To make your food healthier, you need to prepare meals that are simple, repeatable, and easily available so that making healthy choices becomes an easy choice. This is where the preparation of meals comes into its own. Preparing meals in five easy steps is designed so that you can start today and soon won't even think about it as it will become part of your usual routine.
I used to think meal preparation was so complicated or boring, so I hesitated and waited to make things day after day. I now realize that prepping food in advance saves so much time. The first step is to create a fun cooking playlist and dance around washing, chopping, and cooking. Second, take the “simple is better” approach and start with a few simple, straightforward meals. You don't have to prep your whole week at once. Instead, just prepare a couple of lunches and a dinner or two, and you'll get the benefits including:
- Additional change: You won't waste a lot of dollars buying your lunch at work or ingredients that you don't use at home
- More time: Preparing parts of meals or entire meals in advance definitely saves time (and valuable energy!) During the week
- Less stress: It's one less thing to worry about during the week because we're all as busy as it is!
- Healthier food: It's easy to make healthier choices when it's done (or almost done) when you get home from work!
Prepare food in five easy steps
- Get decent containers: invest in high quality containers. Well worth spending a little to make them last. Also important is that you can put them in the dishwasher and microwave without warping. Meal prep containers save time, space, are portable, and provide great portion control, which is critical to any weight loss plan.
- Write a meal plan: This means writing down what you (and maybe the family) will eat for the coming week. Take a look at the plan your weight loss motivational advisor created for you and swap meals or tweak the ingredients to your liking. Focus on the protein and vegetables first, followed by a small amount of slow release carbohydrates or whole grains (or none at all in some cases) and possibly a small amount of healthy fats. So your dinner each includes a decent serving of lean protein (chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, yogurt, beans), vegetables and salad (aim for lots of color), complex carbohydrates (whole grain bread, quinoa, rice, or oats). and some healthy fat (olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado).
- Stick to a grocery shopping list: First I go through my menu and write down ingredients that we need next to each meal. Then I write a shopping list. If you haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend ordering your groceries online, especially for busy parents who work full time. Not only does this save time, but it is also less likely to get impetus to buy and get exactly what you need to cook. Read our blog for more tips on how to shop for healthy foods and summarize how to use food labels before you shop.
- Pencil in prep time: Allow 1-3 hours for this preparation work (depending on how many days you cook for). I like to prepare in batches. For example, I prepare meals 2-3 days at a time that is plentiful. After you've cooked your meals and portioned them into your storage containers, refrigerate or freeze them. Most ready meals can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Some of my favorites are:
- breakfast: chopped apple, Greek yogurt, a small amount of oats and cinnamon
- Having lunch: fresh salad with lots of vegetables – prepared, washed and in a ready-to-use container (I add the protein – like smoked salmon – a day)
- dinner: cooked vegetables and egg whites (I cook chicken breasts or salmon fillets ahead of time so they're ready, and I pre-cut the vegetables and often cook high protein lentils in a stock cube and then put them in a container so they're ready, as a "side." "of protein. Read our blog on beans and legumes as these are great food to prepare ahead of time."
- Post workout snack: a motivational protein bar or a small handful of almonds with some fruit or hummus with carrot sticks.
- Invest in a slow one-Stove: This clever kitchen appliance conjures up healthy, easy-care meals and gives every dish plenty of flavor. It has the ability to drastically reduce the amount of food you and your family eat, saving you money and time. With a little planning and preparation, you can always find a supply of simple meals to eat. If you're like me and don't exactly love cooking, it means delivering nutritious, tasty family meals becomes so much easier. I often cook a whole chicken, chicken thigh, or beef or lamb stew in my slow cooker and it's so convenient. I prepare everything the night before, which takes less than 10 minutes, then turn it on the next morning around 9am and then it's ready for dinner at 5pm. Plus it's delicious as it keeps the meat very moist. My slow cooker is set to "warm". So if we're not ready to eat until later, I just turn it on "warm" and it's ready when we are! A lifesaver!
There you will have the preparation of meals in five easy steps – good luck with preparing meals!