My 3 Key Principles for Hosting Dinner Any Night of the Week

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For those of you new to the blog, I love cooking and I love hosting friends and family for any meal of the day.  I also love my work as a wellness director and sports medicine dietitian, my volunteer work in the Junior League of Dallas, evenings with my small group, and spending time with my friends and family, including an adorable niece and 2 nephews :)  With that said, whether it's just me and my husband or a house full of guests, I don't have tons of time to make complicated dishes.  This is why I was so excited to have discovered over my years of long days, night classes and evening meetings that dishes don't have to be complicated to be delicious.  I began to discover this years ago back in grad school and I continue to test and prove this theory each week that I prep and cook for myself, for my family and for others.  This is what you will find here at Taylored Nutrition or as you follow along with The Dining Dietitian;  You will find simple, fairly low-maintenance dishes full of flavor.  Plus, you will find a few wellness and sports nutrition facts and tips interspersed along the way :)

To clarify, this post is NOT about weekly meal prep.  This post is about preparing a meal for yourself, your family or your friends after work or on the weekend when you have NOT meal prepped.  This post is about how I prepare a meal after work or at the end of a busy Saturday that doesn't take tons of time and labor, allowing me to still enjoy our company. 

So, what is my thought process for evenings and meals like this?  What kinds of meals do I prepare and how do I plan so that the meal can be made in a timely manner without leaving me stressed and exhausted by the time we sit down to eat??  It comes down to my 3 main principles...


3 PRINCIPLES FOR SIMPLIFIED DINNERS:

1.  Pick one "high maintenance" item.  

2.  Pick one to two "low maintenance" items.  

3.  Pick one "no-fuss" item:  


What exactly does this look like?  I'll give you an example from a while ago when Kyle and I had my previous Bible Study leader and her husband over for dinner.  When I have people over, I really like to have things already cooking and I like for whatever is left to be fairly simple b/c I'm really awful at genuinely engaging in conversation while I'm cooking.

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This particular evening we made some of my favorite dishes.  We made a Roasted Beef Tenderloin with a Rosemary Chocolate and Wine Sauce (thank you, Ellie Krieger!!  This dish is delicious and one of my favorites for special occasions and entertaining!), spinach and brown butter gnocchi, a mixed greens salad and Cinnamon Apple Tarts for dessert.  This might sound complicated but it fits perfectly with my Three Principles.  My "high-maintenance" item was the brown butter gnocchi because it requires pretty constant attention on the stove.  My two lower maintenance items were the roast tenderloin and the Cinnamon Apple Tarts.  The roast tenderloin requires a quick sear and then roasts in the oven while you whisk the sauce and tend to the gnocchi.  The Cinnamon Apple Tarts are made at the very end of dinner (click the recipe link for details).  My "no-fuss" item was the salad, which we made way in advance and had it in the fridge ready to go.  When time to serve we drizzled good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar on top and were done!

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If this sounds too complicated, apply the same principle with the foods more comfortable for you.  For example:  Your "high maintenance" item could be grilled shrimp (outside or inside on a grill pan).  Your 2 low-maintenance foods could be (1) vegetables that roast in the oven while you grill the shrimp and (2) quinoa that cooks over the stove (very hands-off) while you tend to the other items.  Your "no-fuss" item could be a salad just like in my example above.  Another way to look at it could be to make your "no-fuss" item slices of hearty whole grain bread and your your salad could become your "low-maintenance" item that you throw together right before or right after you grill the shrimp.  I used to think every part of the meal had to be something spectacular.  Then I realized, no, really one item can be that and if the other items taste good and round out the meal then everyone is happy!

This was a quick overview but I hope this gives you somewhat of framework for choosing the menu when you're hosting friends and family in a pinch.  I hope that you can create delicious meals while still enjoying the evening and your guests.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

 

My Trip to Memphis: Cupcakes & BBQ

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Some of you may have seen my Instagram posts this last weekend and thought, "What?  Isn't she a sports and wellness dietitian?  How does this match up?  How is she talking about nutrition for sports and health but then her posts show pictures of eating BBQ mac & cheese and chocolate strawberry cupcakes?" 

