The 5 P's: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

A patient once shared with me about the 5 P's: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. One secret weapon for planning ahead is to do more batch cooking or bulk cooking. Having more nutritious, homemade food on hand is possible and your health will benefit from your preparedness.

Initially, batch cooking might seem to take a lot of time because you have to invest time prepping and cooking up front. However, the time you can save the rest of the week or even month if you freeze things really pays off. When your kitchen is already getting messy making a recipe, consider doubling or even tripling the recipe. This can work for main dishes or baked goods. Make two pans of baked spaghetti or lasagna or chicken enchiladas. Cook one for dinner and freeze the second pan for another time. If you double or triple your favorite healthy muffin recipes, you can freeze the extra muffins to have on hand for snacks or "sweet treats."

A crock pot is also a great help when batch cooking. Fill the crock pot up when cooking soups and stews and freeze half when done or eat the leftovers throughout the week. Use the crock pot to make big batches of things like taco meat. To extend the meat, add beans and corn. Freeze the extra taco mix for future "taco nights." Keep on hand the rest of the fixings for a taco salad bar. You will have a really easy dinner with minimal prep as long as you remember to put the frozen taco mixture in the crock pot on low before heading out of the house in the morning!

Use the crock pot to prepare large batches of meat to be used later. Start with frozen or fresh meat (chicken breasts, ground beef or turkey, turkey sausage) and put it in the crock pot on high. Usually nothing needs to be added to the meat. As it cooks break it apart and the end result will be shredded chicken or cooked ground meat. Refreeze the meat mixture in two cup portions. Use this already cooked meat to throw into soups or use in other recipes. Here are some other ideas to help get you started in bulk/batch cooking: 

  • Hard boil eggs on the weekend to eat throughout the week.
  • Grill extra when grilling meats or veggies. If you won't eat all the grilled meat over the next several days, freeze it for future.
  • Make a big pot of quinoa, brown rice, or beans and use throughout the week. Cooked grains and beans freeze well also.
  • Frittata or eggs: Make a large pan or put in individual muffin tins and eat during week or freeze for later use. Pop in microwave to heat up on a busy morning.
  • Make a larger smoothie to have the next day also.
  • Bake several sweet potatoes to have on hand for week. You can also peel and mash cooked sweet potatoes and freeze in Ziploc bags. Add frozen mashed sweet potatoes to chili and other soups. Several sweet potatoes can also be cooked in a crock pot on low all day if you prefer that method over turning on the oven.
  • Prep and cut up fruits and vegetables on the weekend to be used throughout the week. Put them in small containers or Ziplocs ready to grab.
  • Pre-portion bags of nuts and seeds.
  • Cook a big pot of steel cut oats on the weekend to reheat during the week.
  • Roast a big batch of vegetables to use for the week. Here are some simple directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Clean and cut up assortment of carrots, broccoli, peppers, onion, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, snow peas, cauliflower. (actually any you enjoy)
    3. Toss vegetables with some olive oil, pepper, salt or other blend like Mrs. Dash and spread out on a baking sheet.
    4. Roast in oven until tender and edges start to brown. Flip once or twice during roasting. Time can vary from 20-40 minutes depending on type of vegetables and how many being roasted.
    5. Keep leftovers in refrigerator and eat for lunch or add to other dinner meals.
  • Overnight oats: Make five separate containers using a variety of fruits, nuts, and spices or just prepare one large batch for the week. Breakfast is ready all week. Here is one simple recipe to try.

Blueberry Refrigerator Oatmeal

1/4 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup 1% milk or preferred milk
1/4 cup greek vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries or any other fruit you desire
Can add chia seeds or other seeds and nuts
Can add cinnamon for extra flavor if desired

Mix all the ingredients together. Cover container with a lid. Refrigerate overnight. Eat chilled. Makes 1 serving. Can double or triple of course and eat throughout week!

Nutrition: 208 calories, 3g fat, .5g sat. fat, 66mg sodium, 35g carbs, 4g fiber, 12g protein

Recipes abound on the internet for all of the above suggestions. Several websites also give step to step directions for bulk cooking or freezer meals. Give it a try with at least a few foods/recipes and see if it doesn't help you to be more prepared to eat better.

The Nutrition Challenge

It seems everyone is always looking for the latest, greatest health fad, craze, or new super food. We forget that staying with simple basics can have great benefit. Why does eating more fruits and vegetables seem boring and why is it so hard to actually do it each day?

