The Busy Singer’s Secret Weapon: Meal Prep

MEALPREP2Think of your body as a car: without the proper fuel, it’s just not going to run properly, no matter how well you maintain it otherwise. Exercise is a crucial part of maintaining your instrument, but no matter how hard you hit the gym, you won’t be able to go far without a healthy meal plan. As a busy singer, a trip to the drive-through may seem like the easiest (or only) option you have between professional and personal obligations, but that’s where you’re wrong. Let me introduce you to your new best friend: meal prep.

What is meal prepMeal prep is when you devote an hour or two to preparing meals for the entire upcoming week, so you can stay on track with your healthy diet and bypass the drive-through during even the busiest of weeks. Meal prep can actually save you time and money in the long haul, as you can cut out trips to a fast food joint altogether. Many body builders use meal prep to carefully monitor what they put into their bodies, and to help avoid temptation mid-week. Singers and other health-conscious folk can also reap the benefits of meal prep in their busy lives, as it’s a reliable, economical, and efficient way to ensure healthy eating.

Remember: your whole body is your instrument. You may not have to obsess over macronutrients like body builders do, but you should be a bit obsessive over the quality of what you’re putting into your instrument. Singers are so used to taking care of their respiratory system, larynx, and immune system, but total health is of the utmost importance for long-term success.

Without any further ado, here are my top five tips for beginning a meal prep regimen! These tips are great for both those just beginning their meal prep journey and those who are already veterans. Enjoy!


MEALPREP11. START SMALL

Currently, I prep a total of 36 meals each week, which gives me 6 meals per day for 6 days. Obviously, this is a little extreme, and I certainly did not begin preparing 36 meals per week. Start with a small prep, such as preparing 6 meals (1 meal per day for 6 days), and work your way up. Do you often skip breakfast because you’re rushing out of the house? Prep some overnight oats or pre-package the fruits, veggies, and protein you need to whip up a quick breakfast smoothie! Struggling to stay away from the local fast-food joint at lunch? Sit down and cook a healthy (yet delicious) lunch fit for royalty. My personal favorite is lean steak and broccoli over a bed of brown rice!

2. PLAN YOUR MEAL PREP AHEAD OF TIME

Ideally, you should block out a 1-3 hour window of time on the same day every week for your meal prep. The most common day of the week for meal prep is Sunday — it’s so popular that it has its own hashtag, #MealPrepSunday! Make this chunk of time sacred: nobody and nothing should overthrow your meal prep time. I do everything I can to avoid messing with my designated Sunday meal prep time slot, but because the life of a singer can be unpredictable, I always have a backup time in mind for meal prep. If there’s a totally unavoidable obstacle between me and my meal prep (such as a Sunday matinee performance), I have Monday morning as a backup time slot for my meal prep adventures!

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 9.48.16 PM3. INVEST IN QUALITY TUPPERWARE

Look for microwave-safe, freezer-safe, BPA-free containers. Good containers don’t have to be expensive–in fact, the other day I spent $1.50 for a container of six small, quality tupperware containers! However, you will likely have to go out of your way to find quality, economically priced containers. Don’t forget to pick up a variety of sizes while you’re at it; although it may seem like larger tupperware containers would be the most valuable for meal prep, you’d be amazed at how often I use my smaller containers.

4. COOK WITH FOODS YOU ENJOY

If you hate bell peppers, then these taco-style turkey-stuffed bell peppers topped with fat-free mozzarella won’t be right for you. Many people struggle–or outright fail–at meal prepping because they try to force themselves to eat something they know they hate. If you prepare a meal you know you aren’t going to enjoy come meal time, you’re likely going to toss it and stop by the drive-through. Start with your favorite lean protein and fruit or veggie, and branch out from there. I always try to cook with one new food item per week to keep variety in my diet, but that said, I always use it in a small way to make sure I’m going to enjoy it before I incorporate it into 6 meals for the week.

