Meal planning and prepping are important aspects of a healthy eating lifestyle. Meal planning is the act of thinking ahead about meals and snacks. This allows you to stay consistent with your food intake. Meal prepping is dedicating time to prepare foods for the upcoming week and makes eating healthier and more convenient.
Benefits of Meal Planning and Prepping
Adds structure to meal plan: Keeps you organized. It allows you to know exactly what you need to have prepared for the week and when you will eat it. Think ahead of any events or activities that will affect your eating plan. Making a meal plan should take about 10-15 minutes.
Promotes consistency: The key to building a healthy lifestyle is consistency. Eating the same foods for your meals makes prepping easier.
Reduces stress: Having a meal plan eliminates the daily stress of worrying about what you will eat. Don’t overcomplicate healthy eating, have 1 to 3 go-to meals to keep in rotation.
Time saver: Pick the same day/time to dedicate to planning and prepping. This gives you more time to accomplish other tasks during the day. Sunday and Wednesday are the most popular days.
Saves money: Having a plan avoids unnecessary foods at the grocery store and eliminates the need for eating out. If eating out, look at the menu beforehand to determine your best option.
Eliminates waste: Keeping on hand only what you will eat will ensure nothing has to be thrown out. Keep commonly used ingredients in the panty at all times. Look at the ingredients you have and build a recipe around them. Focusing on whole foods eliminates the need for processed and packaged meals.
Though it may seem overwhelming at first, there are a variety of strategies you can employ to develop a sustainable meal-planning habit that works for your unique lifestyle.
Tips for Easier Meal Planning and Prepping
Batch cooking: For meals and foods you consume regularly, prepare and cook larger portions. These can be frozen and eaten at a later date.
Prep ingredients only: Clean and cut vegetables so they are ready to use, and portion meat into desired servings; this makes it easy to grab and cook when ready to eat. First focus on foods that take the longest to cook: proteins like chicken and fish; whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and farro; dried beans and legumes; and, roasted vegetables. While those are cooking, chop fruit and veggies.
Use containers: Package individual meals to the desired serving size. There are a variety of container styles that work well.
Easiest cooking methods:
· Sheet pan: all ingredients are cooked together on one pan in the oven.
· Crockpot or slow cooker: Turn it on in the morning and it is ready after work
· Air Fry: Cook vegetables or protein with no oil needed.
· Dutch oven: Used for soups, cooked together on the stovetop.
· Sous vide: Fully cook protein in a vacuum-sealed bag.
Nutrition can be complicated, but eating healthy and cooking great food doesn’t have to be. Remember that any food you make at home is going to be more nutritious and cheaper than prepackaged meals or restaurant foods.