Want to try an "all-you-can-eat" plan? Go ahead and try eating all the fruit and vegetables you want each day. It won't pack on the pounds. Instead the fiber, nutrients, and high water content will fill you up without a lot of calories. Most adults should be eating 9 servings of fruits and vegetables (about 4 1/2 cups) each day. Use some of these tips for fresh inspiration and eat more fruits and vegetables every day!

  • Add fruit and veggies to the foods you are already eating. If you normally eat cereal for breakfast, lessen the cereal by adding fruit to fill up your bowl. By adding frozen blueberries and cinnamon to plain quick oats, you won't even feel the need to add sugar to the oatmeal.
  • Add chopped or pureed veggies to eggs, meatloaf, sauces, casseroles, and soups. This practice will often lesson the calories and boost the nutrition per serving. You can often double the amount of vegetables called for in an original recipe especially in soups and casseroles.
  • Whip up smoothies using fruits and vegetables. There are endless combinations to try using yogurt, juice, milk, or ice. Vegetables practically disappear into smoothies. They will change the color but not the taste much. So instead of just fruit try also adding a ½ cup greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, cucumber, carrots, etc). You will feel healthy just drinking a green smoothie!
  • If time is holding you back, buy pre-chopped, pre-peeled, or pre-made salads. Also, frozen and canned fruits and veggies can be excellent options in place of fresh. Frozen may be cheaper if that particular produce is out of season.
  • Keep your fruit and vegetables out in the open. This may be on a counter or in a visible area inside the refrigerator. We are more likely to eat things we see often. At work keep some fruit at your desk rather than going to the vending machine.
  • On the weekend prepare Ziploc bags of cut up veggies or fruit so you have them ready to go for packing lunches and snacks. Cut up apples will turn less brown if immediately dipped in orange or lemon juice.
  • Dip veggies in salsa, hummus, or guacamole to provide variety. Fruit can be dipped in yogurt. Kids especially enjoy dipping!
  • Be creative and try new ideas. Slice up a banana and put flavored yogurt (Greek or regular) on the slices and sprinkle with dark chocolate chips. Freeze them for a few hours. Enjoy as a snack or frozen dessert. Other fruits like grapes also taste great frozen. Or try using the already frozen fruit mixes liked mixed berries or a blend of pineapple, mango, peaches, and strawberries for sweet treats.
  • Roast vegetables while preparing the rest of meal. Make extra for leftovers to be used the next day. Cut up peppers, carrots, onions, snow peas, broccoli, eggplant, etc. Rub them with some olive oil and seasonings. Bake on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Toss occasionally.
  • Remember try to fill up half of your plate with vegetables, salad, and fruit at most meals 


Here is a recipe for chili that includes canned pumpkin to boost nutrition. No one will know there is pumpkin in the chili!

Bean 'n' pumpkin chili

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sweet colored pepper chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (15oz) solid-pack pumpkin
2 cans (15oz) beans (kidney, black, or northern), rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5oz) petite diced tomatoes, un-drained
3 cups chicken broth
2 ½ cups cubed cooked turkey or chicken or even lean ground beef
2 -3 tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp- 2 tsp cumin
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp salt if desired
Cubed avocado if desired

Saute onion, pepper and garlic in hot olive oil until tender. Transfer to slow cooker and add rest of ingredients. Cook covered on low for 4-5 hours. Top with avocado if desired when serving. If short on time skip the sautéing step and just put the chopped veggies in crock pot and cook soup longer. I have also added frozen corn to this recipe for more veggies! Servings 10. Per serving: 192 calories, 5g fat (1g sat), 21 g carb, 7 g fiber, 16 g protein, 658mg sodium. Note: If you have a large crock pot double the recipe and freeze extras for another meal.

Eating Healthy on the Run | Print |

In our fast-paced lifestyle, things often get squeezed out or skipped if time is limited.  As a result, many people are skipping breakfast not realizing the benefits of this important meal.  Or you may just be stuck in a rut eating the same food each morning for breakfast. Trying something new opens up the possibility for you to ENJOY something different and keeps you from getting bored.  Challenge yourself to make breakfast a priority and even to try some new foods. Choosing to eat a healthy breakfast (as opposed to the doughnut or pop tart breakfast!) can help give you the following benefits:

  • Breakfast eaters get more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and eat less fat than those who skip breakfast,
  • People who eat breakfast improve their memories and the ability to perform tasks requiring memory as well as more strength and endurance to complete physical activities.
  • Eating breakfast revs up the metabolism after a night of fasting helping you burn more calories throughout the day.
  • A healthy breakfast helps stabilize hormones and blood sugar levels to potentially prevent overeating/binging throughout the day. Many studies have shown breakfast eaters weigh less than breakfast skippers.