5. STRIVE FOR A BALANCE OF PROTEIN, CARBS, AND HEALTHY FAT

A well-balanced meal will include a healthy dose of lean protein, a carbohydrate, and a healthy fat. With this as your guideline, you can make anything from a turkey burger with a side of sautéed broccoli, or pork loin served with an apple and peanut butter, or a small salad topped with grilled chicken, baby tomatoes, and olive oil! As you can see, the possibilities are truly endless. If you want more specific nutritional guidance, definitely contact our amazing expert panelist, Jennifer Fleischer, who is a certified nutritionist.

6. LEARN TO LOVE YOUR FREEZER

MEALPREP3You’d be truly amazed at what you can pop in the freezer. Typically, I cook 6 servings of the same meal, and give myself 6 different meals per day. Of the 6 servings of the same meal, I put three in the refrigerator, and pop the remaining three in the freezer. Note: I only do this for meals that are cooked (for uncooked meals, I just prep three at a time, which means that when I run out, I have to spend about 20 minutes or less putting together another three uncooked meals for the next three days). I’ve frozen and reheated everything from rice with beef stir fry, to stuffed bell or pablano peppers, to gluten-free noodles topped with grilled chicken, and more. Just be sure to allow your meals to defrost IN THE REFRIGERATOR 1-2 days before you plan on consuming them. Pre-cooked meals don’t always fair so well when defrosted out in open air or in the microwave.

7. USE YOUR RESOURCES!

The internet is an absolutely invaluable resource for #foodspiration! You can find everything from step-by-step guides on how to meal prep, to fun and creative recipes that will always keep your diet exciting and fresh. My all-time favorite YouTuber for #healthyfoodporn is Fit Men Cook (see video below), because he has some of the most creative, healthy recipes I’ve ever seen, and he covers nearly every topic under the sun regarding meal prep. You can also check out Jen Heward (AKA HunnyBunsFit) and Heidi Somers (AKA Buff Bunny), as both ladies occasionally post their grocery shopping hauls and favorite meal prep recipes. And of course, don’t forget to follow OPERATHLETIC on Instagram for your weekly dose of #fitspiration and #healthyfoodporn!


With love,
Kendra Signature with Photo

‘Super Food’ Smoothie 101

Smoothies are probably one of the nutrition world’s greatest heroes, but when prepared improperly, they can end up being the nutrition world’s worst villain. Well-balanced smoothies are a quick, easy way to get a good portion of your daily nutritional needs, making them an especially great option for the busy singer! However, they too often become a sugar pit when they’re loaded with too many fruits and not enough vegetables, excessive amounts of added sugar, and are laden with sneaky sweetened items like flavored greek yogurt. So, I worked with our very own certified nutritionist & health guru Jennifer Fleischer to design an easy-to-follow menu to help you create your own healthy, delicious, one-of-a-kind ‘Super Food’ Smoothie to jumpstart your health!

Before you get started, you’ll need a reliable blender. I have been using a Vitamix for years, but recently received a Nutri Ninja and have fallen in love with both blenders. A poorly made blender won’t be able to power through fibrous ingredients like ginger, and can leave you with a clumpy, downright disgusting concoction. Additionally, cheap blenders tend to break very quickly. Instead of spending $30-$40 on a sub-par blender every few months, consider the value of this investment and get an appliance that will work for years and do the job right.

Finally, don’t forget your smoothie basics. Do you prefer thicker smoothies? Consider using frozen fruit and adding ice cubes! Those who prefer thinner shakes will prefer to use unfrozen fruit and add a liquid base instead. You should avoid store-bought frozen fruit that comes in a prepackaged bag, as it often has added sugar. Instead, buy fresh fruit in bulk during its peak season and freeze a few bags yourself to keep you stocked up throughout the winter!

I hope you enjoy our Super-Food, Super-Delicious Smoothie menu! We invite you to share your creations on social media with our hashtag, #OPERATHLETIC — bon appétit!


