You know how important it is to eat a healthy diet. And you really want to eat healthy. But there is that culprit….TIME. By the time you get home from work, school, the gym, the grocery store, or (fill in your own time thief here), you are either too tired or just not motivated to cook. So you end up picking up some fast food and vow to do better tomorrow. Sound familiar?
Meal prepping is more than the latest fad. It is a way to provide yourself with home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients and little to no preparation time. It can save you time and money and may in the long run, save your diet. Just a little bit of time spent in the kitchen now will ensure that your meal prep for the week ahead will be easy, peasy.
What is Meal Prepping?
Meal prepping is pretty much what you would think, preparing meals ahead of time. But to break it down a bit more, there are different types and degrees of prepping.
- Make ahead meals
- Cooking an entire meal for you or your family and sticking it in the freezer or refrigerator until you plan to eat it. If you are roasting a chicken, perhaps you roast two and save one for later. Buy in bulk and save time by cooking once for multiple meals.
- Individually packaged meals
- Think lunches and pack up your proteins and veggies along with healthy snacks for your week ahead. You might make a pot of soup and store it in portion sized containers so that you can heat it up later in the week. Use your left-overs! That second roasted chicken could be chicken salad, buffalo chicken dip, or on top of greens.
- Ingredient prep
- Chop those veggies or mix those spices, as a plan for meals later on in the week. Boil and peel the eggs and store in airtight containers. Make the sauces and dips ahead of time.
How Do I Begin?
- Meal prepping is best with a plan in place. First decide how many meals you want to plan and then develop your menu. Check your pantry and refrigerator and then get your shopping list in order. Try to keep it simple at first. You do not need to start out with overly complicated recipes or food plans. Plan for a shorter amount of time or number of meals to begin with. If you aced this week, add a little more next week!
- When will you prep? Choose a day when you can schedule extended time in the kitchen. Make use of appliances like slow cookers and instant pressure cookers to save you time. Maybe you don’t have four hours to prep, so chop veggies one day, put the dish together the next day. Meal prep should be enjoyable, so do it when you don’t feel pressured.
- Organize your tools. You really don’t need any special equipment, but it is handy to have jars or resealable containers to hold the meals in. Make sure you have labels and a marker so the containers can be dated and marked with the contents. Have measuring cups and spoons available for correct portioning. Make sure there is room in the fridge or freezer to store all this deliciousness, too.
- Shop. It is best to do this after a meal, since you will stick to the list a whole lot better if you are not hungry. When buying fresh food, purchase only what you plan to use, but on frozen or shelf stable items, it doesn’t hurt to buy extra if it is on sale.
- Preparation should begin with the meal that takes the longest to prepare. If packaging multiples, such as chicken salad with celery and pimento cheese dip, make an assembly line so that you can equally portion the meal components. Make sure you label clearly what is in each package as well as the date prepared.
- Enlist help! If you are prepping for a family or multiple people, get them involved. Your family should know what it takes to prepare meals, may look forward to the menu more, and will enjoy spending time with you.
- Don’t forget snacks. Snacks are sometimes necessary when we have long times between our meals and need a healthy option. By planning ahead, you will have your go-to snacks available without the temptation of reaching for a bag of chips or cookies.
- Change it up! Meal prep does not mean that you eat the same food day after day. Add sauces, seasonings, etc. to change to flavor profile.
What Foods Can I Prep?
The list of foods that can be prepped is endless. But don’t just think cooking; think portioning as well. If you are going to have almonds for a snack, it is best to portion into individual bags instead of eating the huge bag that you got from the market. Salads, nuts, and veggies can all be pre-portioned to save time and prevent overeating.
Meats, casseroles, and other entrees can either be cooked and refrigerated for a family meal or divided up into individual meals and frozen. Soups and chilis are other good examples of healthy foods that can be made in advance and frozen for later consumption.
Some foods that you may not want to prep would be things like certain fruits and veggies. Avocados and apples may discolor if you cut them up ahead of time. Vegetable noodles, such as zucchini noodles, can be spiralized in advance. They will keep for a few days. Just don’t cook them until you are ready to eat or they can become mushy. If you are meal prepping salads, store your dressings in separate containers to avoid your vegetables wilting.
Meal prepping can be both time-saving and rewarding. It will help you continue with your healthy lifestyle and improve your daily food choices. The time spent on food preparation will help keep you on track. And you can rest easy knowing exactly what is in your food and ultimately, your body. Dr. Simonds Metabolics & Weight Loss are the leaders in helping patients shed those unwanted pounds and keep them off. We can help you attain your weight loss goals. Contact us today for more information.