2019 is officially here! Perhaps you're considering giving meal prepping a try, AWESOME! At first, the idea of meal prepping felt a bit overwhelming to me. Do you feel that way too? Over the last few years, I've found ways to refine my meal prepping, and make it more efficient. Some of my favorite tips and shortcuts are below.
Before we get in to meal prep logistics, let's dig in to the question: Why meal prep?
• Enables us to eat healthy, balanced meals even with busy and unpredictable schedules.
When I'm hungry, I lack restraint and will reach for whatever is there, healthy or not. Meal prepping allows for better choices and nutrition.
• Offers portion control and limits food waste. You're more apt not to overeat (or undereat) if your meals are portioned out ahead of time. Meal prepping also reduces the potential for food waste.
• Keeps you fueled and energized. If we aren’t armed with prepared meals, the tendency is to reach for something quick like fast food, sugary snacks, or chips. All of these items will give us an energy boost and then potentially leave us feeling sluggish after. With prepped meals, you're sure to be eating fiber, slow digesting carbs and all of the micronutrients that are vital to keeping your blood sugar (and energy) even throughout the day.
• Saves time. It seems like a large time investment up front, but you can make a week’s worth of meals in nearly the same time as it takes you to make a single meal. And, less time in the kitchen during the week means more time with family, working out, or relaxing.
Tips for meal prepping:
1. Start small and experiment so you don't feel overwhelmed and quit. Try prepping a few meals and see what works and doesn't work for you — and then adjust.
2. Look ahead at the coming week. I find that I don't necessarily need to prep 5 dinners, as some recipes are quick, easy, AND healthy. Most weeks I do prep all of my lunches ahead, as that's what works best for my schedule and needs. Some weeks I prep a few dinners, as that's what my schedule dictates.
3. Plan your menu and food shop. I use Plan to Eat to plan our weekly menus. It has been the key to planning well balanced and nutritional meals for 4 years, and houses all of my recipes. I simply choose a recipe, and place onto a weekly calendar that generates a shopping list, which I bring to the grocery store and shop. Easy peasy.
4. Cook. I generally find Sundays work best for meal prepping. Logistically, I break the prepping down by meals. For breakfast, I bake my own granola to add to yogurt with fresh berries (I cut up the strawberries for the week ahead). For lunch, I usually prep two different types of lunches for the week, and for dinner 3-4 different meals. Meals are balanced with a moderate amount of protein, small portion of carbs, and a larger portion of veggies and/or fruit. Veggies and/or fruit should take up about 70% of your plate.
5. Store your meals/prepped foods. Invest in some well-made containers, as they are the key to keeping your prepped food fresh and tasty. Label the containers to make it super easy to grab-and-go.
• Buy pre-washed and packaged greens, spiralized or pre-cut vegetables (and fruit) to make prepping (and life) more convenient and time-efficient.
• Buy pre-made frozen grains like brown rice and quinoa at stores like Trader Joe's.
• Crockpots, dutch ovens, sheet pans, and instant pots offer a super efficient way to make several meals with little time invested.
• Have frozen options available in your freezer. I almost always have frozen berries, shrimp, and a variety of frozen veggies available just in case.
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