Eat Healthy With A Busy Schedule And Tight Budget

Sticking to a healthy eating plan can be challenging at the best of times. Throw in a budget and a tight schedule and you’ve potentially got yourself a recipe for disaster. Rest assure, there are ways to ease the burden and ensure your lifestyle doesn’t interfere with your health goals. We chatted with Chef and co-author of the Real Food Kitchen, Cynthia Louise to find out how.

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Ease the burden of food prep

We’ve all heard the notion that preparation is key when it comes to a successful diet, but sometimes slicing and dicing on your day off can feel like a chore. Start by having all of your ingredients in front of you, says Cynthia. That way you won’t be overwhelmed at the task at hand. She also recommends: “Put some music on loud and start chopping… This is a must when preparing food. It makes time fly by and you get all caught up in the present moment.”

Create fuss free meal plans

Deciding on what you want for dinner can be challenging, let alone trying to sort out seven days worth of meals. The solution? Go with what you’re craving, says Cynthia. “I make a note of all the dishes that crossed my mind from the past week, from there I look at what the recipes look like.”

Be sure to incorporate leftovers into your meal plan as they’re “king when you’re on a food budget,” and also factor in freezer friendly dishes. “Before you go to work, take your Indian dahl out of the freezer and pop it into the fridge to defrost. By the time you get home, your dinner just needs reheating on the stove,” says Cynthia.

Make friends with your freezer

Having a pre-cooked dinner ready and waiting for you when you get home is a sure way to ease the stress of cooking, but cheap and nasty frozen meals from the supermarket aren’t going to cut it. For a nutrient dense dinner that doesn’t taste like plastic, cook up a big batch of pumpkin soup or bolognaise at the start of each week and freeze in individual containers. Cynthia says curries, rice dishes, pasta sauces, homemade sausage rolls, Mexican black beans and baked beans are ideal for freezing. “Any bean and legume dishes freeze, so do lots of sauces, dressings, raw cakes and slices,” she insists. You can even freeze herbs and leftover cooked pasta!

Back to basics

If you didn’t have time to create a meal plan or prep any food for the week, instead of opting for takeout go back to basics. Think eggs, avocado, rice and oats – anything that’s versatile, cheap and which will deliver you the required nutrients. “My good old favourite is essene bread (you can freeze that bread too) with lashings of avocado, a pan fried egg and a sprinkle of chopped nuts and seeds,” says Cynthia. “In that I am covering all fats, fibre, carbs, sugars and protein… Saves me every time.”

Create a healthy relationship with sugar

Buying a chocolate bar every time those sugar cravings strike hinders healthy intentions and becomes costly over time. An alternative to this is coconut, advises Cynthia. It’s cost effective at around $2 per nut and is easy to grab and go once cut up. “Smash it on the floor to crack open [then] grab a butter knife and a tea towel – tea towel to hold the nut and the butter knife to leaver the hard flesh out,” says Cynthia. “You can then store the white hard flesh in a container and nibble on it every day – this will for sure stop the sugar cravings.”

Prolong your produce

Waste not, want not! There’s nothing worse than buying a whole heap of fresh produce, only to find it goes off before you make use of it. An obvious solution to this would be to buy as you go, but for some people it’s not really a viable option. If you want to make your fruit and veg go that extra mile, Cynthia insists: “Herbs get wrapped in a paper towel and put somewhere they won’t get crushed, apples and fruit in good containers, veggies to be stored in those green fridge bags and nuts and seeds in the freezer.”
Snag a bargain

While buying in bulk can certainly be cost effective, it’s pointless purchasing 5kg of grapes or two slabs of tuna if you’re not going to eat it. Instead, why not get your friends or flatmates involved and “split the kilos out,” encourages Cynthia. “When you buy in bulk… you buy in larger quantities and that’s a big saving, especially when your tribe gets involved.”

Alternatively, farmers markets are perfect for cheaper produce. And the secret to snagging yourself an even bigger bargain? Head there at the end of the day, says Cynthia. “Big deals are to be had when they are closing the stalls for the day – the farmers reduce beyond half!”

Image Via Dumb Little Man

A Busy Girl’s Guide To Staying Healthy

A full schedule can really push your diet and exercise routine to the bottom of the list. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little discipline, you can combine a healthy lifestyle with a busy one. Here’s how:

1. Set an alarm
Getting up early is highly praised habit of healthy and happy people. Don’t wake up with only enough time to put on your clothes and brush your teeth before you’re out the door. Use your mornings efficiently to prepare for the rest of the day. Think of all the things you can achieve with an extra hour in the morning! Exercise, prepare your lunch, or just sit and read to clear your mind before the day ahead.