Super Food Smoothie


Need some more inspiration? Here is my favorite original smoothie recipe, complete with a breakdown of its nutritional profile! Trust me when I say this protein-packed, vitamin & mineral rich, super-food delight will get you through even the busiest of days.

delicious smoothieKendra’s Super Food Kiwi Delight!

Ingredients:
Kale | Vitamins A, C & K
Broccoli Sprouts | Sulforaphane
Kiwi | Vitamin C, K, A, E & B6
Frozen Banana | Potassium
Greek Yogurt | Protein, Probiotics, Vitamin B12
Avocado | Glutathione
Chia Seeds | Omega 3, Fiber, Antioxidants
Raw Honey
Unsweetened Almond Milk

Combine all ingredients in your favorite blender and mix until perfectly blended.  ENJOY!!


With love,
Kendra Signature with Photo

Fuel Your Instrument: Pre-Performance Meals

You’ve spent hours practicing, perfecting every measure, analyzing every character, picking the perfect performance outfit, planning every moment of the week before, all in preparation for the big performance(s)… Hours before you’re set to sing, it hits you: What do I EAT?!  In my experience, it seems that many performers have strong opinions on what NOT to eat, but don’t always detail what one should eat before a performance.

Perhaps this is for good reason, as what works for one singer’s pre-performance meal would be an absolute nightmare for another performer. It may do a singer well to ‘practice’ their pre-performance meal a few times by experimenting with recipes, then run through an aria or two to see how their instrument reacts. Believe it or not, dairy won’t kill every singer before a performance! It’s YOUR job as the professional musician to experiment and discover what foods will fuel you, versus what foods will hinder your instrument’s optimal performance–ideally, well before the big moment.

The goal of this compilation of “mini-interviews” is to give operathletes some pre-performance meal inspiration. One thing that struck me about every response is the presence of whole, home-cooked, healthy foods. Nowhere in sight is there a Whopper with a side of fries, or fried chicken with a slice of pecan pie! Although unhealthier choices are immediately rewarding to our tastebuds, they lack the power that whole foods have to truly fuel a performance. So channel your inner chef, and come up with a deliciously simple meal with balanced portions of macronutrients that will get you through an opera–and the after-party! 😉


Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 9.05.16 PM

LISETTE OROPESA, SOPRANO

“My favorite pre-performance meal is a large green salad that has young spring greens or spinach and arugula, kale, or whatever leafies are on hand.  Then I massage with a ripe avocado for that creamy goodness without the added oil, sprinkle with a bit of salt to help soften the greens, and then add my favorite toppings: cranberries, walnuts, and some spiralized zucchini, baby tomatoes, and the star ingredient, quinoa!!

This is a great, fresh, cooling meal that gives long lasting energy and some protein, but not so much that you feel heavy.  It can be enjoyed with sprouted quinoa for an excellent fully raw alternative.  

If you need a mid-performance snack, or a pick me up, I like a few slices of pineapple.  Does me great!”


Howard2-1

KIRSTIN CHÁVEZ, MEZZO SOPRANO

For my favorite pre-performance meal, I like to have a healthy dose of protein and fiber and a bit of carbs.  Because I am a vegetarian, I lean towards eggs! So, I usually prepare 3 eggs, either fried or scrambled, with a big pile of sautéed mixed vegetables, including broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, carrot and mushroom, seasoned with a bit of vegetarian bullion powder or herbs and spices. I usually mix in a bit of cheddar or mozzarella, and I will enjoy this with gluten free crackers or bread, a few olives, and a handful of mixed nuts. I like to eat this meal about four hours before curtain so that my stomach is relatively empty and settled by the time I get ready to sing. As an energy booster, I will have green tea with Matcha powder between my meal and curtain. During the intermission, I like to enjoy a couple spoonfuls of Justin’s Vanilla Almond Butter!!


Zachary James, bass

ZACHARY JAMES, BASS

Three to four hours before I sing, I prepare ground turkey and peas sautéed in a little bit of olive oil with light salt and pepper.”

