, 2015


Nobody wants to admit that they have baggage, but let’s face it…we all do.  Whether we like it or not, our minds and our souls recall almost everything, especially the most difficult memories that we try so hard to forget.  Even if we are able to genuinely forgive ourselves or others for past transgressions, that doesn’t mean we will forget them.  Sometimes we even convince ourselves that we’ve buried some awful memory, only to have it unearthed when we find ourselves in a situation that reeks of some circumstance of the past.  When memories are positive and beautiful, we cherish them, but when they are painful or difficult, we try hard to forget them before they turn into baggage.  Most of the time we can’t forget, no matter how hard we try.  So the question is this: how do we keep our memories from turning into baggage?   


To be honest, this is something I’ve been struggling with and frankly, I don’t think I have all the answers.  But I do want to share what I’ve learned. First let me share my baggage: I have trust issues.  Not only did my marriage end due to numerous grave violations of my trust, but in the months following my divorce, I also discovered that some of my so-called “friends” were disloyal to me.  Add to that the numerous people around me whose marriages have crumbled since then and the handful of people who have recently told me about their involvement in extramarital affairs, and well, let’s just say things were looking pretty bleak for awhile.  It was the perfect storm, and in it my belief in true love and loyalty almost evaporated.  Every time I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to let the past turn me into a cynic, someone else added to the heaping pile of distrust that kept getting in my way.


I went on like this for too long, feeling frustrated in every relationship and friendship I had.  I worried about everyone’s intentions, assuming that every man I dated would cheat and lie and that every friend I trusted would eventually take advantage of me or betray me.  The trouble is that some of my fears were confirmed, and this only perpetuated the cycle.  The more people who disappointed me, the more suspicious I became of everyone else.  My circle has gotten quite small since then, and I have actually worried that I was too quick to dismiss some people.  But then I realized that none of them have tried to get me back, and that tells me that I made the right choice.  If anyone is willing to let go that easily, then I probably made the right choice.  


So how did I overcome my baggage?  Truth be told, I don’t think I have…yet.  But I did learn some things that have begun to change my attitude:  

1.       Take responsibility – I had to make sure that I had truly forgiven the people who had hurt me.  It’s easy to say we forgive someone, but it’s much more difficult to genuinely practice forgiveness.  I had to identify the people who had truly hurt me and make sure I could pray for them in the same way I pray for the people I love.  If I couldn’t, I knew that I was still harboring some unforgiveness that I had to deal with.   

2.       Treat everyone as an individual and every situation as unique – it’s easy to make generalizations, but there are always exceptions.  If we let our baggage do the talking, we will end up writing off good people right off the bat simply because they say or do something that brings us back to a dark place.  When we do this, we miss out on the joy of actually getting to know that person as an individual.  The fact is that no two people are the same.  We all have hundreds of characteristics that make us unique and special, and this is why generalizations are typically wrong.  Not every man cheats.  Not every woman is an emotional wreck.  Not every Latino is crazy jealous.  Not every Christian is judgmental.  Not every Muslim is a fundamentalist.  Not every blonde is dumb.  You get the point.     

3.       Don’t let your fear be bigger than your faith – for a while I was so afraid to lose anyone else that I held on to relationships after I knew they were toxic, simply because I was scared to find myself alone.  I let fear run my life and put my faith in the backseat.  I only began to feel peace when I realized that I needed to walk in faith.  Instead of clinging so desperately to the things and people I thought I needed, I gave it to God.  I started to pray for His will instead of my own.  I finally just let go, and it made an enormous difference in the quality of my life.

4.       Be intentional about your relationships – if you have people in your life who love you in spite of your baggage and any other flaws, hold on tight.  Be intentional.  Show them love and accept the love they offer to you.  Don’t just let the relationship sit there and get stale.  Like a garden, you must take the time to water it and pull the weeds if you want to watch it grow.  If you increase the number of positive relationships and happy people in your life, your baggage will start to unpack itself. 


