Whether you’re trying to lose weight or simply maintain your healthy diet, meal prep is one of the best ways to stay on track. It’s a simple strategy that can help you make healthy eating easier and more convenient during your busy week.
The key is to plan ahead and find a method that works for your unique schedule. From batch cooking to prepping all your meals and snacks, there’s a way for everyone!
Plan Your Meals
Planning your meals can be a great way to make healthier choices for yourself and your family. This can help you stay on track with your nutrition goals, reduce food waste and save money!
Meal planning doesn’t have to be complex or time-consuming. It can be as simple as mapping out a week’s worth of breakfast, lunch and dinner options.
The key is to find healthy recipes that fit your lifestyle, taste good and are easy to prepare. You should also plan meals that you look forward to eating.
Having healthy choices ready to go can prevent you from reaching for high-calorie convenience foods or fast food. This can save you time and energy throughout the day.
Another benefit of meal planning is that you’ll know exactly what to buy at the grocery store. It will also help you avoid impulse purchases and overspending.
It’s a good idea to stock your freezer and pantry with items that you can eat later, such as frozen vegetables or fruits, shelf-stable soups, dried pasta, jarred beans or legumes and non-perishable snacks like cheese and crackers.
This will cut down on food waste and keep your pantry stocked with healthy options.
If you’re not sure where to start, try collecting healthy recipes from magazines, blogs and the internet. You can also get a meal planning template, which will help you create a weekly shopping list.
Once you’ve got a handful of healthy recipes, it’s time to plan your meals for the week. Write out your meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and add a few healthy snacks to the mix.
When planning your meals, remember that you can always add a healthy twist to your favorites by substituting healthier ingredients. Vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy are all excellent choices to add to your meal plans.
During your meal prep, it’s also a good idea to wash and chop veggies and fresh fruit so you have healthy, ready-to-eat snacks on hand. You can also use reusable storage containers to keep your fresh produce separate from the rest of your groceries.
Stock Your Fridge/Freezer
Stocking your fridge/freezer is an essential step in the healthy meal prep process. It helps ensure that you always have foods on hand for last-minute meals or unexpected guests, which will save you time and money.
Start by purchasing all of the ingredients you’ll need for your weekly menu, including any items that can be stored at a cooler temperature than others (like frozen vegetables). Also consider buying staples like canned tomatoes and jarred sauces. These can often be found on sale or with coupons. You can click here to purchase some dietary supplements as well.
Once you’ve stocked your pantry with the basics, take an inventory of all your other items in your fridge and freezer to make sure that they’re fresh. Check the expiration dates on all of your food items and make sure you have all the condiments, snacks and spices that you use regularly.
For example, if you’re planning to make a recipe for a dinner party, you’ll want to have all of your ingredients handy so that you can grab them without having to go to the store. Keeping your refrigerator clean, especially around the edges where food collects, will help prevent waste as well as keep it smelling fresh.
Another essential step in the healthy meal prep process is to create a system for organizing your fridge. This will ensure that all of your meals stay fresh and flavorful, and will prevent foods from spoiling quickly.
First, you’ll want to separate produce from proteins and other ethylene-sensitive foods, such as bananas, apples and avocados. Doing so will help your ripe foods retain their color and texture longer, and will keep them from getting moldy as a result of high levels of ethylene.
Second, you’ll want to move your favorite ‘prep-able’ items from the bottom shelf of your fridge to the top, so that they won’t be exposed to as much heat and air. This can help them last longer as well.
Third, you’ll want to purchase quality containers for storing the food that you pre-cook. These can be glass or vacuum-sealable, and they come in a wide variety of sizes.
Prep Your Meals
Meal prepping is one of the best ways to stay on track with your diet and fitness goals. It helps you eat healthier, saves time and reduces stress around food decisions.
When you meal prep, you create meals and ingredients that will be easy to reheat or eat later on during the week. It can help you eat better and get more protein, fiber and veggies into your meals while reducing the amount of junk food you consume, according to registered dietitian Anna Kippen, MS, RDN, LD.
The trick is to choose recipes that are a good fit for your lifestyle and your budget, explains health and nutrition expert Jeff Valenti, MS, RD. Start by creating a list of the foods you want to include in your weekly meals, then make a plan for how to prep those ingredients ahead of time.
You can meal prep a variety of foods, from a few small ingredients for a simple lunch or dinner to an entire meal that you can reheat during the week. It’s also a great way to cut down on food waste and increase the odds of getting fresh, healthy ingredients into your diet.
It’s a good idea to make sure you prep foods that will store well in your refrigerator and freezer, like proteins (like chicken or fish), whole grains (like brown rice or quinoa), beans, nuts, soups, sauces and other shelf-stable ingredients, suggests Valenti. This will ensure that your meals will be nutritious and full of flavor all week long.
Another thing to remember when prepping your meals is that you should avoid foods that will spoil quickly, like dairy products or fresh berries, says Valenti. Those foods won’t hold up well in the fridge and might even go bad before you have a chance to eat them, which will only add to your food expenses.
If you have a lot of food to prep, it’s helpful to divide your meals into individual containers for lunches and dinners. You can then simply reheat them or add in some other ingredient to complete your meal.
Eat Your Meals
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little planning and preparation, you can have wholesome meals on hand no matter what life throws your way.
A calorie-conscious diet can help you lose weight, manage your blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve your health. You’ll also enjoy better moods and a more positive outlook on life.
Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit, along with lean proteins and whole grains. These foods provide important vitamins and minerals that can help you keep your body strong, healthy and happy.
Choose fresh, frozen or canned fruits and veggies. Look for varieties that are low in sodium and sugars. When choosing canned options, be sure to read the labels and avoid those with added sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup.
Start your meal with a small salad or broth-based soup to fill you up and reduce your calorie intake. Try to avoid heavy sauces and gravies, which can add extra calories and fat to your plate.
For your main meals, choose lean proteins, beans and legumes, and whole grains. These are foods that gram for gram, provide less than half the calories of fat compared to foods made from oil and butter.
Portion control is also key, says nutritionist Kimberly Snyder. She recommends ordering appetizers or a starter instead of an entree, or splitting your dish with a friend to avoid supersized portions.
Be sure to eat slowly and savor the flavors of your food, which can help you feel full without overeating. If you’re feeling hungry, ask your server to make you a smaller portion.
A diet low in saturated fat, salt and added sugars can also help you manage your weight and reduce your risk for heart disease. It can also help prevent and treat diabetes.
Whether you’re cooking at home or dining out, don’t be afraid to try new healthy dishes. Many restaurants now offer healthy choices, and you can often find a wide range of menus online that list calorie counts.