.
.
.
.
.
.
.


ashaASHA CARROLL, SOPRANO & CAKE IN A CRATE CO-FOUNDER

They say Pavarotti ate a big plate of pasta prior to every opera he sang. My take is a bit more health-conscious, but just as satisfying. It’s a big energy booster that gets me ready for anything: spiralized veggie noodles with a rich avocado pesto sauce. The meal requires about 15 minutes prep time, but it travels well and tastes great served hot or cold. I follow that up with apple slices and a big spoonful of almond butter, which makes for a great snack in between scenes. No sugar crash, no tummy troubles. Just good carbs, good fats, and veggie-based energy to last you through even the most demanding performance.”


Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 7.36.25 PM

JOYCE EL-KHOURY, SOPRANO

“[My pre-performance meal is] usually pasta, with chicken, mushrooms, and usually whatever veggies are on hand. I usually prefer red peppers, or peas. We use a cream/white wine sauce. Perfect for preventing reflux caused by red sauces.

I always eat pasta before a performance, and I add on fruit, and tons of water. And coffee….lots of it.”

.


Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 9.12.16 PMDAWN PIERCE, MEZZO SOPRANOOPERATHLETIC EXPERT PANELIST

“My pre-performance meal consists of low acid protein and carbs. I usually go for a chicken breast and plain whole wheat pasta or a potato with green beans or carrots. If it is a matinee, I like eggs and whole wheat toast. Usually I like to drink water and apple juice. I keep it very simple on performance day (which is unlike me on a normal day).”

.
.
.
.
.
.


Photo by Arielle Doneson

MICHAEL FABIANO, TENOR

“Chicken breast and legs (12 oz)
Two handful mushrooms
Two shallots
Thyme
Herbs de Provence
Bay leaf
White wine (6 oz or just pour it on)
Butter (sufficient)
Teaspoon Dijon
Teaspoon honey
Sea salt 

Cook the above ingredients in large pan 

Mashed sweet potatoes with butter and salt
Lots of broccoli with lemon
Pan fried Brussel sprouts with olive oil and pancetta, well cooked
1 liter water
A big nice coffee 

During the show:
Banana, apple, and almonds

Easy peasy”


Jennifer FleischerJENNIFER FLEISCHER, CERTIFIED NUTRITIONIST & OPERATHLETIC EXPERT PANELIST

“I like to keep my nutrition and macro nutrients as balanced as possible during the day by fueling my body every 3 hours, therefore I don’t necessarily have a specific pre- or post-performance meal. However, a typical meal before a heavy or long workout would be a smoothie with whey protein (slow releasing), casein protein (fast releasing) about 3oz of fruit and 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter. I like the two types of protein so my muscles are fueled immediately and for the entire length of the workout. And even though I keep my eyes on the clock to make sure I am prepared for my next meal, my body often tells me exactly when it’s time to re-fuel. I will grab real food like chicken breast, a small apple and a handful of almonds.”


With love,

Kendra Signature with Photo

Deficit Dieting Myth: Breaking the Yo-Yo Cycle

Today I would like to share with you one of my most powerful lessons. This information encourages JFW clients & OPERATHLETIC readers to make positive changes forever so that they can experience life long wellness and finally start living the life that is waiting for them.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.46.32 PM

This myth shines a light on the critical part nutrition plays in fitness. It addresses a popular fitness based philosophy that is, or once was, taught in almost every gym. The fitness audience will immediately recognize this dieting method and will be intrigued about the consequences of muscle and energy loss. Plus, teaching balanced eating is the perfect way to achieve a super lean and strong body poised for performances and strength & cardiovascular workouts.

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.56.33 PMFor years I believed what I read in magazines and was taught by fitness pros:

  • Work out longer, Eat minimally
  • Burn more than you consume
  • Create a calorie deficit
  • For every 3500 calories of deficit you will lose 1 pound

So for years, this was how I tried to lose weight. But eventually I would always gain the weight back AND SOME. Then, when I once again hit a breaking point with my weight I would start deficit dieting again. And once again, this method would fail me. This yo-yo pattern continued until I studied physiology and nutrition. Only then did I learn why it is scientifically impossible to find an optimal weight and peak fitness using deprivation and restriction.