I know there’s a lot more to learn, but this has been a good start for me.  It’s been difficult to lose so much, but I think of myself as a glass that was half-full of dirty water before.  I could just fill up the rest of the glass with clean water, but the dirt that was already there would taint it.  The more dirty water I can dump out, the more room I have for fresh, clean, life-giving water, and that’s what I want.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015


I got into mug cakes when the weather started getting colder.  I was used to coming home from the gym and tossing some whey protein, unsweetened almond coconut milk, fruit and peanut butter in the blender with a handful of ice cubes for a tasty post-workout recovery meal.  But when the temperature dropped, I wasn’t trying to consume anything frosty after my nice hot shower.  I started experimenting with these yummy little single-serving cakes made in a mug in the microwave, and the baker in me loved the endless flavor combinations and the challenge of finding the perfect balance.  I’ve share quite a few photos on social media and everyone wants to know the deal, so here you go: and entire blog post dedicated to the mug cake basics!

Here’s the beauty I made earlier:

And here’s the recipe:

3 tbsp whey protein powder (I used Cellucor chocolate raspberry truffle)
3 tbsp any kind of flour
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 egg white
2 tsp coconut oil (melted)
1-2 tbsp unsweetened almond coconut milk (or any kind of milk)

Mix dry ingredients together, then add the egg white and melted coconut oil.  Spray a mug with Pam or brush it with melted coconut oil.  Pour the batter into the mug and microwave it for 2 minutes.  Turn out onto a plate. 

1 tbsp your favorite peanut butter (the possibilities are ENDLESS!)
½ tbsp unsweetened almond coconut milk (or any milk)

Add these ingredients to a small bowl, microwave for 20 seconds and mix well until smooth.  Frost mug cake while hot.  Top with fruit of your choice.
So there’s the recipe.  Now let’s break down the basics so you can start playing with different combinations.

You can use any type of flour you want, but you should experiment with them to see what works best for you.  Obviously all-purpose is easy to come by, but it’s also the most processed and it does contain gluten.  If you’re going for an unprocessed flour, you can always throw some rolled oats into a food processor and make a relatively simple oat flour in minutes.  Almond flour and coconut flour are my favorites, as they bake well and give less of a dry texture than oat flour.  They also have the added bonus of being gluten-free.  Tapioca flour is a good additive, but don’t use it by itself unless you want a very chewy cake.  I like to pair it with almond or coconut flour. 


Obviously you don’t want a lot of fat since this is supposed to be a healthy treat, but any baker worth her KitchenAid mixer will tell you that you need a little something to keep your cake moist and not dry.  Coconut oil has a number of health benefits, so it’s my go-to if I decide to use fat at all.  If I want to avoid using fat, I will throw in a tablespoon of unsweetened applesauce, pumpkin puree or some peeled zucchini that I give a quick pulse in the food processor.  I think any of these three give the cake a nice texture without intruding on the flavor. 


I recently discovered coconut sugar and I’m a fan.  Calorie-wise it doesn’t save you much, but it does have the benefit of being significantly less processed than the white cane sugar we grew up with.  It has a nice brown sugar-like flavor and is low on the glycemic index.  The alternatives I use are Splenda, Stevia, agave, raw honey or sugar free maple syrup.  Once again, you should experiment to see what tickles your taste buds. 

I try not to go beyond 1 tbsp of peanut butter in order to keep the calories under control.  I consider it torture to close the jar instead of diving in spoon-first, but here’s how to make that tablespoon stretch a little further: just add a splash of milk, pop it in the microwave and stir until smooth.  You can add just a little milk for a thicker frosting or use more if you want more of a glaze.  Another good trick is to use PB2, a powdered peanut butter with fewer calories than the real stuff.  You can just add water (but why would you when you can add another layer of flavor with almond coconut milk?) until you find the consistency you are looking for.

Other notes:
There are hundreds of variations to this recipe.  You can change it up by using different types of whey protein powder, and that’s usually where I start when I build a recipe in my mind.  If I have cinnamon roll whey protein on hand, I may add a sprinkle of cinnamon, a splash of rum extract and top with my favorite cinnamon raisin peanut butter and some sautéed apples.  The possibilities are endless.  Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger as well as extracts (vanilla, maple, almond, coconut, rum, banana, and the list goes on and on) are awesome ways to punch up the flavor without adding any calories.  Just use them sparingly, as a little goes a long way!  I’ve also added texture by tossing in a tablespoon of raisins, Craisins, dark chocolate chips or even trail mix.  Figure out what you’re in the mood for and have fun with it!  Just remember that you are adding calories with these additions, so don’t be too heavy-handed.

Lastly, when I cook my fruit, I stick to a tiny bit of coconut oil or just a few sprays of Pam.  Fruit has natural sugars, so I don’t generally add any sweeteners.  If and when I do, I go for Stevia or coconut sugar because they are the most natural and lower in calories.  I steer clear of liquid sweeteners like honey and agave when I sauté fruit because they tend to burn easily and won’t caramelize like solid sweeteners will.  If the fruit doesn’t release enough juices when cooked, add a little (and I mean a LITTLE) bit of water to get it going.

So there you have it.  I hope you’ll go ahead and give this yummy mug cake a shot or even better, read the recipe and then toss it right out the window and make up your own!  Just remember the basics of baking: ratio, time and temperature.  If you get these things right, you can’t go wrong.  Bon appétit!   

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Faith > Fear

Nothing amazing ever happens inside your comfort zone.  I believe those eight words with every fiber of my being.  Think about it.  If you’re comfortable and it feels easy, I don’t think you ever truly appreciate the beauty of a victory.  To me, the beauty is always in the struggle, in knowing what I overcame to get where I am.  But even though I know that the struggle is all that lies between my comfort zone and the result I want, it can still be unsettling to dip my toe into the unknown.  The only way I’ve been able to overcome this fear is by developing my faith.

I’m on a bit of an emotional roller coaster lately, but that’s okay.  It seems like one day I’m full of fear and trepidation, and the next day I’m overcome with excited anticipation and expectation.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re growing.  For some time, I have felt like I’m on the verge of several major breakthroughs in my life and with each day that passes, I feel closer to victory.  But this wasn’t always the case.  In fact, I spent months battling frustration, fear, negativity and sadness until I learned how to pray about it.  I had read this verse or heard it referenced countless times, but I never truly studied it:

Jesus didn’t say “cast your cares on me and then keep worrying about everything,” but that’s exactly what I had always done.  I thought sending up the prayers was enough, but I never actually RELEASED anything.  Instead of simply giving my burdens to God, I decided to tell Him about them and then try to help Him carry them.  He was basically like, “that’s cute Jenalee, but I’m good.”  So many of God’s blessings can only be accessed through faith, and when I look back at my own track record I realize I’m notorious for blocking my own blessings because I didn’t know how to let go.  You see, letting go means giving up control, and that takes me right out of the comfort zone I’ve been clinging to so desperately this year.        

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you know that it’s been a year of change for me, mainly because I got a divorce.  I believe that divorce is difficult to understand unless you’ve been through it.  But to put it in terms that even a child can understand, it’s like drawing the Plumpy card in Candyland when you’re already past Queen Frostine.  You’ve come so far that you actually feel like you can see the rest of your life (a.k.a. King Candy) ahead of you, but all of a sudden you flip over that fuzzy green monster and you’re back at square one.  It’s enough to throw anyone for a loop.  Whenever a big shakeup occurs in life, it’s natural for us to cling to anything that feels safe and familiar.  That’s precisely what I did for months.  I was losing my husband, so I tried to keep everything else exactly the same.  I kept the same apartment, job, friends, gym schedule and even my closet exactly as they were before because doing so was comfortable.  That worked for a little while, but then God asked why I was trying so hard to keep everything the same when so much needed to change. 

At first the fear was so overwhelming that I couldn’t even ask God to show me what needed to change.  I didn’t think I could handle it.  But over time, I realized that with His help I had already done what I thought was impossible: I had made it through the most difficult season of my life.  I started to realize that if I could get through that, I can get through anything if I just exercise my faith a little.  Since then, I’ve realized the need for change in some major areas of my life. 

I discovered that I needed to take a closer look at the company I keep and make some edits.  It’s scary to think about cleaning house because that means I’m inevitably going to spend more time alone, which is something I’ve been trying to avoid at all costs.  I also seem to believe I have some superhuman ability to love anyone under any circumstances (editor’s note: I think it comes from being a Red Sox fan in the 90s), which makes it difficult for me to let go of anyone, regardless of how much they hurt me.  I’ve always believed that everyone needs and is deserving of love, and while I still believe that, I now realize that I can never make loving someone else more of a priority than loving myself.  Instead of begging God to keep certain people in my life, my faith now allows me to pray that he will strip away those who are not meant to be in it.  At one point in time, that was the scariest prayer imaginable…but not anymore.  

It also occurred to me that I’ve gotten too comfortable at work.  Rather than striving to improve our processes and product like I used to do, I found myself going with the flow and trying not to rock the boat.  I was playing it safe rather than challenging myself and while that was easy and comfortable, I know for a fact that I was designed for more.  You see, I’m not a mediocre person, although being in a dysfunctional relationship for so long really had me acting like one.  I used to be hungry, driven, outspoken, and confident, but eight years of being invalidated had turned me into a watered-down version of all of those things.  Once again, I was fearful to pray about it since I would basically be asking God to make me work harder.  Fortunately, my faith made it possible and I’m finally on the verge of change.   

2014 has been an interesting year for me.  On the outside, it may seem like I haven’t done much because I’ve been laying low a lot.  I have been in the know, that area in between my comfort zone and the result I want.  When I get weary during this season of waiting, I simply liken my journey to building a house and remember that even the most beautiful mansion can fall if it’s not built on a strong foundation.  It is this thought that gives me the patience to hang out beyond my comfort zone and the peace of knowing that by the time I have been built back up, each brick will have been cemented by faith and nothing will be able to knock me so far down ever again.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Chameleon Life

Did you ever hang out with a Brit and suddenly find yourself speaking with a touch of an English accent?  What about picking up on your best friend’s favorite slang?  I think we’ve all been there, as it is natural to pick up on certain behaviors, mannerisms or speech patterns from the people with whom we spend the most time.  For the people who know who they are on a fundamental level, these superficial imitations don’t really present a problem.  But what happens when you’re not confident in yourself and you don’t really know who you are?  You become a chameleon.  First you adopt someone else’s accent, then you may start dressing like them, and pretty soon your moral code is defined by their beliefs rather than your own.  You end up selling yourself out and living a life that you may not be truly proud of.  I’ve seen this many times throughout my life, but never has it been more rampant than now, in the age of social media. 

People can be whomever they want to be on the Internet.  I can tell you firsthand how easy it is to appear fabulously happy while hiding the pain and imperfections of the life you are actually living.  We are selective about what we share and don’t share, and thanks to those fantastic Instagram filters, we can even make ourselves look like supermodels.  This may seem harmless, but the truth is that it creates a false reality and some impossible expectations that can easily become overwhelming.  When all we see is the very best version of the people around us, even the strongest, most confident people may start to feel like they don’t quite measure up.  I’m not saying it’s all fake, but I’d be lying if I said it was all real.  In addition to making it easy for us to present manufactured versions of our lives, the Internet also gives us balls.  Cojones.  Chutzpah.  There’s something about being behind the protection of our computer screens that makes us believe that we can say anything to anyone.  Too often, we make the mistake of forgetting that we are dealing with real people who have real feelings and that they aren’t just avatars or characters.  Or we become crusaders for a cause on the Internet but do nothing to stand up for that cause in real life.  We dump buckets of ice on our head for likes, but we never actually learn what ALS is or donate money to fund the research efforts.  We become “friends” with people we haven’t seen in 25 years and start to feel like we know them.  We say things like “omg I LOVE her so much!” when really, the only version of her we know is the one that exists online.  Basically, we forget about who we really are and what we really like, and we follow the herd in pursuit of the most likes.  Believe me, I’ve been there.  Guilty.  

Yes, Abe.  Quotes, pics, status updates, name it, it's been faked.  Nice selfie, btw. 

It is for these reasons and several more that I’ve decided to take a break from Facebook.  It’s something I’ve been on the fence about for weeks.  On one hand, I love Facebook.  It allows me to keep in touch with my family in Maine, share pictures of Jordin, and keep up with my gym family.  I can sell stuff that’s been laying around my house for 2 years on the yard sale page, and I can check out people’s fitness success stories when I need some motivation.  I can keep in touch with fellow instructors and find some useful tips and advice on how to give my members a better class experience. Basically, for every negative thing I listed above, I can list a positive one here.  That’s why I’ve been so torn, and I’ve been praying about this for a few weeks.  Just when I was about to stay just for the sake of avoiding change, I got the sign I had been waiting for on Tuesday night, and now my mind is made up.

I’ve gone through a lot in the last 18 months or so, and I’ve been on one heck of a spiritual journey.  When my husband moved out, I felt like I didn’t know which end was up.  I realized that during the course of our 8 years together, I had really lost myself.  I changed dramatically and became more concerned with being who I thought I should be than being who I actually was.  Somewhere along the way I lost my confidence and became a chameleon, but when he was gone I had no one to mimic.  I had no choice but to ditch my chameleon tendencies and figure out who I really am and what makes ME happy.  Earlier this week, it became crystal clear that wasting my time on Facebook is actually hindering this process.  I love Facebook and I know I’ll miss it, but what I won’t miss is the urge to maintain an online persona that makes other people comfortable.  What I’m really looking forward to is continuing to get to know myself and investing in the relationships that matter to me in real life, because in real life I don’t care about followers, likes or how anything looks with the Valencia versus Mayfair filter.

With that said, please follow my blog so you’ll get updates when I post!  You’ll need to log in with your e-mail address by clicking the link in the top right corner of the page.   The majority of my traffic has always come from Facebook, so please help keep me up and running by sharing the link to my blog with your friends!  And you can still find me on Instagram: @jenaleisha.  Baby steps, people.  Baby steps.  Xoxo Jenalee          

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Feeling Myself

I haven’t really been feeling myself lately.  I go through these phases, and I think not knowing how to come out of them was a big part of why I struggled with eating disorders for so many years.  It seems that in the blink of an eye, I can go from feeling myself a little too much to wanting to put a bag over my head and hide in my house.  It’s like one minute I’m strutting down Broadway in my sky high heels on my way to work and you can’t tell me nothin’, and by the time I get up to my office, I’m frowning at my reflection in the mirror and questioning every fashion choice I made that day, from my eyeliner down to my shoes. 

So when I realized that I wasn’t feeling myself last night, I decided to spend some time feeling myself…literally.  Okay get your mind out of the gutter and come back to me.  You good?  Okay here’s what I mean.  When I got home from the gym, I drew myself a nice, hot bubble bath and got in.  As I washed my hair I ran my fingers through each strand, thinking about how long it’s getting and how much I really like it despite the grays that are currently peeking out at the roots.  As I shaved my legs, I noticed the definition in my quads – something I never EVER thought I would have, since my legs have always been my biggest problem area.  I thought about the leg workout my trainer put me through last Friday and smiled as I remembered him congratulating me at the end and telling me that I made his day.  He was actually surprised that I made it through what he knew was a brutal hour.  Then I washed my stomach and at first I made a stank face at my lower abs because the skin is not as tight as I wish it was and there are stretch marks and a scar from when I had my belly button pierced many moons ago.  But then I remembered that I carried a baby in there, and that that baby has grown into a beautiful 6 year old firecracker who is my greatest pride and joy.  In the vacuum of my bathtub, with no mirrors, no photoshopped celebrities, no catcalling men, no fellow gym-goers in push-up sports bras and butt-padded leggings, no New York fashionistas looking like Kate Moss thanks to Century 21, Drybar and Spanx, I studied my body and focused on what I love about it, and then I vowed to take those feelings out of the bathtub and into the real world with me. 

