Hey guys! It is Sunday here, and that generally means one thing is guaranteed–I am usually in the kitchen for at least part of the day preparing some food for the week. This stands as my number one tip for developing a healthier relationship with food. I think just about any time I write an article or lead a discussion about nutrition, meal preparation comes up. There is nothing new and fancy about it, you just have to get in the kitchen and do it.
This time of year it is especially important to have at least some form of meal prep done so that you can be ready for the week and all of its temptations. Most places of business have a constant influx of baked goods and other treats or the weekly potluck and parties. While I am all for indulging occasionally, having your packed lunch or healthy snacks with you daily will help you keep from going totally off track from a dietary perspective. Even if you do choose to indulge a bit, if you eat the salad you packed for lunch first it will mean you have less room in your stomach for the less healthy options!
Many people get overwhelmed or intimidated by meal prepping, but there are many different levels. Start where you are now and make small changes. I tell many of my clients to start with breakfast and/or snacks. Some of my favorite make-ahead breakfasts are tofu scramble or oatmeal as they both can be made in bulk and they keep well for most of the week. Pick something that you know you will eat and that fits into your lifestyle. If you want something a little lighter, you can chop up some fruit and greens to place in bags and freeze for a daily smoothie. If you begin the day with a good meal choice, you will be more likely to make better decisions later in the day.
Snacks are also very easy to bring in to work or carry with you throughout the day. Fruit is the ultimate portable snack–oranges, bananas, and apples are all easy to keep at your desk. Nuts and seeds also keep well for a while if you want to have some handy. The fiber and protein can help fill you up until your next full meal and the crunch can also be satisfying. If you have access to a cooler or refrigerator, slice up some vegetables and portion out a little hummus or nut butter to dip. A small salad or bowl of soup can also be a snack that checks off some of your boxes for eating your daily vegetable servings. There are limitless options, so again figure out what works for you, just try to make the majority of your snack choices minimally processed.
If you feel solid on breakfast and snacks, then move on to some more in-depth preparation. If you are home every night to cook, make a little extra each evening to pack for lunch the next day. If you work late like I do some nights, make a big pot of soup or chili that will give you multiple servings to eat throughout the week (this is where the slow cooker is a fabulous option). I know other people who do not cook meals ahead of time, but they will go ahead and chop up the vegetables for their meals all at once so all they have to do is come home and toss everything in the oven to roast.
Even just starting as simple as writing out your menu for the week and going grocery shopping for what you need can be a good start if it is not something you are currently doing. Take it one meal at a time if you have to. If you do not cook at all now, start with making dinner at home at least one night a week. As with starting any new habits, it does not have to be all or nothing.
I tend to make just about everything for the week–breakfast, lunch and dinner–all at once. That way I know ahead of time what I have for the week and it takes any decision-making out of the way. I also hate doing dishes, so I’d rather do the heavy cooking and cleaning all at once! I have been doing my meal prep this way for years now, though, so it took me a while to work up to it. Now it is a weekly routine, so the only thing I have to consider each week is what to make. 🙂
I could probably write an entire book on this topic, but I’ll try to rein myself in for now. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment!