HeartFit for Duty

Last month I had the opportunity to become a new patient at HeartFit for Duty. HeartFit for Duty provides in-depth cardiac and metabolic wellness programs and offers advance medical testing for first responders.

Obviously, this stay at home mom is not a first responder but I am married to one, which qualified me to be able to benefit from the abundant medical testing and nutrition counseling that they offer.

I think we all know that when you and your husband are on board with making healthy changes together a positive outcome and the long term success greatly increases.

My Initial Appointment 

Josh and I both saw Megan McCarthy for our appointments. We went on separate days and each of our visits lasted an hour. We went fasted and had our blood drawn, vitals taken, and were then shown to a room where we took a glucose test.

After drinking that lovely liquid sugar, Megan came and went over my medical history and what my goals were moving forward. Because of the history with the autoimmune disorder she added another blood test to my labs, looking for gene mutations. More on this later.

From there I met with the nutritionist and was given a list of what I should and shouldn’t be eating as wells as an exact breakdown of my daily macros. Daily I am now consuming around 1860 calories and eating 15% (70g) carbohydrates, 50% (103g) fat, and 35% (163g) protein. I so appreciated all the information I received that first appointment and before I left I had my blood drawn one last time to retest my glucose level.

The Follow Up Appointment 

Josh and I had our follow up appointment two weeks ago and we went together. This was one month after our initial appointment. Several of the labs are done at Boston Heart and it takes a few weeks to get the results back.

Our follow up appointment lasted an hour (and we had all three kids with us too) and it was so informative! The kids were seriously amazing while we sat in the office with Megan, and Josh and I were so proud of how well they behaved.

She went over every single lab that was done on each of us! I won’t bore you with all the details but here are a few highlights.

  • Cholesterol. Both of us have things we need to address in this category. Josh and I both need to increase our Omega 3 (EPA + DHA = Total Omega) to at least 2,000mg/day. I am taking Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega and Josh is taking SFH Fish Oil.
  • My vitamin D was super low so I am supplementing with 5,000 IU/day. I am using NOW D-3 5,000 IU.
  • I also learned that I have a MTHFR gene mutation. I will now be taking a folate supplement for the rest of my life. This mutation causes inflammation in the body and doesn’t allow for the absorption of folate and other B vitamins. I am taking Pure Encapsulations to supplement this.
  • My liver showed inflammation as well and my body is not properly processing sugar. This means ditching the cookies, bread, and other sugar loaded snacks and foods to try and lower my blood glucose levels and also my elevated AST (liver function).

Nutrition and Lifestyle Changes

I have significantly changed up what I have been eating. Here is an example of what I was eating before and what I am now currently eating.

Breakfast

  • Before: Rice Cereal (I love this for breakfast!)
  • Currently: 2 Scoops of Unflavored Promix Protein Powder, 1/2 Avocado, 1 Tablespoon Almond Butter, 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract, 3-5 drops of liquid Stevia, and Almond Milk blended together.

Lunch

  • Before: Whatever the kids were eating.
  • Currently: Some sort of salad with 4 ounces of chicken. Lately this has been romaine, tortilla strips, avocado, chicken, and assorted veggies.

Dinner

  • Before: Some combination of veggies, brown rice, and chicken.
  • Currently: Lots of vegetables and 4 ounces chicken or a lettuce bun burger with a side of bone broth.

Snacks

  • Before: Anything and everything. Dried mangos, bananas, apples, fruit snacks, chips, cookies, toast. Mainly anything that has high amounts of carbs.
  • Currently: Vega Protein and Greens Shake, Almonds, and drinking lots and lots of water.

I have been exercising more consistently the past several weeks and just recently actually started looking forward to my own workouts again. If you ever feel unmotivated to workout I am right there with you.

Parenting in this season of my life is exhausting and I mean that in the best way possible. After Jesse was born I knew it would take me a few months to figure out our new routine as family so I put zero pressure on myself in regards to exercise. The last five months have been great and I am so glad that I allowed myself time to recover from pregnancy and to adjust to life as a family of five.

Josh and I will go back in 90 days for more labs and to reassess if what we are doing is making a difference for our overall health. I am very grateful to have been able to participate in this with Josh. Thank you HeartFit for Duty for allowing spouses to tag along in your preventive health care program!