Last night I tried not to focus on how my body looks or how it compares to others.  Instead I paid attention to how it feels and what it can do, and then I realized that these things mean a whole lot more than how I look in a miniskirt or whether I see an inkling of a muffin top.  My body has changed dramatically in the last two years.  There were big, quantifiable changes like losing 75 lbs and dropping from a size 16 to a 0, but these aren’t even the things that make me the proudest.  What makes me proud is being able to do a 300+ pound leg press, squatting more than my body weight, and having the core strength to maintain great posture and balance.  I like knowing that if I had to run for my life, I’d have a fighting chance at survival.  I like that I don’t need to ask a man to help me take the air conditioners out of my windows because I can lift them myself.  I like knowing that I possess the knowledge and determination to get my body fat to 15% if that’s what I wanted to do (it’s just not right now, and that’s okay).  Obviously I want to look good too, but I’ve found that when I spend less time obsessing about how I look and focus more on how I feel and what I can do, I inevitably end up even more satisfied with my physical appearance…and I feel a whole lot less crazy and stressed out. 

So even though I woke up late this morning, threw my hair in a ponytail and half-assed my makeup, I’m feeling myself today.  I don’t look my best, but that’s okay because blowout or ponytail, makeup or naked face, sweats or high heels…I still know what I am and what I can do, and I love it.  


Wednesday, October 1, 2014


I love breakfast.  I could eat it all day, every day.  In fact, my perfect world is one in which I can survive on breakfast foods alone.  I seem to have passed on this quality to my daughter, as she requests “breakfast for dinner” regularly, and it has now become part of our Tuesday night ritual: BodyCombat, followed by scrambled eggs, bacon or ham, and possibly a slice of flaxseed Ezekial toast or an English muffin with peanut butter on the side.  There’s never dessert on Tuesday nights because dinner is just so satisfying.  Here are a few of my go-to breakfasts for which I get frequent recipe requests:

Overnight Oats
1/3 cup rolled or steel cut oats
1/3 cup plain, fat free Greek yogurt
1/2 – 1/3 cup of milk (skim, almond, coconut or whatever kind of milk you enjoy), depending on the consistency you prefer
Your base will stay the same each time, but the toppings are where you get to have some fun.  You can throw in fresh fruit, dried fruit, frozen fruit, peanut butter, nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, peanut butter, flax seeds, chia seeds, fruit preserves, peanut butter, maple syrup, flavored extracts, pumpkin puree, or oh yeah did I mention PEANUT BUTTER?  The combinations are endless, which is why you could eat this every day and never get tired of it.  Mix the base and the toppings together and store overnight in the fridge in a mason jar, almost-empty peanut butter jar so you get those last bits of peanut buttery goodness, or any air-tight container (I like to recycle Talenti gelato jars. Yes, I eat gelato.  #YOLO).  In the morning, grab it and enjoy.  No need to heat it up.  Try it cold!  I was skeptical at first but it’s delish!

Protein Pancakes
Once again, we start with a base and you can play with the recipe after that.  Here’s your base:
½ cup egg whites
1 whole egg
½ cup rolled or steel cut oats (I grind mine into a flour for better texture but you can leave them whole)
1 scoop whey protein powder (any flavor)
From here, you can get creative.  I’ve tossed in everything from seeds and nuts to PB2 to pumpkin puree to raw cocoa powder.  Think of a flavor combo you like and go with it, but make sure the texture of the batter stays about the same.  A friend of mine recommended that you peel and grate about ½ a small zucchini into your pancake batter and I’m hooked on that!  It has little taste but does wonders for the texture.  One of my favorite combos of the season is pumpkin spice pancakes. To the base, I add ¼ cup pumpkin puree, 1 tsp of cinnamon, and I used 1.5 scoops of Fitmiss Vanilla Chai Protein powder (I used the extra ½ scoop to offset the “wetness” of the pumpkin puree).  Mix your batter and let it sit for at least 15 minutes or even overnight.  That will help it thicken and your pancakes will come out fluffier and less eggy.  Cook just like regular pancakes.  For these, I top with a bit of sugar free syrup and a spoonful of Nuts N More Pumpkin Spice Peanut Butter.  There are no words to describe how good these are!

