Category Archives for "a dose of dean"

Create your perfect meal with the simple 5-step guide [Infographic]

Meal Combos limited only by your imagination

by Dean Carlson

When it comes down to it, who wants to really think about their food as "carbs, protein, and fats"? We just want great tasting food, and we want to make it as simply as possible. This guide is just what you have been looking for!

There are no secrets to getting and staying lean, feeling good, and building healthy eating habits for a lifetime. 

But there are strategies.

And maybe the most important strategy is to keep things simple. 

But don't confuse simple...with boring.

All-star chef Jennifer Nickle created this amazing tool that helps you build amazing meals that pack in maximum flavor with minimum effort.

Introducing the Perfect Meal cheat sheet.

Following the simple steps in this infographic, you'll be able to mix and match ingredients and flavors to create literally hundreds if not thousands of easy, healthy and delicious meals.

Download the infographic and print it out. Putting it in a binder keeps it handy in the kitchen and easy to carry to the grocery store. And don't be shy about passing it to your friends. Serious points!

Again, don't forget to download the PDF of this amazing "cheat sheet" so you have it handy next time you want to create the perfect meal.

Learn even more healthy eating strategies.

In ProCoach Nutrition Coaching, we give men and women just like you the strategies and support they have been missing to help them achieve their health and fitness goals. 

Over the course of 12 months, they build the skills and habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

One of the biggest complaints we hear about nutrition and fitness is that is just too confusing. And while it can be, once you get the personalized attention from an expert coach, the path becomes clearer and the journey easier.

3 Steps for Learning to Prep (and Love) Your Veggies [Infographic]

Sick of hearing how good vegetables are because you just don't like them? You haven't tried this!

by Dean Carlson

You know that eating plants is not only good for you, but necessary for optimal health and fitness. Yet ask how many people actually eat vegetables (more than a couple times a week) and you get crickets. Check this voodoo out. It's a 3-step formula created by some genuine ar-teeests when it comes to delicious food, James Heather and Jennifer Nickle. Resistance Is Futile!

It's no secret that just about every nutrition strategy out there, from Paleo to Vegan and everything in between has one thing in common:

Eat Your Veggies Already!​

But just because you know they are good for you it doesn't mean you are eating them, and you know what? I get it.

My recollection of veggies growing up were of soggy green beans, creamed spinach, and lima beans. (My dad loved lima beans, so mom made them. I did everything possible to avoid them, and truth be told still do.)

Part of being a human is that some memories, especially some bad ones, are really hard to get rid of. And when your whole life you had made it your mission to avoid vegetables, it's a hard habit to break.

Good News Alert

Veggies don't have to suck. True story. I used to HATE HATE HATE most vegetables. But I didn't know what I didn't know. HOW you prepare them, flavor them, and even when you eat them can turn a die-hard "vegaphobe" around.

If you are looking to improve your own veggie intake (and you know you probably should be), download the formula for your printer and stick it to your fridge for quick reference.

Again, to remind yourself to step outside your "plant-food" comfort zone, you can download this printable version of the above infographic.

Want more strategies for fine-tuning YOUR nutrition?

Diet's just don't work long term, but finding and sticking to a plan that work for you can be a lot harder than it seems.

That's why here at The Grateful Plate we work one-on-one with our coaching clients to help them find how to make eating healthy work for them and their busy lives. 

What I learned about nutrition from the Patriots big win.

One of the biggest struggles I have had, and still have with my nutrition, is "All or Nothing".

Either I am all out, 100% in. 

Or I'm not.

And while short burst of intensity can be good; a time of focus can help us get ready for that wedding we are in, or the anniversary vacation at the beach, those times should be rare. We should be using them to lose the "last 5 pounds", not try to lose 40 in 4 weeks.

The problem with intensity is that it cannot be sustained for long periods of time. You can only sprint so far before you exhaust yourself, and even more important, it breaks on this truth.

Consistency Beats Intensity.

For instance an appropriate training program 1 hour long 4 days a week is always going to achieve better results in the long run than training 4 hours 1 day a week.

