A Step-By-Step Guide to Meal Planning and Prep (2/2)


This is an article by NF Team Member Staci. This is part two in a two part series. Missed the first article? Head on over and check out Why You Should Meal Prep.

So, you’re convinced that it’s at least WORTH A TRY to see if this meal prep thing can save you tons of time, money, and help ensure you level up. That’s awesome!

Today we’re going to start with the easiest version of meal prep, which we’ll call “level 1.” Now, make no mistake, just successfully accomplishing this meal prep every week can be an enormous aid in effortlessly leveling up. In fact, it was the exact meal prep that we are going to go over today that helped me lose fat and build strength years ago.

So, let’s get to it: In today’s step by step guide we are going to make five meals: lunch every day. I highly suggest you start off with just one daily pre-prepped meal, and I suggest lunch. Why?

  • If you work a 9-5, it’s most likely the meal you have the most control over, since you’re away from your family.
  • Many people are already looking to bring their lunches to work or school with them.
  • Going out to lunch every day is expensive and the options are often extremely unhealthy.
  • When you’re stressed at work, it’s so easy to just go to the break room and grab some leftover pizza or cake (or anything else) – but if you have your meal with you, it’s much easier to say no.

When I first started, I just swapped out my lunch with a healthier “planned ahead lunch” and I lost about 10lbs in the first month. Everything else was the same, I was still going out to eat every night and was still working on (and failing at) creating my workout habit. Now, everyone’s schedule is different, so feel free to start with a different meal. The idea is the same: start small. No matter what meal or what your needs are, following the steps in this guide will set you up for success.

And if you want to do more later, great; think of this like the tutorial level. Once you get this down, we can start adding more meals and variety to it.

Why You Should Be Planning Your Meals

This is a post from Team NF Member Staci.

Think about walking into a gym and randomly doing a few sets here, a few sets there… a wandering sheep without a shepherd. We’ve all been there. Do we REALLY expect to make huge progress without knowing what we’re doing?

No, of course not! It’s why we love having a plan to follow: it eliminates 99% of the decisions that can derail us on our progress: “Should I do 3 sets of 5 or 5 sets of 5? Gah!”

Now, we know we need a workout plan to follow to make progress, but why don’t we think of food the same way?

Today I want to try to convince you that you should.

A few decisions early in the week can eliminate hours of work (or dozens of bad decisions) later on in the week, and be the difference between success and failure (whether you are trying to gain weight or lose weight!).

How is this possible? We say it so often on the blog, and we won’t let up because it’s so damn true: 80-90% of your success or failure, no matter your goals, will come from your diet.

We have a tendency to think we “know” about food and thus planning is unnecessary. “Oh, I don’t know about deadlifts, but I’ve been eating food since I was born! I know, sugar is bad, eat less processed food and more real stuff. I don’t have time to plan, so I’ll just make healthy choices as I go.”

As Morpheus tells Neo, “there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path.” Whether you’re trying to become the One or trying to get yourself to stop eating like a jackass, I think most of us know how difficult “just doing it” can be.

Making choices based on emotion and convenience are just too easy. We have that part of our brain – the lizard brain – that only thinks in short term: gimme gimme gimme, now now now!

How many times have you gotten out of work after a ruthlessly long and miserable day, skipped lunch, had to pick the kids up from daycare (or insert some errand), and THEN you still need to think about what to make for dinner? Brutal.

Our days can sap our willpower, decision fatigue sets in, and instead of going home to make a healthy decision… you jump on Team Lizard Brain and do the thing to make your stomach happy temporarily:

  • speed dialing your favorite pizza place
  • picking up fast food on the way home
  • eating junk food in your pantry
  • calling that one Chinese food place that gives you extra dumplings
  • eating a healthy dinner but eating too much of it (or grabbing dessert too frequently)

You meant well, you had every intention of eating healthy, you even had the ingredients in your fridge. But f*** it, hit up Domino’s and fire up Daredevil on Netflix. You had a hard day. You “earned it,” right?

Remember, life isn’t a superhero fantasy. It’s more like Deadpool: things get messy. Shit happens. And we KNOW this, which means if we can set ourselves up for success with a good meal prep system amidst this messy reality, it’s a near guaranteed way to level up.

Why Meal Prep?

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Exhausted-with-life situations aside, there are enormous perks to having your meals planned and prepped.

Even just having a single meal each day partially planned (say, lunch), can set you up for effortless progress for months and months. Why?

  1. It’s easier to not overeat (or undereat!) if you have pre-portioned your meals ahead of time – Making the decision ahead of time removes the emotion out of ‘how much food should I eat’ or ‘should I go back for seconds’. You know you eat what is in that container… no more, or no less.
  2. It has built in accountability (punishment) –  If you pre-cook your meals, what happens if you don’t eat them? You throw them away – which is basically like throwing away the money you spent on the food. This is similar version of the strategy that helped Saint lose weight for his wedding. He bet a friend $500 that he would get in shape by his wedding day; not wanting to lose his money, he was pressured into actually making healthy changes!
  3. Save some money! I’ll let you do the math about your specific situation, but when you do your own meal prep it is nearly always a strategy which saves you a ton of money compared to eating out. You can then spend that extra money on the important stuff (“Treat yo’self!”). And this doesn’t even factor in the costs we refuse to think about for some reason: the money we’ll spend on medication, hospital visits, surgery, and a shortened life span: you know, the REAL cost of living an unhealthy life.
  4. It also saves you precious time! It seems like a large time investment up front, but you can make a week’s worth of meals in nearly the same time as it takes you to make a single meal. For the same reason the assembly line revolutionized mass production, the strategy of cooking everything at once will pay you dividends in extra hours in your week. Still complaining that you don’t have time to work out? Get a few extra hours back by meal prepping! Bazinga!
  5. Avoid willpower demands – spend it elsewhere. If you know that you need to be eating what is in your pre-planned and pre-cooked meals, you just need enough willpower to cook once. Think about how many times you’ve gone into the week with good intentions, but by Tuesday or Wednesday you’ve already switched back to something… erm, other than the healthy option? It’s FAR easier to stay on track if your meals are ready to go. Not only that, but you can use this extra willpower on other habits you are forming… like getting to the gym or to that new martial arts class.