Microwave Egg White Omelets
This is my go-to breakfast to make at the office.  Each week I buy a quart of liquid egg whites and grate some low-fat cheese and store them in my office at work.  As part of my Sunday meal prep, I chop any combination of spinach, broccoli, roasted red peppers, red onion, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, and portabella mushrooms, mix and store them in an air-tight container that I store in the fridge at work.  Each morning I toss some of the veggies into a microwave-safe dish with about ½ cup of egg whites and microwave for 2 minutes.  Then I top with a sprinkle of the low-fat cheese and microwave for another minute to melt the cheese.  Top with Sriracha if you like a little extra kick!  You can also do this with whole eggs or egg substitute.

Is anyone else hungry?  I want some breakfast!  I hope you’ll enjoy these recipes and come back to share your favorite flavor combos.  Bon Appétit! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


I love it when my readers tell me what they want to read about.  You spoke up, so here you go: a post about food prep!  Many of you follow me on Facebook ( or Instagram (@jenaleisha) and ask for recipes and tips when I post pics of my Sunday afternoon food prep adventures.  Food prep is such a crucial step to setting yourself up for success, and it’s even more successful when you take the time to write out a menu and shopping list for each week before hitting the store (this saves me money and helps me avoid splurging on snacks that look good but that I know I don’t need).  I find that when I dedicate an hour or two to food prep on a Sunday afternoon, my week goes so much more smoothly.  I have meals and snacks pre-packed in Tupperware so I don’t even have to think about what I’m going to eat for lunch.  Before I leave for work each day, I just grab my Tupperware and go.  This saves me the time of having to think about it, and it helps me avoid the potential disaster that happens when you think, “What should I have for lunch?” when your stomach is growling and you’re pressed for time.  Trying to make healthy decisions when you’re hungry and late is like going to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, credit card in hand, and telling yourself you won’t buy anything.  There’s a chance it might work, but come on now…we both know how that’s going to end. 

There’s so much to talk about with food prep.  I could share a million tips and recipes, but I’m going to start off sort of simple and just tell you what I always have in my pantry or fridge and why.  So without further ado, here’s Phase 1 of food prep: keeping the right foods in and the wrong ones out!

Cardinal Rule of Food Shopping:
Make a list and STICK TO IT.  Cheetos are not on the list.  Put them back on the shelf and walk away!

Now what IS on the list?

Meat: I always have lean protein on hand, usually in the freezer
  • Chicken breasts – I buy these in bulk and use a kitchen scale to cut them into 3-4 oz. portions and freeze individually when I get home.  It’s cheaper and you can just take out as many as you need when you need them.
  • Frozen raw shrimp – peeled and de-veined because ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • Any kind of fish – since I’m usually cooking for 1, I buy the individually vacuum-sealed pre-portioned fish filets and just take one out of the freezer when I want it.

Breakfast: Jordin and I love to have breakfast for dinner, so I always have an abundance of breakfast foods on hand, including:
  • Eggs
  • Egg whites
  • Steel cut oats
  • Sprouted whole grain bread – I like that this bread is kept in the fridge or freezer because when you’re just one or two people, finishing an entire loaf of bread can take quite some time.
  • Plain, whole grain Cream of Wheat – I buy plain and add my own flavor with raw agave, stevia, peanut butter, berries, Craisins, etc.   This is typically healthier than buying the flavored packets with lots of added refined sugar.
  • Frozen homemade protein pancakes or waffles – I make a big batch when Jordin and I are in the mood and we never finish them all.  I cook all the batter, then wrap each leftover pancake individually and throw them into a gallon size freezer bag.  When we want them, we warm them up in the toaster oven.  
  • Greek yogurt
  • Fresh fruit

