There are two common reasons people give for not eating healthy:
“It’s too expensive.”
“I don’t have the time.”
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These are misconceptions the processed food industry would be happy for you to believe. In reality, eating healthy doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive. One of the best ways to begin eating better is to start preparing meals in advance. There are good reasons to start preparing meals – or even portions of meals – ahead of time. It can save time, save money and help you eat healthier, overall.
Meal prep can be adjusted to fit the preferences and lifestyle of you and your family. It’s meant to make life easier, NOT to stress you out even more. Different things work better for different people. There are many ways to meal prep, for example:
- making a list
- going shopping with your list
- getting all the advance prep work done for an entire week at one time
- prep the night before for the following day
The three keys to meal prepping are: make a plan, go shopping using your plan, and prep what you can!
You can have breakfasts which repeat during the week, simple basic snacks and two or three full meals planned out. The leftovers from those planned meals can be changed around and eaten to fill up the remainder of the week.
Here are 10 easy meal prep tips that our Health Coach, Karol, swears by!
- Don’t try and make-ahead your entire weekly menu plan when you first begin to meal prep. This will completely overwhelm you. Start slow. The first week, prep one or two recipes and some snacks ahead of time, then later, as you get comfortable, you can prep more.
- Chop up a huge green salad to eat on all week long. You can add as many ingredients as you want to your salad and use it in different ways throughout the week. Perhaps you’ll have it as a large lunch salad, a side dish for dinner and then later with added protein such as chicken or tuna.
- Pre-cut a bunch of fresh, organic vegetables to use in various ways throughout the week. See which veggies are on sale or fresh at your local farmers’ market, wash them all well when you get home, chop them up and store them in bags until you’re ready to use them. You can roast beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus to use as delicious sides.
- Prep some easy breakfasts to make your mornings less hectic. You can easily make overnight oats to keep in the refrigerator. Some other great make-ahead breakfasts can have veggies hidden within them (items such as muffins, egg cups, and omelets).
- Make Smoothie freezer bags. A smoothie is an easy and delicious way to get good fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious content into your diet. Smoothies can also be quick and easy to prepare when you’re ready to eat – if you do the prep work ahead of time! Take one half of a peeled banana, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, ¼ cup triple omega seed blend, your fruit of choice and 1 scoop of protein powder and put it all into a small freezer bag. You can combine strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, mango, peaches, etc. for delicious combinations. When you’re ready to make your smoothie, just pour the contents of one freezer bag into a blender with 8 oz of your liquid of choice (water, almond milk, etc.) and blend!
- Try an easy dressing mix to have on hand for salads, veggies, and chicken. Take 2-3 chopped cloves of garlic and add them to a mason jar. Fill the jar half with extra-virgin olive oil then half with apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice. You can also add salt, pepper, and any other herbs you’d like. Store the jar in the refrigerator and shake it well before you use it.
- Cook any grains ahead of time and store them in containers. You can cook your brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa or couscous so you have them ready when you need them as an easy side.
- Use your crockpot to make easy soups and even cook your chicken or roast to have on hand! Soups are great for meal prepping because you can double your batch and save half in a freezer bag for another time. The same goes for your chicken. When you have a bunch of cooked chicken, you can plan many meals – like tacos, chicken salad, chicken and veggies, stir-fry, chicken on your green salad, and more!
- Prep snack bags to curb cravings! Snacking is where many people ruin their healthy eating plans because they didn’t plan ahead for snacks. To avoid this problem, make sure you have lots of easy snacks prepared. Chopped up carrots, celery, radishes, broccoli, and other vegetables can be put into small serving bags and served with hummus or guacamole. You can also put mixtures of nuts and seeds in baggies – or even mixed fruit.
- Don’t give up! it takes about 3 weeks to form a habit and food prep is no different. Don’t throw in the towel if it doesn’t work out the first time. Food prep is about making your life easier, so be ok with making adjustments along the way.
Meal prepping does take a little effort and time up front but it is worth it. It is so rewarding to open up the refrigerator door and see healthy delicious meals and snacks ready to eat. For more easy and delicious lifestyle changes, check out the free Kitchen Talks, Functional Food Fridays and other events that we host throughout the month at Integrative Health Matters!