Note: Meal planning DOES NOT consist of making 21 different recipes for 21 different meals each week. Even those of us who have been doing this for years aren’t that crazy… that just sounds exhausting!

Instead, you’ll be picking ONE meal per day (lunch? dinner?), perhaps the one you struggle the most with. You’ll prepare those 5 meals for your workweek.

Are you on board? Great, stay tuned because tomorrow we’re going to guide you through exactly how to plan and prep your meals. Step by step, you’ll have no excuses!

We’ll start with lunch as an example and guide you through the whole process; when you’re done you’ll be ready to go to the grocery store to reclaim your time, money, and willpower throughout your week.

Do you plan/prep any of your meals?

What sorts of questions do you have that I can answer in tomorrow’s article?

-Staci

PS – Remaining Camp Nerd Fitness tickets will go on sale next late next week! Be sure to sign up here for all the details and the first crack and grabbing a spot!

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How to Make Greek Stir Fry

This is from Team NF Member Rebel Chef Noel.

It’s March! The shine of the new year has worn off and the motivation inherent with New Year’s resolutions has dwindled away. If you’ve taken advice from Steve, some of those resolutions have become habits by now, and you’ve moved on to tackle bigger and better dragons.

Whether or not you partake in the new years hype, we all start new habits or respawn from time to time. When we do this, the motivation and energy that comes with starting something new doesn’t last forever.

If you’ve recently vowed to cook more of your own food or start a healthy eating habit, the excitement can wear off, and eating the same thing over and over again can start to feel boring.

So if you’re feeling too tired or too lazy to cook a healthy meal, the noble stir fry is here to rescue you.

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Until recently, I always through stir fry meant an Asian dish, but I was listening to a Nom Nom Paleo podcast recently, and she was talking about her garbage stir fries – basically anything she has in the fridge or pantry as an easy weeknight meal. Awesome idea, right?

Stir fries are great because they’re an easy dish to make (level 1), and they don’t have to include the same ingredients over and over again. Every time you make one, you can choose different veggies and protein, and different sauces and spices to make a completely different meal.

So here’s a Mediterranean themed stir fry to get your gears turning.

How Ben Stark Lost Over 200 Lbs While Playing Life on Hard

Meet Ben Stark – a dude with one of the coolest names in the history of nerds, and our next member of the Nerd Fitness Hall of Heroes. He’s a 40-year-old social worker and mental health program coordinator for the VA.

Ben’s story is one of my favorites for a very specific reason: it’s real. Ben is not much different than Deadpool – finding inspiration and a path forward when you get dealt a bad hand. Although it’s often not our fault for where we are, it’s our responsibility to dig ourselves out of it.

And that’s exactly what Ben did.

Where we are RIGHT NOW is a combination of things that are within our control and things that aren’t. And often it feels overwhelming, which leads us to inaction, anxiety, and “I’ll start when I’m ready” mentality. We give an excuse. We read articles and never take action. We collect underpants. There’s always another reason, or problem, or setback we tell ourselves is the reason we haven’t cracked the code yet to a healthier, happier life.

Not Ben the Rebel.

When he started his journey, he was about 420 pounds. Perhaps more importantly, he was very sick, had a great deal of pain from herniated discs, and also had facet joint arthritis his back. As if this wasn’t enough, in true Deadpool fashion, in the summer of 2013, he learned he was pre-diabetic, had high cholesterol and triglycerides, gout, and sleep apnea that would soon require bi-pap therapy.

This is when most of us give up.

But Ben didn’t. In fact, he found a way to keep looking forward, and I can’t wait to show you how he has made such incredible progress.

How to Improve Your Personal Style (Without Going Shopping)

Today we have a guest post of a different flavor, from my friend Megan Collins, creator of the men’s lifestyle site, Style Girlfriend. As somebody who came to learn only recently how important taking a tiny bit of pride in one’s appearance can drastically alter how the day goes, I asked her to put together something for the men and women of the Rebellion and help look damn good in their battle gear without breaking the bank. Take it away Megan!

“We’re not so different, you and I…”

Yes, I’m quoting Dr. Evil from Austin Powers, but also myself. It’s something I (less creepily, I hope?) said to Steve, your Benevolent Rebel Leader, the first time we met here in New York City. My Dr. Evil line to him came from the realization that his mission with Nerd Fitness and mine with Style Girlfriend are the same – we want to help our communities on their epic quests to live better lives.