"But it takes so long that way!"

Maybe. But I can't tell you how many times I went on a "strict diet", lost a few pounds, and then gained back more when I stopped.


And that's where "The Continuum" comes in. Life is not "all or nothing". Sometimes things are great, sometimes they are not. If you think about it, the only time you are not on a continuum is when you are dead - and then we don't have to worry about it anyway.  🙂

Here's what I mean:

To often we think we have to be "100%" to transform our body. But in reality, we just need to be steadily moving from left to right.

I am writing this a couple days after the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl after being down 28-3 in the third quarter.

How did they come back and win? Score a 25 point touchdown?

Not possible; so they did what they could do. Picked up a first down, then another one. They scored 3 points first, and they were happy they did. They could have been aggravated they didn't score a touchdown, but they had the long game in mind. Without those first 3 points, they would have not had an opportunity to score the next 28 and win.

Ever feel that way? Like I have to be perfect or it just doesn't count?

Next time, when you feel like you are 25 points down, and you want to give up...

Ask Yourself;

What can I do today to score the first 3 points?​

Until next time,


No Fry Chicken Wings

Just in time for the Big Game (or anytime), this wing recipe rocks!

Wing Sauce

  • 2/3 Cup Franks Hot Sauce
  • 1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook over low heat until the butter is melted. Whisk and enjoy!

Clean Up The Clutter

Its January already? Yes, I know it is the second week but that is the thought that went through my mind at the beginning of the year. Is there any one else like that?

I thought so.

Christmas and New Years are filled with fun, family, outings, shopping, and parties. Its crazy busy and all of a sudden January steps in. For most people life slows down just a bit but not for me. January is one of our busiest times of the year. Knowing this, Dean and I had to simplify life. Our menu plan had to be simplified. We didn’t want meals to creep up that we were not prepared for. If we did that our health gets pushed to the side.

With all the busyness we made that area simple for us. Our goal? Simple meals that we've eaten before. Nothing fancy but meals we knew we could count on. Meals our family already enjoyed.

What in the world does that have to do with you?

Well……. Are you busy? Is your plate full driving here and there with the kids? Getting to work? A Social life? Adding in time for the love of your life? Business meetings in the evenings? Saturday sports for the kids?

3 Strategies I Use to Get My Meals On the Table In January​

  1. Plan One week of meals: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This is going to take some planning and organization. Figure out which nights you will be home to cook dinner and which nights you need a quicker option (a go-to meal or something from the freezer). Then plan what you will make for dinner the nights you are home. Make sure you will have some leftovers for breakfast and lunch. Also make a plan for some breakfast and lunch options that are quick and easy. This will make creating your grocery list very simple. I then repeat my meal plan the next week. 

  2. Grocery Shop: Stock your fridge with lean proteins, eggs, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Fill your pantry with cooking staples such as (coconut oil, almond meal, and a variety of spices).

  3. Establish “Go-To Meals”: Pick 2-3 meals that can be prepared in about 15 minutes on those nights that you get home late and don’t feel like cooking. Our favorite is breakfast for dinner, and the recipe I make most often is Carlson Breakfast Hash. Use Your crock pot as much as possible. One of our favorite meals is Chicken Enchilada Soup.  My last tip/suggestion here is to cook several meals on the weekend and freeze some. 

Our Family Favorite to Make Each Week

Carlson Family Secret Meatball Recipe

Coconut oil

1.5 pounds ground beef (we use a mixture of venison and beef)

½ yellow onion, diced

1 egg, whisked

¼ cup almond flour

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon chili powder

Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and add onions. Cook until onions are translucent. In a large bowl, add ground beef, onions, egg, almond flour, and seasonings. Mix thoroughly using your hands. Roll into little bite-sized balls and place on a parchment paper lines baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs. Serve with the tomato sauce recipe from below.

Secret Tomato Sauce to go with the Secret Meatball Recipe

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, diced

4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried thyme)

½ medium carrot, finely shredded

2 28-ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand


In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 more minutes, until the carrot is soft. Add the tomatoes and juices from tomato cans and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt. The sauce can be refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for 6 months.