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2. Eat a good breakfast
I know you have heard this before, but eating a large, healthy breakfast really is the best way to start your day. It kickstarts your metabolism and gives you the energy to make it through the morning until lunch. Optimize your breakfast by eating carbs and low GI foods.

3. Choose lunch carefully
While it’s often healthier and certainly more economical to pack your own lunch, we understand that busy girls don’t always have the time for this. Therefore, when it comes to lunch, try selecting the healthiest option. Don’t go for the burrito today – eat a sandwich instead. Swap those noodles for some sushi or get the turkey sub instead of meatballs! Whatever you do – stay away from the fast food!

4. You only need 30 minutes of exercise a day
I really envy those people who love exercise (come on, do you really?), but most of us struggle to find the motivation. Just remember that doing something is better than nothing, and it only takes 30 minutes to get a decent workout. Walk, run, skip, stretch, do pilates – just do something! A great way to sneak some exercise into the daily grind is simply to walk. Walk to the train station or bus stop instead of driving, don’t get a cab two blocks, don’t eat lunch at the closest cafeteria – try the one five minutes down the road. Especially those of you working at a desk – use those breaks to stretch your legs and get your blood pumping.

5. Download a meditation app
A healthy mind is key to your wellbeing. You only need five or ten minutes to sit-down, relax and center yourself, and it could turn your whole day around. Try these on for size.

6.  Prepare
Take an hour or two out of your weekend to cut up vegetables to snack on  during the week. Make a meal plan and do your grocery shopping. Cook a large soup, curry or pasta dish that will provide leftovers for a few more meals. Incorporating healthy-eating into a busy schedule is all about using your time efficiently!

7. Swap coffee for herbal tea
Even the best of us sometimes need a coffee in the morning. But for those of you having more than one or two every day – make one of those a green tea. Herbal teas are full of antioxidants that cleanse your body, and will also keep you more hydrated than coffee.

W8less Week 5: Get More Sleep

Leading up to the end of the W8less 40-Day Challenge, the focus is now firmly on getting enough sleep for your body. Kate Troup, founder of W8less, has answered why the amount of restful sleep you get is so important in maintaining your general health and wellbeing.

How is sleep linked to weight loss and wellbeing?

Sleep is so commonly overlooked but it’s critical for long term weight loss success. If you’re constantly tired, you will find it much harder to lose weight and stay healthy. Sleep is the time for the human brain and body to regulate and recharge itself. This is the time during which certain chemicals are released (some are only released while sleeping) and others are suppressed, working to keep the body in a state of balance or “homeostasis”. Inadequate sleep leads to chemical and hormonal imbalances which can cause a myriad of problems, including working against your efforts to lose weight.

In fact, a lack of sleep can be the cause of weight gain. German research showed that after just 4 nights of sleep deprivation, due to the effect on appetite hormones, otherwise healthy women ate 20% more food than when they slept for 8 hours and as a result gained an average of 0.4kg.

How do I know if I have sleep problems?

The occasional period of insomnia is pretty normal and should be interpreted as your body’s way of telling you that it’s stressed. But if you regularly struggle to fall asleep, wake during the night or feel like you could do with another 8 hours when you wake up in the morning, then your sleep is not good enough and you are probably in a state of constant sleep deprivation.

What effect does sleep deprivation have on you?

Poor sleep will:

  • Make you hungry
  • Less satisfied by the food that you eat
  • Much more likely to store food as fat

Why do you think sleep problems are becoming so common?

Stress and poor food choices do play role but I think believe that main cause of the effect of light on our brain’s hormonal response. Your brain has evolved to use the cue of light during the day and darkness at night to regulate your sleep – or circadian – patterns. In the same way that feeling hungry is the cue to eat something, the absence of light is the cue that it is time to sleep.

The screens of laptops, televisions, tablets and smart phones all emit a frequency of light which is blue. This is particularly disruptive to your brain because the sky also emits blue light (which is of course why we see it as blue).

At night-time, when the light is meant to have disappeared so that your body knows that it’s time to go to sleep, the blue light from screens convinces your brain that it is still in fact daytime and it should stay awake. This reduces both the quality and duration of sleep. In fact, many people suffer from something which is akin to chronic jetlag where the body’s diurnal pattern is constantly out of balance.

This effect is so significant that researchers are trialling blue light in cars to reduce driver fatigue at night time. One study found that having a bright blue light inside a car at night was as effective as taking caffeine tablets which were the equivalent of 4 espresso coffees.

How can we minimise the effect of light on our sleep?

  1. Turn off all screens at night time especially after 9pm.
  2. Dim the lights around you at night time
  3. Never check your phone or turn on lights if you wake during the night
  4. Use a non-backlit reading device
  5. Get adequate sunlight during the day

W8less Week 3: Control Stress Levels

In the third week of the W8less 40-Day Challenge, the focus has now switched to stress. Why? so many of us live with high levels and stress as though it’s normal, but Kate Troup, founder of W8less, has answered why it’s not and how it could be affecting your health and wellbeing.