For me, and for the Style Girlfriend readers who stick around for the self-improvement journey, style is about more than clothes – it’s about empowerment and taking control of the story you tell the world; and you’ve gotta begin somewhere, right? For some, the first step to a new sense of confidence begins by overhauling their fitness regimen; for others, it’s with a closet purge.

The point is that you get started with a single change.

Let’s get this out of the way now: caring about your personal style isn’t silly, superficial, or vain – we know the domino effect that looking and feeling good can have in our lives. First you start exercising once or twice a week to lose a few pounds. You see positive changes in your stamina, your energy levels, and – yes – your body. You hear somebody ask, “did you lose weight?” or “what are you doing? You look great!”

Next thing you know you’re training for an Ironman, you’ve landed a promotion, and you asked out that cute guy/girl you’ve had your eye on for the last 1,000 lattes. What I’m saying is: little changes lead to big results.

The same domino effect is true of leveling up your personal style.

Why? Because the effort you put into your personal style impacts the first (and second, and third…) impression you make to the world.

It’s as simple, and as HUGE, as that.

Most of us don’t realize that we’re ALWAYS communicating, even when we don’t say anything – our appearance and our demeanor do the talking for us.

So what is your appearance saying about you? Taking control of your personal style matters, then, because great style is like having the best wing man or woman ever. Just as every super hero has a costume, we too have a style that conveys who we are and how we should be treated (and how we should treat ourselves!).

Great style – quite literally – makes you look good.

Before you think I’m about to go all Crazy, Stupid Love on you with a pop song-filled montage of credit card debt-inducing shopping trip and head-to-toe makeover, I’m here to tell you that it’s totally possible to improve your personal style without setting foot in the mall.

Here are three ways you can take control of your personal style and boost your confidence today – all without going shopping.

Is Rice Healthy For Me? Does White vs Brown Rice Matter?

I wanted to know the exact answer to the age old question, “What’s the meaning of life?”

But I couldn’t find an answer for that. So instead I set my sights on rice:

  • Is it good for us? Bad for us?
  • How do different types of rice affect me?
  • What wins, brown rice vs white rice?
  • Did Mitch Hedberg ever make it onto a Rice Krispies box? RIP.

After all, we get questions about rice ALL the time:

“Steve I’m Paleo but I hear rice isn’t that bad for you, help?”

“Why do you eat white rice at Chipotle? I hear white rice is way worse for you than brown rice. Just like white vs wheat bread!”

“Is it okay to eat rice and not anger the Paleo Gods?”

Let’s unlock this mystery of the universe.

Katniss Shows Us That Sometimes Sacrifice Is Necessary

“I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!” – Katniss Everdeen

Few moments in popular contemporary literature conjure up as much emotion as the monumental scene in The Hunger Games, in which the Capitol selects which children will fight each other to the death. It’s at this moment that we learn just what kind of hero the protagonist Katniss Everdeen will be, as she volunteers – almost certainly signing her own death sentence – to save the life of her sister.

I remember reading those pages and my jaw dropped as I realized the gravity of Katniss’s sacrifice. A close look at our favorite films and books reveals that great sacrifice is often required of the hero to bring about lasting change:

  • Darth Vader at the end of The Return of the Jedi
  • Captain America at the end of The First Avenger
  • Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie (the animated 1986 version)
  • Iron Man in the climax of The Avengers
  • Harry Potter toward the end of his seven-novel journey

Our heroes are often faced with a choice that will decide the fate of thousands or millions, requiring them to sacrifice everything they hold dear, including, at times, their own lives. Other times, like with Katniss, a single decision made now can have drastic consequences many years down the road.

And while nobody is asking you to lay down your life here, make no mistake: if you truly want to make lasting changes in your life and turn things around, sacrifices will be required of you, too.

It might require putting short-term gratification on hold and sacrificing certain comforts in order for you to grow. It might mean saying painful goodbyes to long-term friends or relationships, or things that have provided us with joy in the past but no longer bring us happiness, meaning, or support.

Sometimes these sacrifices are painful, and that’s why today I’m going to walk you through how to let go of the right things to level up your life.

The Deadpool Guide To Health, Happiness, and Love

If Deadpool was a real person, he would be a card-carrying member of the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

In fact, I would go as far to say that Deadpool is the most realistic superhero movie created to date, and the most useful hero to consider when trying to live better lives.

Allow me to explain.

In case you’re one of a handful of people who haven’t seen the recently released Deadpool movie, starring a resurgent Ryan Reynolds (making up for all past superhero cinema sins), get your ass to a movie theater and check it out.

Don’t worry, only minor plot spoilers in this article! Even if you have no clue who Deadpool is, this article will still help you live a better life and move down a healthier path.

You can start with the trailer:

Let’s take a look at how this ninja mercenary with super human healing powers, a crazy amount of pop-culture knowledge, and unusually high self-awareness can help us live better lives.

Cooking 101: Your Essential Kitchen Tools

This is a post from NF Rebel Chef Noel Fernando.

Long gone are the days where sharpened rocks, sticks, and fire were the only tools we needed to prepare a meal. Though that set of equipment might be an easier list to make, I’d much rather be living in today’s world of sharpened knives and heat resistant spatulas. Life as a modern day cook is pretty good.

If you’re new to life in the kitchen, or you’ve just ventured out on your own, making a variety of dishes – especially healthy ones – can be frustrating if you don’t have the right tools. Today we’re going to learn about the 11 tools we feel are most essential to get you from 0 to 1 in the kitchen, so that you are ready to go on the quest of making your first first home cooked meal.