The end result of getting your meal planning done ahead of time?

You can relax knowing your plan is thought out in advance. You have planned your meals and therefore have a shopping list to be prepared for those meals. Your time frees up as you've taken the few minutes to plan and now it is time to execute the plan. You reap a multitude of benefits the whole day long knowing your meals are going to be less stressful, more organized.

To your best health,

Coach Nancy

Ten Nutrition Rules To Live By

1. You control the supply lines. You decide which foods to buy and when to serve them. Adults decide which foods are regularly stocked in the house. If its not available in the cupboard and fridge at home you are less likely to make a store run just for a craving.

2. Plan. Plan your meals including snacks if needed. A meal plan will save you time, energy, and aggravation. Knowing ahead of time what is the menu selection will afford you the opportunity to shop only for the items needed that week. You’ll  likely not forget to take items out of the freezer as needed. If you work off your meal plan when it comes time to make the meal, you’ll have everything needed to put the meal together. Don’t forget to also schedule times to eat your regular meals.

3. Quit the "clean-plate club. Please stop eating when you feel you've had enough. Lots of us grew up under the clean-plate rule, but that approach doesn't allow you to listen to your body tell you when feel full or satisfied. When you respond to feelings of fullness, you're less likely to overeat.

4. Try new foods/recipes. Food preferences are developed early in life, so offer variety. Likes and dislikes begin forming even when kids are babies. But that doesn’t mean you can’t develop different taste as you grow older. Try a new ‘old’ food. Prepare a food you didn’t care for in a different way. You never know it might just become a favorite.

5. Rewrite the menu. Who says you have to prepare Tacos every Tuesday and Spaghetti on Wednesday with Fish on Friday? It might surprise you how willing your family is to try a new recipe next week.

6. Drink calories count. Soda and other sweetened drinks add extra calories and get in the way of good nutrition. I don’t know of an adult who thinks of them as nutritious. But many of us will not part with our coffee/ latte topped off with sugar and cream or our Gatorade during a hot day. Alcohol? Again, calories you need to count in your day.

7. Put sweets in their place. Occasional sweets are fine, but don't turn dessert into the main reason for eating dinner. When dessert is the prize for eating dinner, we naturally place more value on the cupcake than the broccoli. Try to stay neutral about foods. Remember moderation is not once a day or even every other day.

8. Food is not love. Find better ways to say "I love you." When foods are used as a reward and to show affection, they start becoming a coping device for stress or other emotions. Enjoy time alone, listening to a favorite song, or buy a new pair of sunglasses. Try anything instead of using food as treats.

9. Kids do as you do. Be a role model and eat healthy. When trying to teach good eating habits, try to set the best example possible. Choose nutritious snacks, eat at the table, try different foods in a variety of ways, and don't skip meals.

10. Limit TV and computer time. When you do, you'll avoid mindless snacking and encourage activity. With limited TV and computer time, you'll find more active things to do. And limiting "screen time" means you'll have more time to be active With those you love together.

​There you have it, Ten Rules to Live By. Which one are you going to tackle first? 

To your Best Health,

Coach Nancy​

Three Things I learned at the Vet’s Office

Yearly I make my trek to the doctor for my physical. They take my height, my weight, they listen to my heart, they take my blood pressure. She makes sure I am healthy. She will ask me questions about my lifestyle, She ask questions about my family history, she will even ask me questions about work, my home life, my kids, my hubby. She always asks a lot of questions. Her goal is to get a good picture of me. She pronounces me healthy and I am off.

At times I visit my doctor when I am ill. Usually when I’ve waited well past a few days of being miserably sick and now I want relief or at my family’s insistence, they want relief from me. She again takes my height, my weight, looks, listens, and feels to determine what is wrong. She pronounces her findings and I am off.

Same scenario but just a bit different.

My dog, Buddy, also goes to his yearly doctor visit. They take his weight, listen to his heart, feel around to make sure all moves well. His doctor will also ask questions. But his first question always intrigues me, “What do you feed Buddy?” I didn’t think about this much until Buddy got sick.