If you are local and a first responder I highly recommend looking into this program! And if you or your spouse works for Mesa Fire and Medical Department call and make an appointment. Josh and I had no out of pocket cost and it is a great resource for you and your family!
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Once a Month Meals & Instant Pot Review

Disclosure: The following post contains affiliate links. This means if you purchase an item from a link I provide to those shops, I might receive a commission. I only share products and services that I would personally use and think are a good fit for my readers. Thank you for supporting the brands that support our family. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.

In the less than a month our family will be growing from a family of four to a family of five. Our baby is due to arrive in the middle of November, if not a little before, but as of right now, in just under a month we will welcome this new baby to our family.

I knew that I wanted to try to stock our freezer with several meals before the baby arrived so I would have nutritious food available for myself and my family. The problem was I had absolutely no idea how to go about making meals ahead of time or what type of meals I should even attempt to freeze.

Several months ago I bought an Instant Pot and it has been my favorite purchase in the last year. If you aren’t familiar with the Instant Pot it is a programmable pressure cooker that can dramatically cut the time you spend in the kitchen and allows you the ability to not have to monitor the oven or stovetop. Special thank you to my friend Jeanette for sharing how much she adored her Instant Pot which led me to purchase my own!

instant-pot-brown-rice

I have been attempting to streamline my kitchen over the last few weeks and decided to take the gigantic bag of rice we purchase monthly from Costco and divide it up into individual 2 cup bags. In case you were curious, out of this 12 pound bag of rice I had 14 two cup bags and 1 one cup bag. It is so much cheaper buying rice in bulk and cost just under $15. Cooking rice in the Instant Pot is the easiest thing to do. You simply need to place 2 cups of brown rice inside the Instant Pot with 2.5 cups of water and set it on manual for 22 minutes.

The way I cook our dinners now has drastically changed thanks to the Instant Pot. This got me wondering if maybe I could find a few recipes that I could freeze and put directly into my Instant Pot. A quick search on google led me to discover a website called Once a Month Meals.

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When I started searching the website it was like the clouds above my head parted open and light from heaven streamed down on me as angels sang Hallelujah. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, but in all seriousness I knew I had just hit the freezer meal jackpot.

Once a Month Meals gives you everything you need to shop, prep and cook the bulk of your monthly meals in just one day — and freeze those meals for when you want to eat them. To start you can pick a meal plan that is based on 7 different dietary preference or you can customize your own.

I decided to customize the meal plan for our family only because we like to eat gluten, dairy, and egg free as much as possible. I also wanted all of our meals to be able to be cooked in the Instant Pot.

Currently, Once a Month Meals has 50 recipes specifically using the Instant Pot but their entire recipe library is huge and they have over 600 meal plans that you can choose from. If you decide to use one of their menu plans you can always swap recipes out to create a menu that best fits your needs.

I also want to mention that the recipes are easily able to be adapted to the needs of your own family. For example, our family stays away from soy and two of the recipes I selected called for soy sauce which I swapped out for coconut aminos.

When your menu is finalized you print out the shopping list, prep instructions, cooking day instructions, recipes, labels, and thaw sheet. Everything is organized for you to be able to succeed in prepping meals ahead of time for you and your family!

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once-a-month-meals-freezer-label

My customized menu included…

  • 2 Breakfasts: Cherry Date Breakfast Bars and Sweet Potato Apple Hash
  • 7 Instant Pot Dinners: French Dip Sandwiches, Chicken and Rice Soup, Healthy Roots Chili, Honey Bourbon Chicken, Paleo Mongolian Beef, Paleo Tacos el Pastor, and Thai Chicken Thighs
  • 2 Snacks: AIP Pumpkin Bites, and Almond Butter & Bacon Energy Balls
  • 3 Side Dishes: Peas, Cauliflower, and Broccoli

Each recipe serves 4 and was doubled. When I was finished prepping all my meals my freezer was filled with 14 dinners!

There is no way I would have been able to have done this without Once a Month Meals. Everything was laid out perfectly and the directions were very easy to understand.

It took me a total of 8 hours to make, bake, and freeze all of these recipes. Not all of the recipes needed to be baked ahead of time which saved hours of prep work for me in the kitchen.

I feel so accomplished and proud of myself that at 35 weeks pregnant I was able to fill my freezer with healthy meals and snacks for myself and my family that are made with real food. The 8 hours it took me to complete this menu plan left me super tired and my body was ready to sit down after having been on my feet all day but it was so worth it!