Now my dear friend, don’t read this list and panic. You don’t have to buy all of these things at once. You can totally accumulate kitchen equipment over time, slowly switching out crappy equipment for new stuff. Building up a set of tools that feels comfortable for you can take time and depends on your preferences and budget. Choose wisely.

To give you a little head start, we’ve provided you with Amazon links where you can pick up some of this equipment. We’ve tried to find you some inexpensive tools with the best reviews. These are affiliate links, so feel free to search for these items yourself on Amazon. We just want your kitchen to be equipped for success!

Let’s get to the good stuff!

Chef’s Knife (our recommendation)

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The biggest game changer for me when I started cooking was a nice, sharp knife. Have you ever tried to cut a sweet potato – or god forbid a spaghetti squash – in half with a dull, flimsy knife? I have, and it’s terrible. Not impossible, but using a crappy, dull knife makes preparing your meals tedious, time consuming, and downright dangerous.

It may be tempting to buy an entire block of knives or several different shapes, sizes, and edges… and if that floats your boat, feel free. But if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, I’d go with the simple chef’s knife. It’s great for cutting just about anything you might need to as a beginner. Plus, it keeps your kitchen simple and minimalist until you truly need the variety.

Cutting Board (our recommendation

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If you want to take care of your knives (and your counter tops), you’ll need a cutting board. This makes transferring food from where you cut it to your pan and pot super easy (just pick up the board with your meat/veggies on it and walk over to your stove). And it keeps your knife sharper for a longer period of time.

Go with a plastic, bamboo, or wood cutting board. Not glass or stone! Glass and stone boards will dull your knives much more quickly than the soft surface of a plastic or wood cutting board. Also, the sound of a metal knife rapping against a glass cutting board is just plain awful. We selected a very simple white cutting board.

Non-stick pan (our recommendationOR Cast Iron Skillet for a level up (our recommendation)

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Some people prefer stainless steel. Others like non-stick. I prefer cast iron. Though they take a while to heat up and they need to be seasoned first, cast iron skillets can be used for a variety of different things: cooking bacon, scrambling or frying eggs, pan seared pork chops, stir fries, sauteed veggies… the list goes on. This skillet is sort of your “do it all.”

Next to your knife, your skillet is likely going to be your most used item in the kitchen. The reason I prefer cast iron is because they are tough, they last forever, and because they’re made entirely of metal. You can use them in the oven, on the stove top, or even on a grill. And because it’s so heavy duty, you can even use it to add weight to your goblet squats or to defend your home from intruders (please don’t do this).

The size of the skillet depends on how much food you’ll be cooking, but a 10 inch skillet should work great for most people.

If you have no idea what seasoning means, but a cast iron skillet has piqued your interest, check out Nom Nom Paleo’s article on how to season and care for a cast iron skillet.

HOWEVER, for some kitchen newbies, the thought of caring for and seasoning a new cast iron skillet is a little too much work. For you folks, I’d suggest a good quality non-stick pan. Preferably one without Teflon. (Teflon is bad for the environment and it releases fumes that aren’t great to breathe if you heat them up past a certain temperature. Plus you have to replace them often because the Teflon comes off – more than likely in your food.)

If you’re making stir fries, eggs, sautéed veggies, etc., a non-stick pan is great because it’ll do all that with minimal cleaning. The only caveat is that you can’t put these suckers in the oven (especially not Teflon) because most of these types of pans have plastic or rubber parts (Some have silicone that you can put in the oven up to a certain temperature. Know what type of pan you have before you do this!). So if you opt for a non stick pan, you’ll need a baking sheet to cook your steak or chops in the oven as illustrated in this recipe.

Sauce Pot (our recommendation)

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A small sauce pot is essential for making things like soups and sauces and boiling or steaming vegetables. Something small will do. If you’re cooking for a large family or doing a lot of meal prep, you could probably choose a larger soup pot, but if neither of these applies to you, a smaller 1.5 quart pot will be fine.

Meat Thermometer (our recommendation)

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This might seem like a somewhat excessive tool, but it could be one of the best investments you make.

When I was growing up and learning how to cook, no one ever cooked with a meat thermometer. But when I moved out on my own and started cooking for myself, I was afraid of giving myself food poisoning by undercooking my food. When you’re starting to learn, how can you be sure you won’t undercook your meats and make yourself sick? Especially if you don’t know what meat *should* look like when it’s done?

The simplest and “stress-free” way of doing this is to know the meat’s temperature.  If this is an aspect that you don’t want to worry about, do yourself a favor and get one of these.

Aluminum Baking Sheet (our recommendation)

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These are the sheets that most people use to bake cookies. But they’re not *only* good for making cookies. They’re also great for roasting vegetables and baking things like chicken and fish. Roasting adds a wider variety of flavors and textures to your daily veggie intake. (You are eating vegetables every day, right?)

Want to level up your baking sheet experience? Do yourself a favor and buy some aluminum foil while you’re at it. Lining your baking sheet with aluminum foil makes clean up approximately 1793% (.333 repeating of course) easier.

Measuring Spoons and Cups (our recommendation)

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If you’re following recipes and you don’t have measuring equipment, how on earth are you going to make sure you’re putting the right amount of Chemical X in your recipe for perfect little girls?