While at this sick care visit, they did weigh him, they didn’t do much else. The vet came right in. His first question was “What was going on with our sick dog?” After describing how he was acting, his next question stunned me.

“What are you feeding Buddy?”.

I wasn’t at the vet for his nutritional counseling. I wanted him to help my dog feel better. I needed his help in that way. Of course Buddy wasn’t eating very much food but no one does when they are sick. The vet wasn’t as interested in what he had that day as much as what he is normally fed. In fact the dog doctor was directly linking my dog’s health with the food he was consuming.

Yes, Buddy, had an infection but the doctor explained how his regular diet had contributed to his poor health. I walked out of the doggie doctor’s office thinking "No duh, what applies to dogs applies to us humans too!"

Three Things I learned at the Veterinarian’s Office to help me from getting sick.

1. A healthy eating plan gives your body what it needs to work optimally, not just survive.

2.  Health–Ful means it contains a whole lot of foods that make me healthy.

3. A few bites of “under the table” foods are okay once in a while but I can’t make a habit of them.

So what does this miracle way of eating look like?

1. For us humans filling our plates with lots of vegetables, lean protein, a small portion of healthy fats and drinking lots of water.

2. Find foods that are high in the good stuff while limiting the foods that are highly processed is our key.

Eat as many “colorful foods” as you can throughout the day; real food - think fruits and vegetables. Eat green, purple, red, yellow, and blue. Nature has a very simple way of letting us know which foods are really healthy and full of nutrients - color.

3. While there isn’t any ‘bad’ food, there were some foods that don’t have the bang for the buck (or calorie) we are looking for. Those are foods we have in moderation. It’s a balancing act. Include whatever treats you want into an overall picture of a healthy diet. It’s not about totally taking them out but finding their place in your plan.

My Vet taught me that consistently feeding my animal great food, getting him some exercise, giving him access to water all the time, while limiting the treats was best for his health. It actually helped Buddy not get sick.

Why would I do less for me?

To your best health,

Coach Nancy

Perfectly Simple Recipes

Simple and Easy are two ingredients that aren't listed in a recipe but should be. How many of us look through recipes, find the one that looks the best, has ingredients we like, only to find out we have to keep on looking because it is too complicated. Worse yet, you don't have the specific tool or not sure how to make the cuts needed. Salmon tastes great any time of year. But I love it even more because it taste great with just a few seasonings. 

Perfectly Simple Salmon

2 ½ pounds of salmon. Preferably skinless

1 Tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the salmon on parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast salmon until just cooked. (It will be opaque). Probably 8-10 minutes.

Need a side dish that will go with just about anything? Need one that you can whip together quickly without a whole lot of prep time? I use the chopped cabbage mix sold in stores for coleslaw for this recipe to save me even more time. 

The Perfect Side Dish

This recipe is great with salmon or pork, steak or chicken. It really is the perfect side dish.

1 Tablespoon coconut oil

1.5 pounds cabbage (a mix of red and green is ideal);

1 large apple;

1 thinly sliced onion;

1 red chili, finely chopped;

1 Tablespoon chopped thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar;

2/3 cup chopped almonds;

Chop the cabbage finely and dry with a towel. Core and slice the apple. Stir-fry the apple for a minute in coconut oil until it just barely starts to soften. Remove the apple from the wok and set aside. Reheat the wok and stir-fry the onion for another minute with a little bit more cooking fat. Add the cabbage and stir-fry for another 3 minutes. Return the apple slices, add the thyme and cider vinegar and cover to steam for a minute. Add the almonds and stir well. Serve and enjoy!

Mix and match these recipes to different meals. Reheat a main dish but make "The Perfect Side Dish" to spruce it up. Try it with Golden Crusted Pork Loin




I just Can’t Seem to Get It Done

I recently had a conversation with a sweet person who is struggling to make continual progress. In fact she told me she was 'failing miserably'. I can relate to that. Many times in my life I have felt like I was given an insurmountable task. Often times I have success for a day or two, sometimes even a week before falling off the trail again. 

