Happy New Year, friends!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season! Now it’s back to real life, right?

I’m excited to get back to blogging after a few very sporadic weeks of holiday-ing and vacation-ing and general lazy-ing.

I thought I’d quickly pop in today to talk fitness and nutrition. I mean, it is the first week of January after all.

{Here’s another post I wrote January of last year with a detailed look at some of my favorite healthy meals + a few other tips}.

And before you roll your eyes and go find a new blogger to follow, let me assure you, that this is NOT a show-you-selfies-of-me-in-my-sports-bra kind of post, nor is it an advice dispensing post.

Mel's Kitchen Cafe

You know as well as I know that I am not a nutrition or fitness expert. Ha! Far from it.

But I am a busy wife, mom, and food blogger who tries pretty hard to figure out a balance with both of those aspects, and I get asked a lot, a lot how that’s going.

I guess my go-to line of “I really just exercise to support my eating habit” doesn’t always cut it.

After starting the Whole30 last year (I made it seven days and I’m still irritated that I’ll never get that week of my life back) and a 10-day sugar detox the year before that (worst experience ever), I’ve found that in terms of nutrition and “dieting,” moderation and small goal setting is key for me.

Mel's Kitchen Cafe

When I restrict completely, I end up crashing and then binge eating quadruple the calories I was trying to cut.

I totally get that the above programs (and many others!) REALLY DO work for so many people. And I think it’s awesome! Honestly. I do.

But I’ve learned that super extreme changes and routines only lead to failure for me; I’m mostly after a longterm plan that is sustainable (and I know it’s a character flaw, but I can’t exist without a little bit of carbs, cheese, and chocolate).

I think we can all agree that there are a million different ways to approach exercise and nutrition…and there’s no one RIGHT WAY. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa.

But in case it can help anyone (and to help keep myself more accountable!), here are a few of the ins and outs of how I approach fitness and nutrition.

Chopped Thai Vegetable Salad

As a quick sidenote, although I don’t do these programs now, I had great success about 7 1/2 years ago joining Weight Watchers and shedding 15-20 pounds after having my 4th baby, and more recently (for several months last year), I used the LoseIt! app for nutrition tracking and really liked it in terms of ease, interface, and success.

And because I know it will come up, no, I’m not planning on adding nutrition labels/facts to my recipes at this time. Sorry! There are tons of free apps and nutrition calculators online to help with that (be watchful and careful as you pull recipes from online sources; I’ve found that many blogs and websites greatly exaggerate the serving size to make the nutrition facts seem much better than they really are).

My Ongoing Fitness/Nutrition Rules to Live By:


I joked about it above, but not only do I exercise to support my eating habit, but I do it largely for my mental health.

It’s amazing the difference in my attitude, confidence, productivity when I am exercising regularly.

I also totally understand that phases of life can suck you dry in terms of exercise.

When I had four kids, ages four and under, exercise wasn’t happening as regularly. Work, family life, health – all of that needs to be a balancing act in how exercise can be part of life.

For me right now in this current phase of life (kids ages 13 to 5), exercise is getting a little easier to fit in. Read: I don’t have as many excuses as I used to.

{And yes, shoveling rocks counts as exercise, in my book!}

Mel's Kitchen Cafe

For the last decade, I’ve been an exercise video junkie. That’s been my main form of exercise: P90X, T25, FitnessBlender.com, and many, many others, because I really like working out in the comfort and privacy of my own home.

Last July, for the first time ever, Brian and I joined a crossfit gym in our area (for locals, it is great for beginners AND longterm exercisers; I was always scared about crossfit, but I really have loved the experience so far).

Brian and I have been working out at the 5 a.m. class three or four mornings a week (and my friend Bethany comes most mornings with us, too!).

I’m not going to lie, the early morning wake up call has been killer for me (staying up late is in my blood…and it’s when I get a lot of my blogging tasks done), and I am ALWAYS tired.

As in, I can fall asleep at a moment’s notice and have fallen asleep more times than I care to admit in the middle of reading books to my kids.

But ultimately, it’s been so rewarding to a) exercise with Brian and champion each other as we conquer hard stuff (box jumps, I’m looking at you!)…

…and b) see some fitness goals really start to come to pass. I was so intimidated to exercise in public with other real, live humans, but I haven’t regretted it for a second (except that one time I pretty much peed my pants trying to attempt double unders – that was a pretty special moment) <–sorry for the TMI, keeping it pretty real here.

Mel's Kitchen Cafe

I also have the Sweat app (by Kayla Itsines), and lately, I’ve been doing a BBG workout on non-crossfit mornings (the workouts are short and sweet, which I love).