Professor Utonium didn’t use measuring cups and he ended up with super powered, crime fighting children. Okay, maybe on second thought, that isn’t the best story to warn you against not using measuring utensils, but really – especially when you’re first starting out – if you want food to taste good, use those measuring spoons and cups. I know your grandma never uses them, but that’s because she’s been cooking for the last 60 years. When you’ve got that much experience under your belt, I give you permission to stop using them.

Tongs (our recommendation)

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For the longest time when I first moved out on my own, I didn’t have a pair of tongs. I’d try to use two forks, chop sticks, or a spatula to flip my food. And though it worked, it made these tasks so much more difficult. I dropped things, I splashed my clothes with grease and sauce… basically it made an even bigger mess than I was already making. If you’re ever going to grill anything, turn baked chicken, or cook bacon, you’re going to need a decent set of tongs. You’ll thank me later.

Heat Resistant Rubber Spatula (our recommendation)

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The rubber spatula is the ultimate mixing tool in my humble opinion. Great for mixing just about anything, and if you leave it in your pot/pan by accident, it won’t melt into your food and ruin it. (To be honest, it’s probably best to get into the habit of not leaving spatulas in hot, cooking food though.)

Metal Turner (our recommendation)

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Killer for turning burgers on the grill, flipping fried eggs, and in a pinch, scrambling… well, scrambled eggs.

Oven Mitt, Hot Pad, or Kitchen Towels (our recommendation

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Protecting your hands is a must in the kitchen. I’d venture to guess that two of the most common kitchen injuries are burns and cuts. Having a sharp knife will help prevent you from cutting yourself, and having proper protection for your hands when pulling food out of the oven or touching the handle of a metal skillet is going to be essential. Please make sure to never use a wet towel or oven mitt to touch a hot surface. The liquid inside the fabric will boil and evaporate, and you’ll steam-burn your hand.

Now, which of these you decide to buy depends entirely on your preference. For the lazy cooks out there or you minimalists, I’d suggest the simple kitchen towel. It’s multi-purpose and perfectly functional. Just make sure it’s not wet, and you fold it enough times to protect your hand from the hot pan!

That’s it!

Kitchen

Those are our 11 kitchen tools we feel are essential for the aspiring cook. They’ll make your life so much easier when you’re learning to make your own delicious food.

To recap, if you’re somebody that just wants to put all of these things in your shopping cart and kickstart your kitchen, here ya go:

Like I said before, you don’t need all of these items right away. Choose one that will help you make that recipe you’ve been eyeing. And look for sales or discounted items at places like Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon, or Home Goods, so you can build that kitchen on a budget!

Remember, we’re not talking excess here. When I first started cooking and following recipes that seemed interesting to me, I was disheartened because almost everything seemed to require specialized equipment – like a fancy blender, food processor, or slow cooker. Those things are fun to have, don’t get me wrong. They greatly expand the dishes you’re able to make, but they’re absolutely not necessary.

If you’re thinking about one of these items, I’d suggest you borrow and take them on a test drive first.

  • Do you have any questions about these 11 items?
  • What is your favorite tool to use in the kitchen?
  • Experienced cooks, what would you add to or remove from this list?

Let us know in the comments!

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-Noel

Pictures: Lunch: Kenny LouieKnife: Jos Tampes, Cutting board: Emily, Cast Iron Skillet: Bruce, Pan: Flikr, Meat Thermometer: Wyn Lok, Measuring Spoons: Julie Margo, Spatula: Yoshide Nomura, Turner: Jean Etienne, Oven Mitt: Mr.TinDC, New Kitchen Knife: Song Zhen

How to Not Suck at First Dates

Ahhhhh, the dreaded first date!

Your palms are sweaty, your arm pits are sweaty… okay pretty much all of you is sweaty. Wandering into the unknown, your head explodes, imagining every possibility: Is this date gonna suck? Is it gonna be awesome? Is this going to be the person I spend the rest of my life with? What if this or that happens?

For so many Rebels I’ve talked to, trying to get healthy is closely related to our hopes of finding someone special to spend our lives with. It certainly influenced why I started getting healthy and has continued to play a role in my decision to exercise!

Having been on my fair share of both amazing and cringe-worthy first dates (way more of the second one than the first), I feel like I have a pretty firm grasp on how to kick ass at first dates.

No falsifying yourself… no being somebody you’re not. Instead, we’re just going to present ourselves in the best light so we have the best chance to make a real connection with somebody.

Here’s how to stop sucking at first dates and go in with confidence.

I worked out and now I’m SO SORE. Help?

“Dear Steve, I think my legs are dying and I can’t walk. HALP!”

Yesterday, or two days ago, you did a strenuous workout for the first time in your life (or for the first time in a while). You dutifully did your squats, push-ups, and rows (if you followed the Beginner Bodyweight workout), or you did some barbell squats or deadlifts or pull-ups. Or maybe you decided to run a 5k just for kicks.

And during the workout, you may have felt pretty good!

That was two days ago, though. When you woke up yesterday, every muscle in your body felt like it was hit by a mac-truck. “Welp, this sucks, but at least tomorrow things should be better,” you tell your brain.

And holy crap, it’s like your body forgot how to function. Maybe your arms are stuck in the permanent t-rex position. Perhaps your groin is tight in places you didn’t even realize you could be sore. Walking down stairs or doing anything active may feel like trying to play the QWOP game (please take 2 seconds to play this – it will be the hardest you’ve ever laughed).

