Take the Cooking Transformation Challenge

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | June 6, 2016

Are you up for the challenge to start improving your health? Taking your health seriously means sacrifice and hard work, but the end results are so worth it, after a short time, it’s not even work at all!

In order to start feeling better, take this challenge:

For one week, prepare all of your meals and snacks at home!

People often say they don’t have the time or energy to cook after a long day of work and carting the kids around. Instead of cooking, they’ll end up eating out or ordering takeout, but could that simple decision be one of the reasons for the constant lack of energy?

Cooking at home gives you complete control over what goes into your body, so you can fill your diet with nutritious foods that’ll help you feel at your best. Commit to one full week of cooking at home, and when the week is over, ask yourself two questions:

  • How do I feel?
  • Was it really that hard?

For this challenge, every meal and snack should come from your kitchen. Where you eat is up to you, whether it’s at work or at your dining table, as long as you’ve prepared the food yourself. You’ll find that it’s not as difficult as it sounds, but the health payoffs are priceless! Below are steps to help you kick off your week of good home cooking!

  1. MAKE A PLAN
    You need to have a weekly game plan. It doesn’t have to be elaborate – just start with a daily or two-day plan that’ll save time on trips to the grocery store. Each meal needs to be balanced, so break down your planning into categories to include a serving of fiber-rich carbohydrates, a lean protein, and a healthy fat.For those super busy nights, choose convenient go-to ingredients. For example, you can make a delicious power bowl using quick-cooking quinoa tossed with chopped spinach, frozen organic pre-cooked chicken strips, and sliced almonds. Add a bit of sea salt, black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil and you have yourself a healthy and balanced gourmet meal! Having these ingredients in your kitchen is a must so that you can quickly put everything together.
  2. USE LEFTOVERS FOR LUNCH
    Making extra food each night to store in glass containers is one of the most efficient uses of your time in the kitchen. If you make a larger batch of meals, you could have lunch for yourself and your family tomorrow. Purchase high quality glass containers for cold leftovers, such as salads, and high quality thermal containers for hot items, such as soups and stews.
  3. FOCUS ON FLAVOR
    Everyone has different taste preferences. Some like it hot, while others like it sweet and savory. If you’re cooking for yourself, you can get really creative. If you’re cooking for others, you may need to adjust the flavors accordingly. Rather than being a short order cook, foster each person’s individuality. Meal time is an excellent opportunity for self-expression and getting to know one another. If your family loves spicy food, add crushed red pepper and spicy curry to their homemade power bowl. If someone else prefers something sweet and savory, add teriyaki sauce. Stick to your meal plan, but change up the condiments. It’s easy, flavorful, and fun!

After just one week, you’ll notice improvements in your health and wellbeing. You’ll also realize how simple and fun preparing your own meals and snacks can be. Challenge yourself to cook at home for another week and then for an entire month. Soon enough, it’ll become an integral part of your new healthy lifestyle!


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Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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