Snacks: for me, planning snacks strategically is of the utmost importance.  I don’t always want to have to cook or even prepare or assemble something.  Knowing that about myself, I make sure I have many grab-and-go options available.
  • Quest bars
  • Raw almonds
  • Vegetable crudités – already cut and ready to eat items like baby carrots, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes.  If I need to cut something like broccoli, cauliflower or celery, this is usually part of my Sunday food prep.
  • Hummus – made from chick peas, it’s a good source of protein and is typically low in fat
  • Reduced fat cheese – string cheese or individually wrapped snack-size cheddar, Monterey jack, etc.
  • Seed crackers – I find them very filling and delicious dipped in hummus or peanut butter (just watch your portions on the spreads…2 tbsp is the recommended serving size).
  • Fresh fruit – another part of my Sunday food prep is washing and portioning all fruit, i.e. cutting up melons or fresh pineapple, etc.

Pantry/Fridge Staples
  • Various types of peanut/other nut butters – if you have to ask why I need various types, we can’t be friends.  But the short answer is that nut butters are a good source of protein, tend to fill you up, and taste good on everything i.e. in oatmeal, on toast, in/on pancakes, in protein shakes, on apples, celery, crackers, stirred into plain Greek yogurt, or a dollop on top of a microwaved Quest bar for a guilt-free dessert.
  • Whey protein powder – choose one that is high in protein and low in fat and sugar.  I use this to make a quick shake with almond milk in the morning because I don’t eat breakfast until I get to work about 2.5 hours after waking up.  This is a good way to jump-start my metabolism as soon as I rise.  I also add it to oatmeal, pancake batters and yogurt for an extra dose of protein on my big training days.
  • Frozen spinach and other frozen veggies – because sometimes I don’t feel like waiting 20-25 minutes to steam or roast veggies.  You can throw frozen spinach in just about anything for an easy serving of greens and some volume.
  • Frozen berries – for when you don’t have fresh ones on hand.  They’re good in oatmeal, yogurt, protein shakes, cereal, or on top of pancakes/waffles.
  • Unsweetened almond milk – I’ve never been a fan of regular milk, but I’m a huge fan of almond milk and coconut milk (or even better: coconut almond milk).  I use it just as I would use regular milk, like in cereal, oatmeal, protein shakes, etc.  Just make sure to get the unsweetened kind in order to avoid all the extra sugar.
  • Dry beans – the whole soaking overnight thing intimidates some people, but not me!  Dry beans literally make themselves and have just a fraction of the sodium you will find in canned beans.  Soak overnight.  Wake up. Rinse and dump them in the crock pot with some low sodium chicken broth, a chopped onion, some Sazón (yeah the white girl went there) and maybe the bone from a Sunday ham or turkey drumstick for a little extra flavor.
  • Brown rice – I buy the boil in bag kind that takes 10 minutes or the individual cups that take just 90 seconds in the microwave.
  • Quinoa – a good substitute for rice and a great source of whole grain and protein.  I like it hot as a side dish or as part of a cold salad (more on that in a later post)!
  • Chia seeds – they’re low in calories, high in nutrients and can be tossed into anything.  Some of my favorites: Greek yogurt, oatmeal or cream of wheat, biscuit/pancake/waffle batters, or sprinkled on top of some fresh pineapple or berries.
  • Various flavored extracts – I like coconut, vanilla and rum the best.  Extracts are powerful (a couple of drops will do) and are a great way to elevate flavor without adding calories.  I use them in batters, baking mixes, oatmeal and Cream of Wheat.
  • Salt-free seasonings – Mrs. Dash is my go-to for salt free seasoning blends.  I also always have cinnamon on hand and put it in just about everything.  Like extracts, spices add flavor without adding calories.
  • Reduced sodium chicken broth - I use this to make pasta, rice, quinoa, and various sauces.  It's got more flavor than water and is still low in calories and fat free.  
Well, that's how I get started: with a well-stocked fridge and pantry.  In future posts, I’ll share some of my favorite recipes and tips on how to make food prep less time consuming and more efficient.