Guest Post: Getting Back To Goodness With Eating & Exercise (Part 6)

This is a guest post by Brooke Benlifer.

Part Six of her Back To Goodness Series.

As most of you already know, Brooke is a Registered Dietitian and good friend of mine.

Fitting in exercise and healthy eating while traveling, an honest review on CrossFit, and knowing when to ask for help… it’s all in there.

Take it away Brooke!


Staying Healthy & Fit When Traveling

This summer, my family and I took off on a 10 day road trip with two toddlers in tow! We learned a lot, had great fun, and made lasting memories despite the blazing heat and hours spent in the car.

Fitting in exercise during travel isn’t always easy but it’s more than possible.

In fact, here’s four ways we were able to successfully prioritize eating well and exercise and make it happen.

1) We packed healthy non-perishables. Everything from wild tuna, dry roasted almonds, dried fruit, bananas, oranges, apples, pre-portioned & shelf stable brown rice, large water bottles which we refilled every chance we got, Tupperware containers, a couple sets each of metal and plastic utensils, and a roll of paper towels.

2) We shopped at a local grocery store every day or every other day for fresh veggies such as bell peppers, salad greens, carrots and tomatoes.

We also bought local fruits such as peaches and quick sources of protein which in our case was the healthiest, least processed rotisserie chickens we could find.

3) We made use of free breakfast buffets at the hotels where we stayed since they allowed guests to bring food back to their rooms. We took advantage of this by packing food in our Tupperware containers to eat later on in the morning.

This saved us another stop at a restaurant and also gave us a healthy start to the morning.

4) Since we were staying with friends and family, we brought some food of our own to keep in a small section of their fridge, guaranteeing that we’d always have healthy options available.


Making It Happen

There’s no question that fitting in exercise when traveling takes effort.

Another factor we had to consider was the weather. Almost every day during our trip, the temperature was between 100-110 degrees F.

Add in humidity and elevation and it could potentially be a recipe for disaster. We were determined to get it done and we did, whether it was trails we jumped on or the hotel gym for a couple of cases.

I know me and I know that I get cranky if I don’t get my workout in and who wants to be in a car for hours with a cranky person?!

In addition to the health benefits, working out while traveling offers excellent ways to explore new places.

My husband and I always make sure to pack workout clothing, shoes, and headphones. We decide ahead of time, usually the night before, what our morning plan will be.

During out trip, we took turns. While one of us went for a quick run, the other stayed with the kids.

I also incorporated the Wahoo 7 Minute Workout fitness app from our phone that I completed either in a backyard, living room, or hotel room.

We also packed a set of dumbbells, which was super handy for quick strength training sessions. It was so much fun, even our nephews and friends’ kids joined in on the workout!

We brought our jogging stroller so that we could take the kids for morning walks as a family while checking out historic sections of town and the riverfront.

(Note From Mike: For more tips and suggestions on staying fit while traveling, check out these two blogs posts I wrote: Introduction To Travel Fitness I & Introduction To Travel Fitness II)


Quick & Healthy Recipes

Since getting back from our trip, I’ve creating several 5 minute recipes that are super satisfying.

Here’s a few of them:


Stuffed Bell Peppers

Cut a bell pepper in half lengthwise.

Stuff each half with roasted turkey breast and a generous dollop of Primal Kitchen mayo (substitute avocado or hummus). Enjoy!


IMG_5742Savory Salad

Toss the following in a large mixing bowl:

4 cups leafy greens, 4 oz protein (fish/chicken/turkey/bison burger, etc.), ¼ cup macadamia nuts, 1 Tbsp flavored balsamic vinegar (I like lemon or blackberry) and 1 Tbsp healthy fat (I like Primal Kitchen mayo but you can substitute any healthy oil such as avocado, olive or walnut).


5 Minute Omelette

Instead of using a frying pan and a plate, cook your eggs in the microwave. I do this all the time and it turns out really well. I do this for everyone in the family. I even add in cooked quinoa and kale in the kids’ omelets.

You can use egg whites or whole eggs that you whisk with a fork prior to microwaving.

I generally microwave the eggs or egg whites for 5 minutes and add any leftover veggies to the uncooked mixture before microwaving, so that it is “baked in” when done…almost like a quiche.


Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Halve your Brussels sprouts lengthwise and add to a frying pan along with a few tablespoons of butter or coconut oil.

Cook until slightly blackened and crispy and serve with ravioli, chicken sausage or brown rice. I even add a little drizzle of natural peanut butter to the mixture.

It may sound strange but it is delicious. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.


Almond Butter Lettuce Wraps

Take a large lettuce leaf (Romaine works beautifully) and spread it with a thin layer of almond butter (approximately 1 Tbsp).

Then roll the lettuce leaf up, from top to bottom, creating a little roll “sandwich”.

This decadent treat is healthy and chock full of Vitamin E, magnesium and healthy fat! All for only 100 calories!

Ever since the Paleo diet and other wheat free programs gained popularity, lettuce wraps have become a staple item at many restaurants aiming to cater to consumers who want an alternative to bread and buns. I love lettuce wraps and use them very often for my clients and for myself.


No CrossFit For Me

I mentioned last month that I was going to try CrossFit, and I did!

What I found was that, while it definitely provides a great workout, it wasn’t for me, at least not at this point in my life.

I realized that I was getting a better workout at home, on my own.

Having to drive somewhere to work out and have my kids in childcare does not interest me, unless it’s something that’s just amazing and blows me away – which for me CrossFit wasn’t and didn’t.

I know that I can get a butt kicking workout right outside my door, or indoors too for that matter, and so can you.

I’m fortunate to live in a hilly area, so the geography challenges me on a daily basis.