What is the ‘brick’ this week?

It’s a big one this week: stress management! Stress is a normal and beneficial reaction to the world around you and you do need some to motivate and protect you. Problems arise though when stress levels become too high for too long. Over time, your stress response can become “locked” on and it becomes so chronic, you stop noticing the effects of it.

How does stress affect your weight?

Stress triggers the release of a hormone called cortisol which, over time, leads to problems with blood sugar levels and insulin response. This eventually leads to the deposition of weight around your belly. In the industry we call it a “cortisol roll”. Repeated dieting, or yo-yo dieting, is very stressful to your body and it can have a permanent effect on your cortisol levels, making it harder and harder to lose weight each time you try. This is why it’s so important to work with your body to lose weight and not force it through drastic measures. Also stress often makes you want to eat comfort foods like chocolate or crunchy, salty foods like chips, which aren’t ideal for weight control.

What can people do to reduce their stress?

I think it’s important to realise that even though you might think that you can’t reduce the stress in your life, after all there will always be bills to pay and traffic jams, you can completely change how you respond to it. This week on W8less, there’s an exercise where you write down every single thing that makes you feel stressed over a couple of days. That list is then split into two: things you can change and things that you can’t. You need to change the things that are within your power but those that aren’t, you need to change your response to. It sounds simple but it is incredibly powerful. Most people find that they are wasting a lot of energy on things which they can’t change instead of focusing on those which they can do something about.

Meditation really helps slow down your stress response which is why it’s an integral part of W8less. Starting your day as calmly as possible has a flow through effect on the rest of it.

Coconut Crusted Chicken With Almond Satay Sauce

Here at the SHE‘SAID’ headquarters, we are taking part in the W8less 40-Day Challenge and feeling the amazing results – thanks to the unveiling of the ‘bricks’ and delicious meal plans. So we thought we’d share just one of the many fabulous, quick and easy dinner recipes for everyone to enjoy.

Serves 2


2 medium chicken breasts

1/2 cup almond flour

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 tsp Chinese five spice

1 egg, beaten

Coconut oil

1 tbs red curry sauce

3 tbs almond butter

1/2 cup of coconut cream


  1. Lightly pound chicken breasts with a rolling pin until they are a uniform thickness and then cut into strips.
  2. Stir together the dry ingredients. Dip each chicken strip in the beaten egg and then coat in the coconut mix.
  3. Place coated chicken strips in fridge for 10 minutes (this helps the coating stick to the chicken).
  4. Heat pan and coconut oil. Cook chicken strips for 5-6 minutes on each side.
  5. Satay sauce: Stir together almond butter, red curry paste and coconut cream over a low heat until completely mixed.
  6. Serve with mixed green salad.

Recipe and image via W8less

W8less Week 2: Activity Before Exercise

In the second week of the W8less 40-Day Challenge, the focus has now switched to getting moving. Why? Because the majority of us just do not do enough of it! Kate Troup, founder of W8less, has answered the questions as to why this ‘brick’ is so important.

Why does the second week focus on activity over exercise?

Three-quarters of Australians don’t do the recommended amount of exercise as it is, despite everyone knowing that they should do more. Even those people who do exercise regularly are often guilty of being “active couch potatoes” which means that they are largely sedentary apart from the few hours that they hit the gym or Pilates studio. Sitting down all day or being a “professional sitter” as we call them, carries significant health risks, which are independent of how much structured exercise someone does. This means that you can’t undo the damage done from a day sitting in front of your computer by running home, for example.

What do you mean by activity?

Activity includes pretty much anything which means you’re not sitting down so even standing is fantastic. Walking, taking the stairs, doing some yoga, stretching, skipping, jumping up and down, whatever gets you up and out of your chair. You should aim to be active for a few minutes every 30 minutes.

When should we start to introduce more vigorous exercise?

You’ll know when it’s time to up your exercise because you will feel as if you have to! Forcing your body to exercise before you have got your foundation in place will often just lead to fatigue, hunger or injury. Your body turns food into energy and once your metabolism is working efficiently, this energy will no longer get stored on your body as fat, so you will literally have “energy to burn”.  When someone tells me that they want to exercise, instead of having to force themselves, I know that we’re on the right track.

Why Being W8less Works

On the launch day of this session’s W8less 40-Day Challenge, Kate Troup lets us in on the what W8less is and why achieving optimum wellbeing is really at the core of weight loss and maintaining your ideal size.

What exactly is the W8less 40-Day Challenge and how does it work?