I love that when I ready to make a meal I just need to let it thaw enough to remove it from the freezer bag and it can go into my Instant Pot frozen! Yes, you read that correctly, it can be cooked from frozen in the Instant Pot. Plus it will be fully cooked and ready to eat in an hour!

When I froze my meals for the Instant Pot I froze each meal in a freezer bag that was placed in a bowl, pot, pan, or anything else I could find in my kitchen that would fit inside my Instant Pot. I wish I could say this was my brilliant idea but it came from the Once a Month Meals website. They seriously have included everything to make you as successful as possible when prepping your meals.

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Thankfully all the meals fit into my freezer to freeze. I was a little nervous to see how they would fit. 14 was the magic number of meals to make at once for the size of my freezer.

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The next day I removed the meals from the freezer so I could take them out of the containers.

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Amazingly they all fit back into the freezer perfectly and I even had the top shelf left empty!

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The total cost for all these recipes was $300. I purchased organic meat and produce and had to go to several stores to buy everything that was needed. Depending on the menu you choose, the region you live in, how you shop, and how big your family is the cost of your meals will vary. Once a Month Meals reports that shopping for a monthly menu can average between $150-300.

The shopping trip happened a day before the prep work and two days before the recipes were put together. When you are doing freezer meals you want to think of the process as more of a marathon than a sprint. Shopping, prepping, and freezing are best done in phases and not on the same day.

With a four year old, two year old, and newborn this will be the best gift to myself! Having a fully stocked freezer with meals and snacks ready to go makes me so happy!

I can see myself making more meals and snacks ahead of time for my family especially in the month or two after the baby arrives if these recipes are successful. The day spent in the kitchen is worth the time if it allows me to prep so many meals at once.

I obviously didn’t cover everything but hopefully this gives you a good idea of what I did to plan ahead for our meals. Let me know if you would like me to post an update on the meals after they have been cooked. I would be happy to do that if it would be helpful.

Once a Month Meals has two membership options for you to choose between. You can select either a $16 monthly subscription or a $170 yearly subscription. Regardless of whether you choose the monthly or yearly option, your membership will give you access to all nine menus and associated documents (shopping, recipes, instructions, etc.) as well as the ability to mix and match recipes from different menus to create your own custom menus in MenuBuilder.

I would love to know if you have ever made freezer meals? Do you own an Instant Pot?

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Grocery Shopping at Natural Grocers

Last week Josh and I had the opportunity to attend an event at the now opened Natural Grocers on Val Vista and Williamsfield in Gilbert. This is Natural Grocers 121st store. I also thought it would be fun to share our grocery shopping trip with you and show you what we purchased on this visit.

Natural Grocers Val Vista

Grand Opening Event

The event we attended focused on educating about Natural Grocers and their commitment to quality food and supplements. We were treated to a wonderful meal that included a green salad, chickpea salad, chicken salad, fruit, and the hands down best vegan and grain free cookie I have eaten!

Natural Grocers VIP Meal

Why You Would Want to Shop at Natural Grocers

Natural Grocers does NOT carry products that contain artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives. They do NOT sell hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils. My favorite thing about Natural Grocers is not having to search between conventional and organic produce! You will only find USDA Certified Organic Produce at Natural Grocers.

100% Organic Produce - Natural Grocers

They also believe healthy foods and nutritional supplements should be affordable to everyone and they are the low price leader in this industry and they will price match. During this shopping trip we wanted to see what the prices were on items we typically purchase at Sprouts and Whole Foods. If the items were cheaper we purchased them, more on this later.

Things to Know Before You Shop at Natural Grocers

They don’t have a butcher but they do carry Mary’s, Applegate, and several other popular non-GMO brands. The reason they do not have a butcher is to keep their costs down so they can provide better discounts throughout the entire store to their customers. Natural Grocers is also a bagless store. Either bring your own, buy reusables from them, or grab some boxes at checkout to carry out your purchases.

Another point I want to mention before I get to our shopping trip is that each store has a Nutritional Health Coach that is available for FREE consultations to shoppers to answer questions on special diet needs, design eating programs, and can educate consumers on individual health and fitness goals.

Sara is the Nutritional Health Coach at the Val Vista location and has been a dietician for 11 years. She began her career in hospital and clinical settings but soon realized that she didn’t truly believe in what she was being trained to tell her patients about nutrition. She is thrilled to work for a company that wants to promote whole food eating and she would love to work 1 on 1 with anyone in the community looking to better their health through nutrition.