So, what are you supposed to do:

If it’s been only a day, should you be worried?

Maybe it’s been two days and you are supposed to workout. Do you skip it?

You’re torn between sitting in an ice bath to numb the soreness or climbing into a hot tub until you resemble a prune.

Let me first introduce you to my obnoxious friend, DOMS.

How Tiny Changes Transformed Me from Steve Rogers to Captain America

Hey, I’m Steve.

I’ve been running this site, Nerd Fitness, for about seven years now. Before that, I trained in a gym for six years trying to get in the best shape possible. But I struggled. Struggled to make consistent progress. Struggled because it always seemed like three steps forward, 2.9 (or 3.1) steps backwards, month after month, year after year.

Two years ago, my mentality changed. I stopped asking “when will I arrive?” and instead realized that I will never actually get there.

With this mindset I created a new strategy, and today I stand (well, sit) before you a changed person – physically and mentally. I’m 20+ pounds (of muscle) heavier, stronger and more resilient than ever, and believe that every day is an opportunity to set a new personal best.

I did it by refusing to focus on the “end.” In other words, I stopped worrying about “before and after.” Instead I just focused finding goals and quests that excited me each day.

In fact, I hadn’t noticed just how much I had changed until I looked at a video from Nerd Fitness from three years ago that made my jaw drop (picture above). It really hit home when I went to get fitted for a tux two weeks ago and the guy taking my measurements said “well, this won’t fit right because you’re built like Captain America.”

Excited Steve

Alarm bells went off in my brain: “HOLY CRAP. I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear somebody tell me that. And it happened after I FORGOT about this very goal.”

I don’t think that was a coincidence.

Here’s how I stopped worrying about my after and started living every day in the “during.”

How to Make Pineapple Coconut Thai Curry

This is an article from NF Rebel Chef, Noel.

We’re well into the start of the new year, and the motivation of other people’s New Years Resolutions has worn thin, but here at Nerd Fitness we don’t do resolutions. Instead we’re all about Epic Quests that keep us moving year round.

One of my Epic Quest goals is to improve my cooking by trying to cook new things. Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, isn’t your job is cooking… shouldn’t you already be great at it?” Well, sure, but even experienced cooks get stuck in food-ruts. And my friends, I am in deep.

So here’s one of my first food experiments for the year. It has something I love: the simplicity of three easy steps while appearing fancy at the end: red Thai curry (remember last time we experimented with curry?). If you’ve never been to a Thai restaurant and don’t know the difference between Thai and Indian curries, don’t worry. I didn’t until recently, but I’m in love with the coconutty richness of this dish and the number of different veggies included.

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Thai curry has a different texture and flavor than Indian curry. What’s the difference? Thai curry using Thai spices tend to be a bit spicier, is coconut milk based, contains different veggies, and is more soupy than Indian curry.

Now that we have the general idea, let’s put it into practice!

This might look like a lot of a lot of ingredients, but all we’re really doing is mixing meat, veggies, and sauce. Honestly, making this curry is a lot like making Steve’s easy chicken stir fry, but you’re adding a little bit of sauce to the mix.

Here are the three steps:

  1. Cook the meat
  2. Cook the and flavor the veggies
  3. Add the sauce

Think you can handle this? I sure do.

*Side note, this recipe makes a LOT of food. It’s great for feeding a family or friends or meal prep for the week. If you’re not into that, cut the recipe in half.

Pineapple Coconut Curry

Noel_Thai_Curry_001

Serves: 7-8
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  1. Meat of your choice

    • 1lb protein (453g)– chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, or a combination of your favorites – slice the land animal(s) into thin strips. If you’re using shrimp, leave them whole – just wash and peel those guys. I’m using beef in my recipe because that’s what my heart wants. Always do what your heart tells you.
  2. Veggies
    • 1 small yellow oniondiced
    • 2 cloves garlicminced
    • 1 tbsp (15mL)chopped or grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp [5mL] dry ground)
    • Filler veggies of your choice (suggestions below)
  3. Sauce (notes below!)
    • 3 tbsp (45mL) Thai red curry paste
    • 2 cans (403mL x2) full fat coconut milk
    • 1.5 cups (354mL) chicken broth

Plus, you’ll also want some fat to cook everything in: 1.5 tbsp (22mL) coconut or olive oil – separated into 1 tbsp and .5 tbsp

Filler Veggies

*Note: If washing and chopping feels like too much work, grab a couple bags of frozen stir fry veggies from the frozen aisle. It’s a little more expensive, but it takes less effort. Here’s what I used for the recipe below, but feel free to choose your veggies based on what you like!

  • 2 bell peppers – your favorite color, cut into strips
  • 1 head of broccolicut the florets smaller so that they cook more quickly like this – see regular sized florets in the background and (adorable) mini florets in the foreground: Thai_Curry_009
  • 1 handful of snow peas (for me, this is about 20) – not paleo, but I like the texture of snowpeas in stir fry. If you’re hardcore, omit them.

Other optional veggies you can add:

  • 6 mushroomscut into eighths
  • 2 carrots sliced into medallions
  • 1 tomato cut into wedges and 1/2 a cucumber cut into medallions. You’ll want to add these in the last couple minutes of cooking so they don’t get mushy.
  • pineapple chunks, 2 cups (about 1 can or 473mL) with juice drained. I’m not going to make you cut a pineapple today, because if they’re not on sale at the store, they’re usually too expensive for me to consider buying. So, feel free to grab a can of pineapple chunks from the store. (That is, unless you want to serve your curry in half of a shelled out pineapple. Fancy pants.)

