Nutrition Tip of the Week: the Art of Food PrepThe key to success is understanding that it does not have to be an “all or nothing” approach. Food prep can be as simple as preparing your breakfasts the night before or packing afternoon snacks for work, or it can be as comprehensive as preparing 3 to 6 complete meals per day.
Nutrition Tip of the Week 7-23-21
Tips for Food Prep
Have you been thinking about preparing meals ahead of time but don’t know where to start? Food prep can be wildly overwhelming, leading many people to believe that food prep is impossible with a busy schedule. The key to success is understanding that it does not have to be an “all or nothing” approach. Food prep can be as simple as preparing your breakfasts the night before or packing afternoon snacks for work, or it can be as comprehensive as preparing 3 to 6 complete meals per day.
Start with something manageable
First, identify the specific meal or time of day that you struggle with the most. Some people have a more traditional schedule that allows them to make breakfast and dinner at home. The only meal they have to think about ahead of time is lunch. Other people might struggle with the snooze button in the morning, and making breakfast is their challenge. In order to create a quick win and generate some food prep momentum, focus on preparing a meal or snack ahead of time to overcome your greatest challenge.
One of the simplest strategies for food prep is “planned-overs.” Planned-overs are leftovers that you account for by increasing the size of your favorite healthy recipes. That turkey chili that you made for dinner can easily become lunch for the next couple of days. Store your planned-overs in ready-to-go containers of complete individual meals as soon as you finish eating. For instance, if you cooked chicken, rice, and broccoli for dinner, you should portion the leftovers into containers that have all three ingredients. This will allow you to grab and go without fuss or stress the next morning. If you have to, put a reminder in your phone or a sticky note on the fridge to take your lunch.
Follow these steps to maximize your success:
- Organize your fridge and freezer to make room for the containers. It is a simple step, but one that can pay immediate dividends.
- If you already own some food storage containers, do the dreaded task of matching containers and lids. Trust me; it is better to know you have a lid for that container BEFORE you put your leftovers in it. If you have some shortages in your supply, purchase the sizes and shapes of the containers you need. While it isn’t necessary, you may want to add some glass containers to your collection in order to avoid staining from certain foods or sauces.
- Take baby steps by starting with one meal per day. Once that becomes part of your routine, examine the next part of your diet that you want to plan in advance.
- Pre-plan and assemble the easy stuff, like between-meal snacks. This can be as simple as putting a piece of fruit, a serving of nuts, and a cheese stick together in a grab-and-go bag. In addition to being healthier than hitting the vending machine, it will satisfy your hunger, curb cravings, and keep your energy from crashing.
- If you are not going with planned-overs, pick a simple meal you can cook in a decent-sized batch. My favorite lunch to prepare ahead of time is seasoned lean ground beef, rice, and a vegetable. I can fire up the rice cooker while browning the meat and throw the vegetables in the microwave or in the oven at the same time.
- If you don’t want to eat the same thing day after day, freeze some of the portions for the following week. Within a few weeks, you will have several options and can skip a week of food prep!
- Create some flavor varieties by choosing a different seasoning blend or condiment. This will change things up enough to avoid the flavor doldrums when repeating meals multiple times each week.
- Keep a list and recipes of the meals that worked well for you so that you can repeat them if you are at a loss for ideas.