I thought I would take this opportunity to write a non-recipe post because I do think this topic should be brought to light.  As a young or adult athlete, it's important to surround yourself with mostly nutrient-dense fueling foods to support your workouts and training.  However, it does not mean that you have to eat "perfectly" all the time.  What does "eating perfectly" really mean anyway?  A sports or fitness "diet" (and I use the word "diet" here to define a way of eating - not as a means of restriction) still makes room for food that you love that may provide nothing more than satisfaction and a smile.  

Like you have probably heard many other dietitians say, strict restriction, whether in the form of calories or of certain foods, only leads to eventual feelings of deprivation and then overeating those foods later on.  In the end that is counterproductive for the athlete or exerciser.  

As a young competitive athlete, I probably took this too seriously in the beginning, being overly rigid on when I allowed myself "treats" or those foods I really loved but didn't think were "good" foods for my sport.  Later on, after I had changed my food and meal mentality and was eating more, eating on a semi-structured schedule to support my training and allowing myself those favorite foods when I really wanted them, that is when I actually started seeing improvements in my performances.  No, I didn't eat french fries or chicken tenders before I went out on the ice, but I may have included them later on when it wouldn't be a pre-event meal.  I ate my favorite warm chocolate chip cookies when I really wanted one and loved grabbing fro yo with my friends.  I was incorporating some of my favorite foods into my regular balanced nutrient - dense meals & snacks and focusing more on the placement of these foods vs elimination. 

As athletes and exercisers, we need to remember that it's all about meal and snack timing.  When I go in and talk to high school athletes, I'm not telling them "oh, you can never eat a hamburger" or "yeah, you have to drop the ice cream for good".  No, I actually never talk about eliminating.  What I talk about is placement and what type of foods our bodies need for the best workouts and performances.  I talk about what those pre and post event meals and snacks should consist of to give us the most energy and the best recovery so performance can improve and injury can be prevented.  I have the same overall message for adult exercisers.  I ask them to think about and create their plan.  I ask them to write down their nutrition plan to support training and performance, which includes pre and post exercise meals and snacks.  This sets the base and then other foods that may not normally be in your plan can be added when the occasion arrives.

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So, back to Cupcakes and BBQ.  I love fresh, simple meals.  I think that's pretty clear from my Instagram account.  I have learned over the years what foods fuel great runs and workouts for me and what I need after to help my feel stronger for future sessions.  However, if I'm in a new city then I'm going to be curious and try new foods or, if I'm in an old familiar city like Memphis, I'm going to enjoy those foods that bring back memories.  When you go to Memphis, you've gotta have BBQ.  I have a goal of taking my husband to a different top BBQ place in Memphis on each visit, so this past trip was to The Commissary.  I'm not a huge sweets person, but when in Memphis, I have to take a trip to Muddy's.  It's the best cupcake shop local to Memphis and it was started by a girl who graduated from my high school.  It was a fun, relaxing and delicious trip to Memphis mixed with reading, running, resting and eating at all of my local favorites.  So, no, I don't eat a cupcake or big plate of BBQ before a long run and I certainly didn't eat them before an ice skating training session, but I will enjoy it on a trip home to Memphis where I want to soak up all of my familiar favorites.

Whether you are a competitive or elite athlete or a fitness enthusiast, remember that all foods can still fit into a sports nutrition plan at the right time.  Eat to fuel and recover most of the time, but allow yourself to still experience the joy of food and the joy of eating.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

My Top Ten Tips for a Fun & Fueling Holiday

I know what you're probably thinking - "ugh, the unavoidable 'just eat in moderation' holiday dietitian post" (insert eye roll).  Well, this may be a little of that (sorry, can't help it), but I'm hoping it still also encourages fun and freedom in food this season.  I'm a full believer that the holidays should be enjoyed and traditions should be celebrated, both food and non-food traditions alike.  However, I've also worked with enough people who come to me after the holidays saying, "oh my goodness, what did I do?! "  So much of what they worked for during the entire year was "undone" in one season.  My thoughts are that there has to be a happy medium - a place where food (or some might say the guilt around food) doesn't consume our thoughts, a place that allows us to enjoy the season and all that it brings, and, yet, a place that doesn't majorly move the needle on our health and wellness.  This is the sweet spot where I aim to live during this season and that's where I try to help clients live as well.