I came across some helpful tips that I thought I would share with you. I don't think I am alone when I just can't conquer a skill on a long term basis.

  • I like lists. What I like better than lists is a list that is all crossed off. One way to build a habit is to add it to your daily To Do list. Even if you feel like the task is so small that you don't need to add it to your list, for instance taking your daily vitamins. Allow yourself the feeling of accomplishment each day as you check it off the list
  • Find your Why? In fact find a deep why. Keep asking yourself why until you just don't have an answer anymore. I did this recently with a student here is her Why. Why do you want to lose 10 pounds? I want to be a size smaller in clothes. Why will being in a smaller size change things? I was that size before my last baby. Why or what does that size allow you to do or feel? It makes me feel happier. Why does a clothing size change your happiness? It makes me feel sexier and then I feel more loved. Why do you feel sexier? Because I have confidence in myself, instead of hiding myself.     Do you see how much more powerful having confidence is rather losing 10 pounds?
    • Start small for a quick reward. Usually when we can't seem to get a task done, it is just too big to conquer all in one day or one week. Its just too big. Taking your goal apart and dividing it into smaller more manageable bite size pieces you'll find greater success. That success can spur you onto more action. Your success is a party given just for you. Enjoy it soak it in. Learn from that success that more of these parties are around each corner. Just make those corners close together.
    • Find some peeps. Losing weight, getting healthier, becoming more fit is a popular there. It probably won't take a long time to find a friend or two looking to do something similar. I have a group of peeps that hang out together on Facebook. We jump into conversations that we want and just listen on other. This is a closed group so while we chat together, the whole world doesn't see it. "Happy Healthy Lives - No Food Guilt" is the name of our group. If you can relate to that title maybe this is the group of peeps you are looking for. No worries if its not, the important thing is to find some people to help you along your journey. 

You might find a combination of these will push you past your hurdle. It might be just one of these ideas that spurs you to reach your goal. But try them out. If one doesn't work, try another one. Find the one that works best for you. 

To your best health,

Coach Nancy​

Your BUT is Too Big! And How to Change It.

While driving in the car recently with Dean, he told me; "Your BUT is too big." Of course I was hearing it and not reading his words so I sat quietly for a minute stewing. 

Nancy Carlson 
Coaching Queen

After I realized he wasn't talking about my physical appearance but rather my reasoning behind my lack of action on a project, I calmed down just a bit. You see I was working diligently trying to get this monster project done and struggling. Have you ever been in that position? 

You see I kept feeling like I was stuck. That I had hit a point that I couldn't get over. As we talked about it, Dean kept hearing over and over...... "BUT this and BUT that."​ He heard all the reasons I couldn't get it done. 

My BUT was too big.

Instead of agreeing with me. He helped me to see that I could reduce the size of my BUT. (please realize this is a metaphor for my reasons, my excuses, my sticking points.)

We broke it down to smaller more manageable size pieces.

What does this mean to you?

Have you caught yourself saying: 

  • "I wish I could lose weight BUT........"​ 
  • "I'd love to plan out my meals BUT......."
  • "I can eat healthy most of the time BUT on weekends or at work or while on vacation or when I am visiting the in - laws"
  • "I want to drink more water BUT......"

Your BUT is too big. Try breaking it down into more manageable doses. 

  • I can lose weight by eating 3 satisfying meals when I am hungry.
  • I can plan my dinner meals Monday - Friday. I'll let Saturday and Sunday be for right now until I can tackle them. 
  • I can eat healthy through the week but I can also have a healthy breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. At some point I'll work on the rest of the meals but for now I'm content knowing I'm moving forward. 
  • I can drink more water when I am at work by leaving a water bottle on my desk as a constant reminder. 

Instead of changing your whole world right now. Take a small piece. Work on that until you have a good handle on it. Then take a bit more piece of that world to work on. Those small pieces done well, will become a habit faster by working at them little chunks at a time. 

To your best health,

Coach Nancy

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