I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret today. Even those of us who have the “secrets” don’t always follow them! Right now I’m talking about meal prep, but this applies to most anything. For awhile there, before I re-established my lunchtime routine, I was struggling to buy, cook and prep nutritious meals and snacks for the week. I’m a Registered Dietitian and a generally intelligent person, so I know why it’s good for me and my wallet. I also know the tricks to doing it, but it just wasn’t happening.
Maybe Probably you can relate.
Before I became a dietitian, I always envisioned those who were successful in this field as being “perfect”—they’d have beautiful kitchens with nutritious food stocked in their pantries, a refrigerator full of healthy options from a day of Sunday meal prep and they always chose salads over burgers and fries. I’ve met and worked with a lot of dietitians at this point and if there is one thing I know…we’re not perfect! But we do have some good tips to help our clients (and in some cases ourselves) get out of nutrition ruts. Some of which I’m going to share with you today!
The old adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” certainly holds weight when it comes to healthy eating. Meal planning may seem overwhelming and intimidating at first, but dedicating just a few hours once or twice a week can help you make smarter food choices all week long, while also saving time and money. So to get my butt back in gear, and hopefully help you while we’re at it, here are my favorite ways to get over your meal-prep fears and set yourself up for a healthier week:
Plan it out.
Take a few minutes once a week to sit down and take a look at your schedule for the upcoming days. Will you be traveling? Do you have dinner plans any evening? Where do your workouts fit in? Have a good understanding of how many meals you’ll need to eat at home vs. on-the-go, so can you plan accordingly and avoid wasting food.
If you’re new to meal planning and prep, it may be best to start by preparing one or two simple meals for the week. Even easier, get your feet wet by prepping healthy snacks like hard boiled eggs, chopped fruits and veggies and pre-portioned bags of nuts or trail mix.
KISS (Keep it Simple, Silly)
Not a culinary trained chef? Me either. Don’t stress over complicated recipes that have a ton of ingredients and use every pot and pan you’ve got! Just make sure you have some simple ingredients prepped that can be added into many different meals in a flash. I like to batch cook grains, beans and veggies and utilize them in different ways throughout the week. My go-to? Turning pre-cooked quinoa or barley into a delicious grain bowl by topping with veggies and beans. It doesn’t have to be fancy or Instagram-worthy to be nutritious and delicious.
If there is a dish your family loves, be sure make enough so you have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. Or utilize key components from one meal in new dishes to keep things interesting! Have leftover peppers and onions from last night’s tacos? Toss them into a frittata at breakfast the next day!
Having the right equipment can sometimes make all the difference. Invest in a slow-cooker (I use this one), a few roasting pans and some food storage containers. Look for BPA-free, microwave and dishwasher safe containers that are also clear, so you can easily identify what goodies they’re holding. Pinterest points if you opt for the ever-trendy mason jars! Also, stock up on large freezer bags for premade smoothie packs and smaller Ziploc bags for snacks like nuts and trail mix.
Bonus TIP–Be realistic.
Make meal planning work for you by being honest with yourself and how much time you can dedicate to it, as well as your current skill level. Focus on recipes you already know how to prepare and love to eat. Stocking your fridge with a bunch of beautiful Mason jar salads isn’t effective if you never actually eat them!
What’s your go-to meal? Share your favorite meal planning/prep tips with us below.