Sharing My Meal Prep Secrets

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.

Start small.

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)

Buddha Bowl

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.

desk lunch

Repurpose leftovers.

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!

Gear up.

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.

National Nutrition Month & The Secret to a Long Life

It’s March 1st and that means we’re kicking off National Nutrition Month.  In the past, I’ve shared some tips for celebrating NNM specifically during the month of March, but now I feel like I’m sharing nutrition tips and tidbits all year long.  Here are some of my most popular nutrition posts to date:

Just Eat the Fries

The One Thing You Shouldn’t Be Eating

5 Food & Nutrition Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

5 Reasons to Skip Juice Cleanses

My Road to R.D.

This year, I’m kicking off NNM with a little story and some advice for living a long and healthy life.  So let’s get to it!

A few weeks ago I gave a nutrition talk to a group of about 40 nuns.  {File that under things I’d never thought I’d do or say.} The company I work for provides the foodservice for a convent here on Long Island, so occasionally I pop in to speak to the sisters.  You may remember my previous job was at a long-term care facility, so I’m super comfortable speaking to the elderly population and I truly enjoy chatting with the ladies at the convent.  

Where am I going with this?  Well, after I gave my presentation (which focused on hydration and general nutrition for the aging population), I was introduced to one nun in particular who was 102 years old.  As in more than a century old!  Can you imagine?  She didn’t look a day over 80 to me. 😉  This nun shared that she purposefully chose her room at the convent based on its distance to the room where all of the recreation activities were held.  But she didn’t choose the closest room, she actually picked the furthest one so she could get a long walk in a few times each day!  Incredible.  Naturally, I asked her what the secret to her longevity was.  She smiled and said “It’s simple-eat well, move a lot and enjoy dark chocolate.”  Now this is advice I can get down with.  In fact, this is what I preach day in and day out.  

dark chop

the secret!

I joked with the nun that she should have been the one giving the nutrition talk that day, not me!  This really got me thinking, though.  What if it really is that simple?  As a society (nutrition professionals included) we tend to complicate things so much.  Eat all the “superfoods”, don’t eat gluten, always eat breakfast, never eat after 6pm, low-fat, high-fat, ahhhh!  We dramatize everything, highlighting the latest tips, tricks and fads.  I’m guilty too, having used a teasing lure in the title of this very blog post!  With all of these crazy messages of what is good and bad, it’s pretty easy to see why we are overwhelmed, confused and frustrated.

Sure, there are a lot of factors that play into our morbidity and mortality.  Of course our genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle choices play a big role in our overall wellness.  But what if living a full healthy and happy life is really as simple as this nun says?  

Eat foods that make you feel good, physically and mentally.

Move when you can and in a way that brings you joy.  

Enjoy dark chocolate, or whatever your favorite treat is, without the stress and guilt.  

And finally, smile.  

What if those are the secrets to living to be over a hundred years old?  I sure hope they are.  Don’t you?

Happy eating, during NNM and beyond!