And some mornings, all I do is walk on the treadmill.

Or pull the covers over my head and throw daggers at all forms of exercise (also, I hardly ever exercise on vacation unless it’s hiking or something like that where I can throw on some socks and tennis shoes and call it good, because life’s too short and so is vacation).

Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Truly though, for me, exercising first thing in the morning is key. You get me past 10 a.m. and my willpower to exercise is flat out gone.


1) Water, water, water. My hydroflask is always there waiting for me on the counter, and I take it wherever I go (yes, I’m one of those people).

I try to get at least 48 ounces in a day (64 ounces is my goal, but it can get a little uncomfortable at that level…ahem, if you know what I mean).

2) Dinner Cutoff. My go-to rule for lots of years has been not to eat after dinner. It’s amazing how such a simple, little guideline can really help the ol’ metabolism.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have fallen off the bandwagon big time the last few months with this (see the following January 2018 goals as a result). But when I follow it, man, it makes a world of difference.

Late night eating is fun, but not so good on my aging metabolism and waistline, and I’m recommitting to shutting off the eating after dinner is over!

3) Don’t Double Dip. Into dinner, that is! Again, I’m not perfect at this, but I really, really try to serve myself up a moderate helping of dinner and resist getting seconds and thirds (and/or picking at the leftovers as I clean up – dang it! all my weaknesses are coming out).

4) Breakfast Counts. I added this one late after the post went live; it’s one of my most important “rules” but I forgot to add it late last night when writing the post.

Breakfast! I try for protein-rich breakfasts that are also simple and easy. Like, a couple hard-boiled or fried eggs (love the organic butter-flavored coconut oil for this) and a kefir smoothie. Sometimes Greek yogurt with granola or a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

Mostly, I know that when I DON’T eat breakfast, I’m a ravenous, dangerous monster by 10 am and will eat anything in sight, chocolate cake or not which derails me for the whole day.

This delicious Santa Rosa chicken salad is so easy and fast to make and packed with the most delicious flavors!

January 2018 Goals

*To get a jump start on the year, I’m committing myself to a few stricter goals for January; we’ll see how long I last!*

-No sweets: Notice, I’m not saying “no sugar” – I’m simply trying to cut out blatant sweets (cookies, cake, brownies, ice cream, etc) for January with the caveat that I can have five (yes, five!) dark chocolate chips every day.

A girl’s still gotta live somehow.

I’m still eating fruit, honey, dates, etc. – all in moderation. And I’m not going crazy if there’s a pinch of sugar in dinner’s spaghetti sauce.

I’m not going after a full-on detox, just trying to be a little more sensible and intentional about what sweets I’m eating.

Considering I have two kids that are going on ten months of not eating sweets (their goal is to go a whole year!), I *think* I can do this.

{See you in February, beloved chocolate molten lava cake}

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

-Limited flour/grains: While I’m not eliminating these completely, for January, I’m trying to stick to one serving of whole grains a day (eating them for breakfast or lunch) with a lot of lean protein, vegetables, fruit and some dairy to fill in the rest.

A couple days in and so far, so good. I actually feel energized about eating fairly “clean” and focusing on healthy protein and lots of vegetables.

I think after the holidays, my body was ready for a Mel-style cleanse (meaning, nothing too dramatic!).

I’m probably stating the obvious here but preparation and planning for healthy eating is key.

If I have a fridge and pantry stocked with healthy options that are immediately available, I am less likely to start palming Doritos, twinkies, and white bread into my mouth when I’m hungry.

For breakfast, it’s going to be mostly a two egg + kefir smoothie kind of deal most mornings. I can feel it, and I’m ok with that lineup.

Lunch is looking like cottage cheese, deli meat rollups with some cheese, celery + peanut butter, quinoa patties, leftover healthy dinner, or whatever else I can conjure up before I accidentally eat the kids mac and cheese.

Dinner will be whatever I’m making for the family – but if they eat it over rice or pasta, I’ll opt for quinoa or spaghetti squash or maybe zucchini noodles?

This is my go-to list of healthy recipes I’ll be referencing and using often this month!

Well, thanks for sticking with me (if you made it this far!). I think all this mumbo jumbo may be simply to keep me accountable with nutrition AND exercising!

{PS: bringing a book on a family hike and parking it while everyone else continues to burn calories exploring and hiking is totally acceptable, too}

Mel's Kitchen Cafe

I can promise you some healthy, amazing meals and snacks coming up this month that I promise don’t taste like garbage. So keep an eye out for those recipes!

And don’t worry, I have some yummy sweets coming at you, too! Like, I said, moderation in all things!

As always, I’d LOVE to hear what fitness and nutrition goals you have this year!