In addition, I have a variety of dumbbells, a couple of kettlebells, a yoga mat and some great DVDs.

(Note From Mike: Here’s how to create your own at-home gym for less than $100 so that you never miss another workout again.)

I also use a fitness app and a timer on my phone and am always researching quick and challenging workouts I can integrate seamlessly into my day.

I love making use of tidbits of time if I want a little extra workout! And I love that I can do it all in an hour or less or more or choose to make it longer by taking the kids on a long walk with friends.

With CrossFit, I found that I just didn’t like it.

While I do believe exercise is something that should continuous challenge us, I also believe it’s something we should enjoy.


Personal Training Certification

Speaking of enjoyment, I have been deep in study mode as of late.

I’ll have my personal training certification from ACE by the end of 2015!

(Note from Mike: Awesome!….Congrats Brooke!)

I am really looking forward to being able to help my nutrition clients not only from a nutritional standpoint, but from an exercise one as well.

I’ve been inspired by our very own Mike Goncalves, right here from The Wellness Bucket – someone who’s not only a good friend of mine, but also a top notch personal trainer.

I used to have my certification as an aerobics instructor and worked at a gym for years as a teenager, but I put this on the back burner as I completed my nutrition degree and internship toward becoming a dietitian.

My passion for fitness though has always kept me interested in pursuing this goal and now I will be doing just that.


Asking For Help

There was one particular week last month that challenged me big time.

In addition to my daughter getting sick and me being severely sleep deprived as a result of being up with her at night while she was sick, my kids also learned how to do like 10 new (and dangerous) things this same week and of course, they decided to test them all out on Mom.

Wait, there’s more. I was also dealing with a ton of necessary but needless phone calls in addition to all of my usual responsibilities.

I felt like I needed an extra pair of adult hands to assist me.

It didn’t take me long to come to the realization that I need to get comfortable asking for help.

I began to think to myself… that’s what wonderful neighbors and good friends are for, both of which I am fortunate to have.

Part of self-care and well being is reaching out and asking for help.

Sometimes I try to do it all myself and end up exasperated and feeling like I am losing my mind.

It’s possible some of you are probably going through very similar circumstances and can relate to where I’m coming from.

If so, do as I did and ask for help.


Race Day Shenanigans

IMG_5740Let me switch gears and tell you a bit more about this month’s race. It was held down at the marina on Sunday and was lots of fun.

We recruited two neighbors and good friends to run with us. My husband pushed the kids in the jogging stroller too – it was awesome!

The morning of the race, as I went to grab a clean pair of running socks from my drawer, I accidentally grabbed my son’s Nike socks (read, toddler socks) without knowing it.

Long story short, I ran a 5K run in my son’s socks.

They barely stretched to the middle of my feet. I plastered my heels with multiple Band-Aids from the kids’ diaper bag that I had with me.

I knew I bought that Costco sized box of Band-Aids for a reason (haha).

Well I survived and to tell you the truth, I didn’t even notice the difference once the race got started. I think the Starbucks coffee may have kicked in by then too.

I came in 3rd in my age group which I was happy with.

Next month, we’re running a 4 mile coastline race, which should be picturesque.

We ate brunch after the race with our friends and the kids ate lots of “nanas”, kid talk for bananas.

My husband and I can’t help but feel bad for our servers at the restaurants we go to since our sweet kids often leave a 10 foot radius of food around our table.

In addition to doing our best to clean up, we also leave an extra-large tip too for good measures.


New & Noteworthy

Here’s some additional news I’m excited to share with you for this upcoming month.

I am officially part of Chris and Heidi Powell’s (from Extreme Weight Loss) DietBet!

If you are not familiar with the program, you pay $30 to enter the game.

If you lose 4% of your body weight in the month time frame, you are automatically a winner and the pot of money is split amongst the winners.

I love this for several reasons:



By entering the game and by going public about entering it, I am holding myself accountable.



The sense of pride from doing something I set out to do, in this case it’s lose 4% of my body weight in a one month time frame, is invaluable , as is proving to myself (and my kids) that with determination and effort, the sky’s the limit!



Something that both Heidi Powell and Mike Goncalves believe in and often mention is the power in keeping promises you make to yourself.

I notice that I’m excellent at keeping promises that I make to others, but not always the ones I make to myself because of the feeling I get of not “deserving success.”

This is a self-esteem issue more than anything else and I know it.



Although they don’t know it yet, I am going to donate 100% of the profits from my DietBet winnings to the hospital staff that took such amazing care of my children after they were born prematurely.

My kids are healthy and happy now, and this is in large part due to the nurses, doctors and ancillary staff that poured their hearts, knowledge and resources into caring for my children.

My hope is that my contribution helps to make a difference for another child.



I am finally learning to be comfortable with the idea that I am deserving of looking and feeling my best! I realized that losing 4 to 6% of my body weight gets me to my wedding weight.

Although I didn’t weigh myself on my wedding day, I know how great I felt, all of the energy I had, and confidence I felt then too.

It’s where my body was for years prior to having children and it’s not far from where I am now.

I know that it’s absolutely doable.


Happy Anniversary

It also comes just in time for my wedding anniversary too… how perfect is that?!

My husband and I are planning to celebrate with a decadent Whole Foods salad bar creation. We create what I like to refer to as “salad mounds” & take in the sunset at the beach. I’m excited and looking forward to it.

Here’s to getting back to goodness with a few goals of your own.

I’d love to hear about all the wonderful things you’re up too as well!

Let me know in the comments below.


BrookeBenlifer1Brooke Joanna Benlifer, RD is a Cornell University graduate and Registered Dietitian. She currently lives in San Diego with her husband and twins.

“My passion is preventative health through optimal nutrition. I want to lead people toward healthier, more fulfilling lives.”

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