Your Guide to Easy, Healthy Meal Prep

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Trainer, North Memorial Health March 19, 2017
Family preparing food

Have you ever heard someone say “If you have healthy food in your fridge, you will eat healthy food”? I think we can all agree on that. But I think we can also agree that it’s much easier to eat healthy food when it is in the fridge prepared and ready to go.

When it comes to overall wellness (including weight loss, reducing inflammation pain, increasing energy levels, decreasing stress or keeping our heart healthy), eating a balanced diet of clean, minimally processed foods is key. When we eat healthy, we just feel better — plain and simple.

I always recommend my clients eat a “clean” diet which includes all types of vegetables, fruit, animal protein, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and for some, whole grains and dairy if their body can tolerate it. Consistency in meal planning and food prep can make all the difference in your healthy eating routine.

Build these tips into your schedule and just keep at it. Create a schedule that works for you. This may change week to week and that’s okay. Just make a plan and try your best.

  • Make time to meal plan: Begin with a list of meals and foods that you and your family already enjoy. Maybe add a new recipe that you’ve been waiting to try or ask your family or friends for suggestions. Plan for leftovers too and use a crockpot – you don’t have to “cook” every night. From there, start choosing meals to add to your menu for the week. If a whole week is too daunting, start with three or four days.
  • Grocery shopping: Take a look at the meals you have planned and make a list of items you need from the store. Allow for timeafter you get back from the grocery store to wash and chop most or all of your produce so you have healthy options to grab and go.
  • Meal prep: Ideally, after grocery shopping, you’ll want to start preparing anything you can for the week. Taking this time upfront will help make your week much more manageable. Just pick a couple ideas from below to get started:
    • Chop vegetables and separate into single serving bags or containers for easy grab and go. Do the same for individual portions of hummus or natural peanut butter for dipping.
    • Roasted broccoli as a part of your dinner Tuesday night? Chop, season and add broccoli and cauliflower to a large Ziploc bag so it’s ready to roast in the oven when you get home.
    • Portion out fruit into single serve containers.
    • Cook and chop chicken to grab and go or throw in a canning jar salad.
    • Make a few canning jar salads for the week.
    • Hard boil eggs to eat on the go or make an egg salad with mashed avocado in place of mayo, celery, onion, salt and pepper.
    • Portion out plain Greek yogurt with berries and honey.

Tip: “Cook once, eat twice”(or more). Every time you make something, make extra for later or to throw in the freezer. A week ago, I was able to pull a freezer bag of frozen chili from the freezer to use as a weeknight meal because a few months prior, I doubled the recipe and placed half of it in the freezer. I always figure if I’m going to make a mess, I may as well do it all at once and be done! Use any bits of time you have through the week to think “What can I do now (even if it’s just 10 min) to make tomorrow easier?”

Monthly meal prep: Maximize your time by setting aside a couple hours on a weekend or day off to make a handful of freezer meals. Make the same meal four times, for example. The amount of time saved by making four meals all at once versus those same four individual meals is huge. This can be done for larger family meals, but also for smaller individual meals too. Now you have four meals that you can easily grab on busy evenings.

Plan of action: Take a look at your calendar and schedule your time to meal plan, go grocery shopping and prepare meals. You will save time in the long run by doing the work upfront. Not to mention, your week will be much more stress-free when it comes to having healthy options on hand. Everyone’s schedule is different, so do what works for you!

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