In the spirit of finding and living in this sweet spot, I'm sharing my Top 10 Tips that I try to incorporate into my holiday lifestyle. Whether you follow them all or you choose to simply follow one, my hope is that they help you have a happy, healthy, and guilt-free holiday season.

Happy Fueling!

Taylor

[ANYTHING PARTICULAR YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE RECIPES I CREATE OR INFORMATION I SHARE THIS SEASON OR IN 2018??  PLEASE MESSAGE ME SO I CAN GET CREATIVE AND WORK THEM IN!]

TOP 10 FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS FOR A FUN & FUELING HOLDAY

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  1. LOCK AWAY THE GUILT.  Before you can move on to any of the other tips, make sure you get this tip down.  Enjoy those foods that only come around once a year.  Enjoy the Christmas or Hanukkah cookies that have become a family tradition, the stuffing that your aunt makes every Thanksgiving, and those little red and green m&m's that are suddenly in every glass bowl you pass.  If you decide to partake, please enjoy it and savor it - no looking back!  Well, unless, of course, it's to think about how deliciously wonderful it was :)
  2. UNLOCK YOUR TENNIS SHOES.  Same goes for your jacket, your gloves, and your warm hat.  Don't let the cold weather keep you from moving.  Stay active but don't hold yourself to a strict program like you may have done outside of this bustling holiday season.  In other words, give yourself a little break.  These weeks and months can be stressful and packed enough as they are without that added pressure of bumping up your workouts and logging all of the gym time!  Try planning active get-togethers with friends and other families as a way to stay active but still stay social.  Staying active is proven to help manage stress and improve mood, so try to keep it as a weekly priority as the calendar gets booked and stress levels start to rise.
  3. KEEP YOUR DAYS BALANCED.  If you know you're going to a party that night that will have lots of deliciously rich foods, get your veggies, fruits and lean proteins at your other meals that day.
  4. NO SKIPPING MEALS.  Don't skip meals during the day to "balance out" the party that night.  Most likely you will overeat at the party and may end up consuming more calories that day than if you had eaten breakfast and lunch!
  5. PLAN, THEN ACT.  Assess the spread and all that is offered.  Decide what you REALLY want and add that to your plate vs. the items you sort of want or know you can get at the next gathering.  Once you know what you want, then start making your selections.
  6. PLATE, DON'T GRAZE.  By putting food on a plate and then eating, you know how much you have had and you can keep portions in check.  Grazing at parties is sort of like eating out of the jumbo chip bag when you get home from work ravenous.  There is no "stop" signal in place...until you're at the very bottom of the bag.
  7. DON'T FORGET YOUR VEGGIES.  I say this because, yes, having veggies on your plate will help add fluid and fiber, which will help keep you full and help keep the calories in check, but I also say this because fall veggies (and fruits) are wonderful!  And there is this small window in which we can savor them.  Please don't forget these.  Try something new or try an old favorite in a new recipe.  Challenge yourself to include veggies in at least 2 of your meals a day this season.  Not sure what to pick in the fall and winter months?  Check out my FOODS OF FALL blog post from last year for ideas and inspiration.  
  8. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT.  There are so many sweets and treats and rich foods during this season.  However, do you really really love all of them?  Pick what you love, or, if you are cooking, cook what you love, and leave the other decadent items to someone else. 
  9. BRING STRATEGICALLY.  Not sure what kind of options will be offered at the party?  Make your dish something you know you will eat.  Be in charge of a hearty salad, the veggie side dish, a crudite appetizer, or a charcuterie platter filled with fresh winter fruits and nuts along with unique cheeses and meats.
  10. GET CREATIVE WITH DESSERTS. Think outside the box when it comes to desserts.  The holidays can be filled with rich decadent desserts, but have you tried warm baked apples or spiced pears with ice cream, homemade whipped cream or chocolate drizzles and toasted hazelnuts?  These can still be delicious and feel decadent while keeping your waistline happier.