Nothing in life has a quick fix or can run in deficit. I sure know my checking account or training can’t! What made me think that my nutrition could? Our bodies deserve better. And what do our bodies ultimately want? What every hormone, organ and function of your body is doing right now…

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.56.44 PM

Deficit dieting is just the opposite…unbalanced nutrition and fitness. This in turn forces our body to replenish the balance internally for energy to return to homeostasis.

The fact is that deficits create unstable blood sugar which makes the body to go into emergency mode and respond with a low blood sugar response. This response includes the pancreatic release of the hormone glucagon which tells the body to burn muscle for energy, hold onto fat and increase food cravings.

The deficit dieting misconception often lies in the thought that our bodies will solely burn fat for energy in times of deprivation. However, science tells us differently. Stored body fat cannot be converted into glucose so the body attacks the muscle to produce glucose for energy. Simply, the muscle breakdown provides amino acids which our body converts to glucose (sugar) to supply the body with ATP (energy).

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.41.54 PM
Losing muscle reduces our metabolism which will always work against our weight loss and strength goals. Catabolizing muscle sacrifices the precious time we spend in the gym, deprives us of ideal muscle strength and could be one of the reasons some don’t yield optimal results even after repeated, intense workouts.

To once again, use me as an example, this is why when I returned to normal, non-restrictive eating after a deficit, the reduced metabolism made me look ‘softer’ and forced me to gain weight back plus pack on a few additional pounds. I’m eating what I ate before but now also have a slower metabolism. And the fact is that we will always return to our normal eating because all deficits need to be filled, hunger (depriving ourselves of food or food groups) is not sustainable long term and our body releases hormones (ghrelin) to signal stronger hunger. This is the scientific evidence behind Yo-Yo Dieting.

Fitness At HomeSo what can we do to promote a lean, strong, healthy body? We will greatly be rewarded with optimal weight, faster times and stronger bodies if we can create homeostasis externally by eating to stabilize our blood sugar. This is accomplished by eating a sensible portion of your macronutrients every 3-4 hours. Simply, eat 3 to 5 ounces of some protein, 3 to 5 ounces of a carb and around 7g to 10g of healthy fat every 3 hours. An example would be grilled chicken, apple and peanut butter. Or a perfectly balanced protein shake. The perfect way to always be fueled for a performance or a workout.

This effective and healthy way of eating, that is based in physiological evidence, will drive you to achieve your weight and fitness goals. The compounding effect of this lifestyle radiates throughout the body, brings each system of the body in balance and creates internal and external harmony. To liberate your mind, make best use of your energy and create a stellar strong, lean body, say GOODBYE to deficit and HELLO to creating a healthy, smart partnership with food.

For more information, a free video or to get your pass to becoming a JFW RockStar, check out: www.JenniferFleischerWellness.com


Keep Rockin!

Jennifer Signature

Healthy Dessert?! Yes, Please! | Cake in a Crate

At this point, I know the drill:  indulge in dessert, suffer with severe stomach pain for 2-3 days post-indulgence, do it all again next time. As someone with a long list of dietary restrictions due to intolerance, I honestly thought I’d never find a dessert that would leave me unscathed physically and mentally, due to the nearly unavoidable guilt that comes along with that slice of birthday cake.