Here may be some fresh ideas for you to try as you make eating a healthy breakfast a regular habit:

Speedy Egg Sandwich:  Crack an egg in a bowl coated with non-stick spray and scramble egg. Cook in microwave for 45-60 seconds. In meantime toast a 100% whole wheat English muffin, bagel thin, or bread slices.  Add cooked egg and slice of low fat cheese once toasted and you have a quick egg sandwich! You could also put the cooked egg in a whole wheat pita or whole wheat tortilla and add salsa for a different blend of tastes.

Make a yogurt parfait:  Dish out 1 cup greek yogurt (any flavor of choice), 1 serving of whole grain cereal (look for cereal with no more than 8g sugar per serving and at least 3g fiber), and a handful of fresh or frozen fruit.

Healthy snack:  Spread 2 Tbsp of peanut or almond butter on any type of 100% whole grain bread, English muffins, or bagel thins.  Top with banana slices.

Whip up a fruit smoothie: Try one cup vanilla nonfat greek yogurt (extra protein), frozen berries, 1-2 Tbsp. ground flaxseeds.  Blend until smooth. Can add a splash of vanilla and juice if too thick. 

On the Go:  Grab a piece of fruit like apple, pear, or banana and a piece of low fat string cheese.  For extra energy and fiber add a serving of nuts like almonds or walnuts.  A typical serving of nuts should fit in the palm of your hand.

Try a burrito: Take whole grain flour tortilla or corn tortilla and add ½ cup canned beans (rinsed and drained).  Add 2-3Tbsp. shredded low fat cheese and heat in microwave for 30 seconds.  Garnish with salsa and avocado slices if desired.

Make breakfast for the week on Sunday:  Prepare a big batch of steel cut oats or rolled oats.  Keep in fridge and warm up a small bowl each morning.  Season with vanilla and cinnamon and fruit and you won't miss the sugar!

Try homemade Muesli:  Mix ½ cup rolled oats, ½ cup dried fruit, ½ cup nuts, 1 apple grated, 3 cups low fat yogurt. Combine ingredients. Makes several servings. Often tastes better the next day since the ingredients have softened!

Prepare large batches of healthy homemade pancakes and waffles and freeze.  Pop them in toaster or microwave in morning and top with favorite toppings.  Here is a new family favorite for waffles in our home. I double the recipe and freeze all leftovers for future breakfasts.

Whole Grain Waffles

2 eggs beaten

1 ¾ cups skim milk

¼ cup canola oil

¼ cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp vanilla

1 ¼ whole wheat pastry flour

½ cup ground flax seed meal

¼ cup wheat germ

4 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp sugar

¼ tsp salt

In large bowl whisk eggs, milk, oil, applesauce, and vanilla.  Beat in flour, flax seed meal, wheat germ, baking powder, sugar, salt until batter is smooth.  Preheat waffle iron and coat with cooking spray.  Pour batter into waffle iron in batches and cook until crisp and golden brown. Makes 16 waffles.

Nutrition Facts: (per waffle) 109 calories, 5.5g fat, .6g sat fat, 180mg sodium, 12g carb, 2.4g fiber, 4g protein

Get Your Plate In Shape | Print |

"Get Your Plate In Shape" is the 2012 theme for National Nutrition Month. The theme is encouraging consumers to eat the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy foods. The idea for this theme resulted from the USDA launching "My Plate" to replace "MyPyramid" in June 2011. "My Plate" is an easy-to-understand visual guide to help consumers follow the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. "My Plate" divides the plate into four sections: fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins, with a glass representing dairy products. To help you "Get Your Plate in Shape" here are some simple tips.


Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables by choosing different colors throughout the day.Fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables all count. Choose "reduced sodium" or "no-salt-added" canned vegetables. Buy canned fruits in water or 100% juice rather than heavy syrup. Filling half your plate with dark leafy salad greens and a variety of vegetables and fruits will help control portions of the grains and protein.


Make at least half of your grains whole.

Select 100% whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, crackers, brown rice, and popcorn.Experiment with other whole grains such as quinoa, barley, and steel cut oats.Read the ingredient list on food labels to select items that say "whole" rather than enriched or refined.


Select more healthful protein sources.

Eat a variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean beef, pork, poultry, eggs, nuts, beans, and soy foods.Try to choose seafood twice a week as the protein on your plate.Keep all meat portions small (3-4oz) and lean.