Sauce

Add more paste to make it hotter, less to make it more mild. Thai restaurants usually offer measures of spiciness 1-5. One being the least spicy and 5 being the most spicy. 3 Tbsp red curry paste gets you to a level 1, so if you like it hotter, add more, use red chile flakes, or try  some cayenne pepper.

kattebelletje_thai_curryRed Curry Paste might be the only ingredient you have a little trouble finding at the store. Look for it in the asian foods section (also where you’ll likely find your coconut milk). Thai Kitchen is the brand that I normally use as it has no weird ingredients, chemicals, or sugar (and for you vegetarians, this paste is vegan).

Other fancy options:

  • Fresh thai basil leaves – fancy! Tasty! You can find these in an Asian grocery store.
  • Red pepper flake or cayenne pepper – if you’re feeling devilish and like your food spicy
  • Rice or cauliflower rice to serve with the dish.

Instructions:

The instructions below are using the veggies I used above. If you selected different veggies, try to dice them up in a similar way and continue with the instructions!

Remember, all we’re really doing below is cutting and cooking the veggies and meat, cooking the sauce, and mixing everything together.

1. Dice your onion, peel and mince garlic cloves, (if you don’t know how to dice an onion, check out this link.)

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For the garlic, remember the difference between cloves and bulbs? Cloves are the little guys inside the bulbs. To peel, smash the clove under the flat side of a knife and easily pull away the paper-like wrapping. Then cut the garlic super small.

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2. Peel and chop your ginger. After last month’s recipe for Sesame Chicken Wings, a few of you lovely people pointed out that there’s a way easier method of peeling ginger, which is done with a spoon.

Noel_Thai_Curry_005

This is definitely the easiest way to do this. Check out a how-to video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9zgXSdnPGI

You can either mince your ginger like we did for this recipe or shred it with a cheese grater. The difference between these two methods is in the texture of the ginger. If you shred it, it’ll incorporate straight into the sauce. If you mince it, you’ll get little bites of ginger while you’re eating.

Noel_Thai_Curry_006

If you do choose to shred it, be careful with your fingers and note that you’ll be holding onto a weird, stringy little stump when you’ve finished shredding. Just toss that bit. You don’t really want a knot of ginger fibers (or finger fibers) in your meal.

3. Wash and chop your veggies (if using fresh). Set aside. Refer to this article on how to chop your veggies.

Thai_Curry_029

If using snow peas, you don’t have to chop them, but do remember to remove the fibrous string located on the inside of the veggie (explained in the first 30 seconds of this video).

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I separated my veggie ingredients into different bowls depending on which point in the recipe I use them. Onions, garlic, and ginger are all added to the pan in step 9, so they go together in one bowl.

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All other veggies are used in step 10, so I kept these in a separate bowl for simplicity.

4. Slice your meat and/or peel, de-vein, and wash your shrimp. Thin slices are best for stir frying as they’ll cook faster.

Noel_Thai_Curry_028

5. Measure out all your other ingredients, open cans, etc. We do this ahead of time so that there’s nothing to distract you from *just* cooking.

Noel_Thai_Curry_012

More experienced cooks can measure and open containers while they’re cooking other stuff, but for those of you who are new to this, it’s best if you prep all your ingredients ahead of time. This cuts down the possibility of us burning stuff and making mistakes that can ruin our meal.

6. Heat up your skillet. This takes about 2 minutes depending on the size of your skillet and the thickness of the material it’s made from. You can tell if it’s warm by placing your hand about 6 inches above the center of the pan. If you can feel heat, the pan is ready. If the pan is so hot that it’s smoking, it’s too hot. Remove it from the heat for a couple minutes and try again.

7. Once it’s hot, put 1 Tbsp of oil in the middle of the pan and let it warm up. You’ll know the oil is warm when you can tilt the pan from side to side and the oil moves quickly in the direction you’re tilting. If you’re using coconut oil, it’ll melt from solid to a liquid form.

Thai_Curry_015

8. Once the oil is melted and warm, toss in your sliced up meats and sauté them until browned and just cooked through (about 10-15 minutes for beef, pork and chicken, 5 minutes for shrimp).

Noel_Thai_Curry_013

You’ll know the meat is done when it’s no longer pink. If you’re not sure, take out one of the bigger pieces of meat and cut it in half, if it’s done, it won’t be pink in the middle. If you’re cooking shrimp, however, you’ll want the shrimp to turn from grey (raw) to pink. Those suckers turn pink when they’re cooked.

Thai_Curry_014

Once it’s done cooking, dump the protein into a clean bowl. We’ll come back to it in a little bit.

9. Now keep your pan hot, add that last .5 Tbsp of oil and let it heat up.

10. Once the oil is warm, carefully add your red Thai curry paste to the pan. You don’t want it to drop into the oil as the hot oil can splash and burn you. The easiest way to do this is to use your mixing tool to transfer the curry into the oil and mix it around. Mix it for about 30 seconds.

Thai_Curry_016

11. Now toss your onions, garlic, and ginger in the pan. Let them cook for about 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent and coated in the curry paste.