Cake in a Crate threw all of my expectations for dessert out the window. No stomach pain, no guilt, and certainly no lack of taste in this delicious treat! Cake in a Crate deservingly wins a five star rating from OPERATHLETIC. We believe that this amazing treat should absolutely be on your dessert table this holiday season!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CAKE IN A CRATE:Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 9.06.08 PM

  • This is a homemade, fresh dessert that YOU make. Worried that you don’t have the culinary talent to bake this product? Don’t worry: I truly believe that every person who purchases a Cake in a Crate product will be successful in creating their tasty treat, because…
  • The recipes are nearly fool-proof. Every ingredient is pre-measured, and there are step-by-step instructions on how to create your treat. You’d almost have to try to mess up this recipe.
  • Every Cake in a Crate treat is vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined-sugar free. To answer your inevitable questions: NO, they are not “fun-free,” and YES, it IS possible to create a delicious treat without any of the previously mentioned products.
  • They support “brands with a commitment to good food, good health, and good ethics, and who source through fair trade practices, sustainable methods, or organic farming.”
  • Asha Carroll, one of their founders, is an OPERA SINGER!!! And she’s really, really good…

I had the pleasure of creating Lou’s Chocolate Cake, and honestly, it was the most decadent, rich chocolate cake I’ve ever had. Seriously, I’m not kidding! I was so impressed by this cake that I could barely believe it was vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, and refined sugar-free–I even double checked the ingredients! But amazingly, there isn’t a trace of dairy, gluten, refined sugar, or animal by-products in sight:DSCN3339

Ingredients for Lou’s Chocolate Cake:

GF flour (gafava flour, tapioca flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, guar gum), almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, vanilla extract, chocolate bits, maple syrup, coconut oil, almond milk, arrowroot flour


DSCN3329

Nearly as impressive as the dessert’s taste and ingredients was the product’s packaging and ease of preparation. The crate is absolutely adorable — it felt like Christmas day when I received my product!

Every ingredient was pre-measured, easy to identify, and packaged securely. The recipe card was so thorough that it’s nearly fool-proof. Trust me, you do not need to be an experienced chef to prepare your Cake in a Crate dessert. The product is so thoughtfully made that there is nearly nothing left to “mess up.” All told, I was easily able to complete my cake in about an hour and a half.

The average dessert is smothered in refined sugar, making it extremely addicting. Since Cake in a Crate products contain no refined sugars, this is the perfect dessert option for every health-conscious individual. Don’t get me wrong–you’ll totally be addicted to these delicious treats, due to their delicious taste, nutritional value, and charming appearance. However, unlike traditional dessert options, you won’t feel the need to consume more sweets the following day. Like any dessert, you shouldn’t plan on eating these treats on a daily basis– always strive for a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and lean protein — but Cake in a Crate creations certainly won’t throw you as far off track as your traditional dessert.


DSCN3348


MY TIPS FOR PREPARING LOU’S CHOCOLATE CAKE:

  • Spread the icing and decorate quickly.  This icing is just as fluid and smooth as traditional icing, but it hardens quickly. Be sure to get your sprinkles on before it sets so they don’t roll off the top of the cake.DSCN3347
  • Feel free to use either an oven-safe glass bowl or a metal bowl for your makeshift double boiler. Once you have a pot for the water, grab whichever type of bowl you have lying around as the top of your double boiler. The recipe calls for an oven-safe glass bowl, but I used a metal bowl and it worked just fine.
  • Don’t leave your wet ingredients in the double boiler too long–and KEEP STIRRING! Place your ingredients around your workspace thoughtfully, so you can very quickly and easily melt & stir your wet ingredients for both the cake and the icing.
  • Get creative with your decorations! Obviously, the sprinkles provided are to die for, but don’t hesitate to add some coconut shavings, your favorite fruit, or some delicious nuts.
  • Feel free to throw your leftovers in the fridge and eat later in the week. The recipe says it should be consumed quickly, but I didn’t find that my dessert suffered over time. Since it’s vegan and dairy free, it’s not like you have to worry about any animal byproducts going over time, because there are none. My cake lasted nearly a week in the fridge, and probably could endure longer if I hadn’t eaten it all so quickly!

OTHER CAKE IN A CRATE GOODIES
WE’RE DYING TO TRY:

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 7.48.29 PM Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 7.48.46 PMScreen Shot 2015-12-15 at 8.47.16 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


With love,

Kendra Signature with Photo