The underlying principle of W8less is that there are 6 essential requirements – or “Bricks” that need to be in place to create the foundation on which optimum health and weight loss can be achieved. Each week, you focus on one of the W8less Bricks, challenging yourself to introduce it and gradually building your foundation.

Can anyone participate?

Yes, they can but the meal plan does contain meat so it isn’t suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Many people join W8less just to lose weight but discover that they resolve many other health problems as well.

Why is it different to other programs?

W8less is wholistic which means that the focus is on you as a whole person and bringing you back into balance to naturally achieve results rather than forcing them through over exercise or semi-starvation. W8less doesn’t just focus on single elements such as giving up sugar or joining a boot camp, but instead gives equal footing to elements such as sleep, stress management and connection. Diet and exercise are important but they are only a part of the puzzle. Chronic stress, poor sleep, social isolation and being sedentary are all significant contributors to weight and health issues.

How do participants benefit from having a new focus each week?

We introduce a new Brick each week so that participants have time to integrate it into their lives. Trying to make too many changes at once usually means that you don’t make any at all! It’s also a good way to get a feel for what works best for your body. If you do everything at once, you can’t tell what’s having the biggest impact and where to concentrate your efforts.

What is your hope for the participants at the end of the challenge?

By the end of the challenge, I hope that participants have a new appreciation for just how amazing they can feel and that weight loss needn’t be difficult.

Where can readers find more information?

You can read more about the W8less program here.

Low-Calorie Weekly Meal Plan

Did your new year start off with fantastic plans for a healthier and trimmer you only to dissolve into old habits returning and dietary plans being discarded? Well, it’s never too late to get back on track. If you can follow a new lower calorie plan for 7 nights, chances are you will be on your way to reclaiming your commitment to a healthier and happier you.

1. Stir fry chicken and fresh veggies

Begin by cutting 3 skinless chicken breasts into cubes. Season with pepper and cook with a tablespoon chili oil until juices run clear. Add your veggies beginning with the hardest vegetables first. Add broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, celery, onion, and then mushrooms. When vegetables begin to lose some of their crispness, you are almost done cooking (about 3- 5 minutes after adding the last vegetable). Add 2 tablespoons light and/or reduced sodium soy sauce to pan. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. If available, grate a few shavings of fresh ginger on top. Serve with white rice and add cashews to top.

2. Open face lean burger and baked potato

Purchase a pound of lean turkey mince at grocer or butcher. Fashion into 4 hamburger patties. Season well and grill. When finished cooking, arrange on plate atop 2 large lettuce leaves, one large slice of red onion, and a dollop of ketchup. Bake your potatoes (baking makes for a crunchier and more satisfying skin). Add a dollop of fat-free sour cream and an even larger dollop of your favorite salsa. Enjoy!

3. Tuna and rice

This meal is as delicious as it is unexpected! Cook one package of yellow rice per directions. On top of hot rice, add one large can of albacore tuna and mix in with rice. Now sprinkle with peanuts for crunch and enjoy! This meal also heats well the next day and is a perfect take to work lunch.

4. Spicy chicken tacos

Bake or boil 3 lean and trimmed skinless chicken breasts. Use cutting board to shred the chicken. Add chicken to a large skillet coated with a product like Pam and brown while adding garlic, salt and pepper. Meanwhile prepare toppings for the taco as you like; lettuce or cabbage, tomatoes and slices of avocado. Lay out tacos shells or tortillas and fill with chicken mixture and top with your ingredients. To save more calories, skip the tortilla and add the chicken mixture and toppings to any green salad. Use salsa as a dressing and enjoy!

5. Cheatin’ lasagna

Prepare lasagna as you would for any typical lasagna recipe. However, here switch out the higher fat and higher calorie ingredients with these “fakes”. For ricotta cheese; use non-fat cottage cheese. For meat; add cooked vegetables. For provolone cheese; cut the amount to half of what the recipe calls for and use a low fat mozzarella. Bake until bubbly!

6. Summer vegetable lentil soup

Cook dry lentils according to package instructions. When tender, add cut carrots, sliced onion, garlic, and a bag of frozen spinach. Add a teaspoon of chili powder, pepper, and a sprinkle of salt. Cook for at least one hour. Enjoy this hearty and low, low calorie soup.

7. Filling tuna salad on mixed greens

Begin by emptying one large can of Albacore tuna in a bowl. Add the chopped egg whites of two hard boiled eggs. Chop lots of celery and onion (to taste and preference) and add to bowl. Add one tablespoon lemon juice and 2-3 tablespoons fat free mayo of your choice. Add a sprinkle of Lawry’s season salt and several shakes of pepper. Stir well and refrigerate. Make whatever type of green salad you prefer (spinach is a great choice). Top with two mounds of tuna salad. Top with cashews.