Switch to fat-free or 1% milk.

Gradually switching to lower fat milk cuts the calories and saturated fat but still provides the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients.


Cut back on sodium and empty calories from added sugars and solid fats. 

Choose to drink water instead of sugar-laden beverages. Eat fruit for dessert more often than the sugary, higher fat desserts.Compare sodium on the food label and choose foods with lower numbers. A food that contains 140mg sodium or less is considered "low sodium." Add spices and herbs to season food rather than salt. Try to use liquid oils more often than solid fat when preparing foods and recipes.


Enjoy your food but eat less.

Try using smaller plates, bowls, serving spoons, and utensils. Studies show this can help you eat 20% less.Explore to get your personal calorie goal and keep this in mind when deciding what to eat. You can also try the SuperTracker at this website which helps you keep track of what you are eating each day.


Be physically active every day.

Choose activities you like and start with at least 10 minutes at a time. Aim to get 2 hours and 30 minutes or more of activity each week.


Be adventuresome and try new recipes and foods often.

This chicken stir-fry is a simple way to "Get Your Plate in Shape". If feeding a larger family you can easily double the recipe.

2 Tbsp canola oil
1-2 boneless, skinless fresh or frozen chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
Pepper to taste
½ tsp. ground ginger
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16 oz package frozen stir-fry vegetables or more if desired (about 4 cups)
¼ cup lite soy sauce
½ Tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. sugar

Heat canola oil in large skillet over medium heat. Place chicken in pan and sprinkle with ginger and pepper. Saute chicken until cooked through and no longer pink inside. Add garlic and vegetables. (Can add a little water, oil, or broth if need more liquid). Cook until vegetables are heated through, then pour soy sauce over mixture. Add the sesame oil (a little goes a long way and adds such a nice flavor) and sprinkle with sugar. Mix and heat through. Serve with brown rice. Serves 3.

Nutrition per serving (not including rice): 265 calories, 13g fat, 1g saturated fat, 865mg sodium, 10g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 25g protein. 

Think Before You Drink | Print |

Most people trying to lose weight or simply eat better think about their food choices and what they put on their plates. But what they are drinking each day may be having a greater impact on their health and waistline then they realize. Americans now consume nearly a quarter of their daily calories from beverages according to a 2007 analysis of government data on U.S. beverage trends.

Sweetened sugary drinks are currently the only specific food that clinical research has directly linked to weight gain. This can include soft drinks, fruit flavored drinks, sweetened ice teas, specialty coffee drinks, and even flavored vitamin waters with added sugar. A typical 20oz bottle of soda has nearly 70g sugar which is equivalent to about 23 packets of sugar. A “nutritious sounding” 20oz flavored juice drink like peach papaya has 72g sugar which is equivalent to about 1/3 cup sugar or 6 tablespoons. Most people would never consider adding this much sugar to a drink they were making themselves.

Research suggests that people do not compensate for liquid calories by eating less food. Liquid calories on the stomach may not send the same appetite-suppressing message to the brain that solid food does. Liquids also do not require chewing. Chewing food which takes longer may allow the brain to register that you are satisfied.

Here are some tips to help you “think before you drink” especially as the warmer months approach:

  • Reach for good old water! You can make it more appealing by adding lemon wedges or trying something natural like True Lemon packets sold in supermarkets.
  • Choose only 100% fruit juice instead of fruit flavored drinks. Juice should still be limited to 4-8oz day. You can also dilute juice with water to lessen calories.
  • Instead of whole or 2% milk, switch to fat-free or 1% milk. Milk even though it has calories provides a much better nutrition package than the sugary drinks!
  • Ideally, keep regular soft drinks out of the house and skip the super-sized regular sodas when eating out. If you can’t kick the soda habit try to choose diet soda and limit to one or two a day.
  • Read the labels: most of the 20oz and 24oz bottles have two or three servings. The calories have to be multiplied by 2 or 3!
  • Don’t assume something that says water is calorie-free! Many specialty waters spiked with vitamins, minerals, and other ingredients also now have sugar added.
  • Request fat-free milk and sugar-free syrup when ordering special coffees. Try ordering “skinny lattes.”
  • Drink alcohol in moderation which means one drink a day for women and two for men. Calories in alcohol can add up quickly!

For more information on the subject of beverages you can visit In March 2006 the American Journal of ClinicalNutrition published guidelines for beverage consumption that were developed by the Beverage Guidance Panel. These experts reviewed years of beverage research and made recommendations.

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