Noel_Thai_Curry_018

12. Now add all your chopped veggies and pineapple and let them cook until they’re sort of soft (about 5-7 minutes).

Noel_Thai_Curry_019

13. Add your protein back into the pan and stir it around.

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14. Now it’s time to make the sauce! Add your chicken broth and coconut milk to the pan, stir it together and bring to a simmering boil (about 5-7 minutes).

Noel_Thai_Curry_023

15. And you’re done! Serve over rice or cauliflower rice or just by itself in a bowl!

Noel_Thai_Curry_024

Complete a Cooking Quest

There you have it! A warm, spicy, comforting out-of-the-ordinary meal full of vegetable-y-goodness. That wasn’t so tough, was it?

Now, this is probably only my 3rd time making Thai curry; if you’re a seasoned pro, I’d love to hear your suggestions or recommendations on how to make this even better. And if one of your 4 week challenges involves getting more veggies into your diet or prepping your meals, this recipe might help you tackle that challenge!

How many of you have cooking-related epic quests? 

What new recipes are you trying? 

Do you have any recommendations or secret techniques you use to make your own Thai curry? 

Let us know in the comments!

-Noel

###

Photos: Justin Gaurav Murgai: Wat Benchamabophit, drburtoni: wholesale fresh food market Series, Jinny: Chef Emmet, kattebelletje: Thai red curry paste

 

How to Make Pineapple Coconut Thai Curry
Author: 
Recipe type: Lunch/Dinner
Cuisine: Thai
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A tasty paleo Thai curry!
Ingredients
  • 1lb protein (453g)– chicken, beef, shrimp, pork, or a combination of your favorites
  • 1 small yellow onion – diced
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1 tbsp (15mL)chopped or grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp [5mL] dry ground)
  • 1 handful of snow peas
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 6 mushrooms
  • pineapple chunks, 2 cups (about 1 can or 473mL) with juice drained
  • 3 tbsp (45mL) Thai red curry paste
  • 2 cans (403mL x2) full fat coconut milk
  • 1.5 cups (354mL) chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Dice your onion, peel and mince garlic cloves, peel and chop your ginger.
  2. Wash and chop your veggies (if using fresh)
  3. Slice your meat
  4. Measure out all your other ingredients, open cans, etc. so that they're ready to use.
  5. Heat up your skillet. Once it’s hot, put 1 Tbsp of oil in the middle of the pan and let it warm up.
  6. toss in your sliced up meats and sauté them until browned and just cooked through (about 10-15 minutes for beef, pork and chicken, 5 minutes for shrimp). Once it’s done cooking, dump the protein into a clean bowl.
  7. Now keep your pan hot, add that last .5 Tbsp of oil and let it heat up.
  8. Once the oil is warm, carefully add your red Thai curry paste to the pan. Mix it for about 30 seconds.
  9. Now toss your onions, garlic, and ginger in the pan. Let them cook for about 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent and coated in the curry paste.
  10. Now add all your chopped veggies and pineapple and let them cook until they’re sort of soft (about 5-7 minutes).
  11. Add your protein back into the pan and stir it around.
  12. Add your chicken broth and coconut milk to the pan, stir it together and bring to a simmering boil (about 5-7 minutes).
  13. And you’re done! Serve over rice or cauliflower rice or just by itself in a bowl!

From Skinny Fat To Ripped: Jasper’s Journey to Real Life Superhero

Meet Jasper, a 30-year-old sports teacher (and basketball coach) living in the Netherlands. At the start of Jasper’s hero’s journey, he found himself in a place many Rebels can relate to:

Jasper wasn’t hundreds of pounds overweight, but he certainly wouldn’t describe himself as active or in shape.

He was just sort of… stuck. Stuck with a bad back from ignoring a problem for several years. Stuck avoiding everyday activities, and constantly making excuses. Stuck feeling lazy and never really knowing where to get the motivation or a plan to make a change.

And the most relatable part? He let one setback, one barrier in his life slowly become an excuse to live a sedentary existence. For Jasper, that was his back.

Everybody knew I had ‘a bad back’. I was in bad shape, because of my back. Coach, you want to play? Hmm… I’d better not. Carrying groceries? Careful! Run up the stairs? Better not! My best friend jokingly referred to me as an “old man.”

But enough was enough – after doing some research Jasper found the Nerd Fitness Academy, and was thrown into a pre-designed plan. He built momentum, found workouts he loved, and all of a sudden what seemed like an endless climb to the top of a mountain felt different. Instead he had the momentum he needed and found his groove, his path to a leveled up life.

Let’s hear from Jasper about how exactly he did it.

How to Fight the Tired Parent Syndrome

This is a post from NF Rebel Correspondent and Fatherhood Specialist, Dan.

Creating and shaping a little one’s life is full of wonder, amazement, joy and smells – a journey which is truly gratifying and unfortunately, bloody tiring.

Any parent will tell you that as soon as Player 2 or 3 enters the game, the sleep level difficulty instantly shifts from ‘tutorial’ to ‘expert’. It’s no surprise that you see new parents in the office stumbling around like zombies by the time 2 pm comes around.

New parents have to learn to function on much less sleep, which is why we’re going to delve into this topic a little further with some tips specifically for Rebels with young ones (but with some sleep tips applicable to everyone).

Let’s pick up the master controller to our slumber, and try to help all you struggling parents, shift workers, students, and Fallout 4 players.

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