No matter what your purpose, weight loss, weight gain, inflammation reduction, or blood sugar control, planning and prepping your food ahead ensures you have healthy choices available. Access to the right food means you won’t be grabbing something convenient that might derail your plan. Here are some tips to making the most of your prep time.
1) Plan a week at a time aiming to have a few core dishes you love. Two or three choices for breakfast, lunch and dinner will give enough variety without being overwhelming. Changing up these choices weekly will keep things balanced and fresh.
2) Don’t buy foods you truly don’t like. No matter how healthy, if you don’t like them you will be left unsatisfied and probably be making compost.
3) Do try one new fruit, vegetable or recipe every week. Look for “best way to prepare” type recipes for something new you are trying. Many folks have been swayed to love kale with a delicious well marinated kale salad
4) You can do planning, shopping and prep all in one go or break it up into smaller jobs to make it less tiresome. Planning can be done on a weekday evening, shopping on a Saturday and then prep on a Sunday. Consider creating a master grocery list for what you regularly buy and arrange it in the order of the aisles in your grocery store to prevent back tracking while shopping. Also, if you have little helpers in the house, consider creating a few small lists and send them off in search of items to help them learn about shopping and help make the shopping task quicker.
5) Make use of pre-washed, pre-prepared vegetables and fruit from the supermarket. Cutting squash is a hassle and a little bit dangerous, buy it peeled and cut. Bagged riced cauliflower saves having cauliflower bits all over the kitchen and having to wash that darned machine. Washed and trimmed beans are a bit more expensive but if it means you will actually use them it is well worth price. Trays of pre-cut veggies for snacking take away a fair bit of work and are minimally processed. As well, roasted chickens are available for quick protein options. Although higher in sugar and salt then home roasted versions, these are still a better option then a traditional fast food meal.
6) Get a good collection of containers. After a while you’ll just know what goes in which container – the round container of peeled julienne beets, the little container of chopped onion, the square box with the chopped peppers, the Ziploc filled with shredded cabbage. In this way you create your own ready prepped “salad bar”. Keeping a good collection of transport containers for lunches too will give you the tools to be successful.
7) Shake up homemade dressings like Maple Balsamic or Greek Garlic Lemon in small Mason Jars. This way you have homemade taste and health with premixed convenience. Make your own spice mixes and rubs so you can avoid nasty chemicals added to store bought.
8) Make your own “convenience foods”. Bake a pan of breakfast bars and wrap in parchment. You can use a waffle pan to bake waffles and then freeze to toast up on week days. Use small Ziplocs to create your own flavoured oatmeal packets filled with good things like dried cranberries and cinnamon without the added sugar . Prepackage nuts in small containers so you can just grab and go.
9) Precook protein foods so you have some grab and go choices that add to your satiety. Hard cook or poach eggs ahead for quick breakfasts and snacks. Roast a pan of chicken breasts with a simple rub for easy sliced chicken to use in salads or prepare turkey patties or meatballs for easy protein portioning.
10) At the end of the week use any odds and ends to cook up a batch of soup or make a hearty dinner salad. Get a pot of chicken broth boiling on the stove. Add some chopped garlic and a finely chopped onion. Chop all your leftover root vegetables, beans, broccoli, cauliflower or cabbage. Bring to a simmer and let cook till the vegetables are soft. If you have leftover chicken or meatballs, cut them up and add to the soup. For a heartier soup consider adding some rice or noodles. Voila, a whole new meal that uses up the last bits – something from “nothing”!
Meal planning and prep doesn’t have to be painful and you will enjoy opening the fridge to a wealth of possibilities and effortless success.