Natural Grocers is very big on community education and has a separate room at the front of the store for this purpose. Be sure to check out their monthly calendar in store to see upcoming events you can participate in FREE of charge.

Our Shopping Trip

Onto our shopping trip! We wanted to really try to stay true to what we would normally buy during our weekly grocery shopping trip. We tend to buy most of our organic meat these days at Costco as well as whatever organic produce they have in stock. In order to give a good idea on what a typically shopping trip would cost we did purchase Mary’s chicken while at the store. We did also buy a few supplements which would normally not be an item we include in our grocery budget.

Supplements

We LOVE Natural Grocers vitamin selection! There many great quality brands to choose from and by far one of the lowest prices for many brands we have seen locally. If you are running low on your vitamins be sure to check out their prices before you purchase at another local store. We ended up purchasing several different supplements along with a body wash and sunscreen on this trip.

While Natural Grocers does carry a plethora of different brands they unfortunately do not carry the major brands that we use in our household. Want to see what supplements we use in our house and why we picked these brands? Additional Reading: Vitamins and Supplements for a Healthy Family

Produce

We didn’t go crazy in the produce department, but we easily could have. All the produce is so pretty and vibrant. Our kids adore watermelon and we snagged up this almost 10 pound organic beauty for $5.63.

Shopping Trip Produce

Meat and Cheese

For meat and cheese we purchased Mary’s chicken, our beloved Applegate Organic Hotdogs (and yes I know they are still hotdogs but if you are going to eat a hotdog this is the brand to choose) they were a full $1 cheaper then what we normally purchase them for, and Rumiano cheese. The cheese was hands down an amazing deal! Each block was $3.99! These typically cost us between $5.69 – 5.99 a block. With the price being so amazing I bought several and put the extras in the freezer.

Shopping Trip Meat and Cheese

Bulk Section and Inner Aisles

And then we came to the bulk section and inner aisles of the store. We really try hard not to go crazy in the inner aisles of grocery store and shop the majority of our food along the outer edges. Which is a really good thing for me because at Natural Grocers my new found favorite cookie dough, Capellos, is in the refrigerated section along the outer edge of the store.

Bulk Foods - Natural Grocers

Some of our favorite brands/products we wanted to mention that Natural Grocers carries are Namaste Waffle and Pancake mix (this is so good and gluten free and GMO free) and Yummy Earth Fruit snacks (the kids love these, the price was $5.69 for a 10 pack, and let’s be honest we love them too). Josh was also really happy to peruse the bulk section and he discovered an assortment of raw/organic nuts and coconut date rolls.

Shopping Trip Bulk Foods and Aisles

Total Cost of Shopping Trip

I am sure, by now, you are all wondering how much money we spent on this little shopping trip. While we only left the store with two reusable bags filled with our purchases and carried out our watermelon we did feel like we still had a very successful shopping trip. Our grand total was $240.78.

Natural Grocers Shopping Trip Receipt

Now this amount also included supplements that wouldn’t normally be on our list and we also were kindly given a $30 gift card after the VIP event that we applied to this amount. If we subtract the supplements, soap, and sunscreen and the gift card from our total our shopping trip cost $141.26.

Final Thoughts and Overall Impression

I do feel like we did get some good deals on products and brands that we normally buy but there were a few items that we typically purchase that we had to pass on at Natural Grocers. We always buy organic apple juice to add to the kids water bottles for flavor but found that because they don’t carry their own brand of apple juice the price on the brands they did carry were more expensive, $10.99 compared to $7.99. So we had to pass. We also buy canned coconut milk for smoothies and breakfast porridge and the canned organic coconut milk was $2.99 compared to the brand we normally buy $1.99.

Our overall impression after shopping at Natural Grocers was a positive one and we will definitely be back. We were happy with our purchases and what we were able to buy at better prices.

1625 E Williams Field Rd, Gilbert, AZ 85295

Store Hours: Mon-Sat 8am – 9:04pm, Sun 8:30am – 7:35pm

(480) 917-9000 | www.naturalgrocers.com

I want to hear from you! Have you ever shopped at Natural Grocers? What is your monthly food budget? 

PS…Natural Grocers also has stores in Gilbert (Baseline/Gilbert) and Chandler (Kyrene/Ray)!

PSS…While we were invited to the grand opening event and given a gift card to Natural Grocers this post was not sponsored or solicited. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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