For those with busy weekday schedules meal plan or meal prep is a great idea. That is because that way they will stay on a healthy eating track. When we have our meal ready or planned we will less likely to go for some unhealthy fast food choices.
The `correct` method of meal prepping is the one that works for you. Think about your preferences, schedule, cooking ability, or personal goals. All of that can help you figure out if meal prep is a good option for you and what method should you choose.
Let`s see why is meal prep a good idea, why we think that it is a healthy choice and what healthy ideas you can use.
How can you benefit from meal prep?
Meal prep can help you in many ways, but here are some benefits that we can`t forget to mention:
- Meal prep saves you time because you cook all the meals at once
- You can save money by buying in bulk and not eating out
- Meals are portioned so which can help you with weight control
- This way you will have a nutritionally balanced diet
- Less stress about last-minute decisions about what to eat and prepare
How to easily start meal prep
When you have a busy schedule and you leave your work late, the last thing you want to do is cook. Maybe you want that, but usually, you have little energy to shop and cook. Therefore we usually go for quick takeout meals that are full of calories and usually very unhealthy.
However, it can be much better with meal prep. It is much more convenient not to mention healthier, to have a homemade dinner a few moments after you walk through the door. If you have lunch ready for the next day – even better.
Firstly, if you are ordering takeout, or eating fast food a few nights a week, in the beginning, try to choose a day of the week when you can create a food shopping list and go to the grocery store so you can buy your groceries for meal prep. Try to, at least slowly, replace ordering with meal prep.
Secondly, if you are someone who shops for food at least once a week and you have some basic cooking skills, you can try starting meal prep by choosing one day a week to do most of the cooking. Try to make meals for two or three days for starters.
Lastly, if you are already cooking some weekday meals for yourself or your family, you can take it to the next level by making a schedule. That way you will not have to decide last minute what to cook and you will have ingredients on hand all the time.
Prepare yourself for meal prepping
When you plan your meals ahead of the trip to the store you will eat well on a budget. You will waste less food and you will buy exactly what you need for your meals.
Before a trip to the grocery store, talk to your family about what kinds of dishes and favorite meals they like to eat. That way when you meal preps you don`t have to worry if everyone will be happy with the choice of food.
Further, do a little research on healthy recipes from the internet, newspaper, and magazines and save them in a binder, or copy the links of recipes so you can easily access them. You can also have a monthly calendar or spreadsheet with meal ideas, favorite recipe sites, or shopping lists.
Moreover, think about specific meals or foods for different days during the week. You can even make a tradition of some delicious food. For instance Wednesday chili, meatless Friday, and so on. Anything that can make your meal planning easy and interesting.
You can choose some time in one day to plan a menu, and grocery list, another day for shopping, next day for cooking, so your meal prep can be manageable and you will not have to stress and do everything at the same time.
At first, try to start small and create dinners for two or three days a week. As you get familiar with the process, go bigger and plan and prep more.
Additional shopping and cooking tips
When you find your favorite prep meals or menus that you want to cook. Watch out for sales coupons so you can stock up on ingredients that you frequently use. Things like pasta, rice, lentils, whole grains, sauces in jars, beans, healthy oils, spices, and similar things.
On the day that you do your meal prep, first, focus on the foods that take the longest to cook. That is food like dried beans and legumes, whole grains like quinoa, farro, brown rice, roasted vegetables, and others. During their cooking, you can chop and prep something else and save time. Multi-tasking during meal prep will save you a lot of time.
In addition, you can try to prepare staple foods that everyone in the family likes and which you can easily add to any weekday meal or get for a snack. Consider something like hardboiled eggs, a bowl of chopped fruit, cooked beans, or washed greens for a salad.
When you cook something, you can make extra portions and put them in the freezer for a different week. Label and date your containers so you always know what you have. That said, prepare enough glass or plastic containers, you will need a lot of them.
Ideas for healthy meal prep
Here are some ideas for healthy meal prep for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but of course, feel free to mix and switch them as you prefer.
- Homemade granola
- Overnight oats
- Baked egg cups
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Breakfast casserole
- Spinach frittata
- Almont flour scones
- Banana bread
- Peanut butter sandwich and baby carrots
- Chocolate avocado mousse
- Peanut butter oats
- Vegetable soups
- Green vegetable salads
- Quinoa curry salad
- Black bean salad
- Roasted chicken with Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, and cauliflower
- Mediterranean salad
- Quinoa soup
- Lentil soup
- Veggie hummus wraps
- Lettuce tortilla with tuna salad
- Slow cooker chicken tacos
- Vegetarian chili
- Burrito bowl with brown rice, black beans, tomatoes
- Instant pot shredded chicken
- Peanut noodles
- Chicken chili soup
- Chicken vegetable stir fry with brown rice
- Fajita bowls
- And anything from the lunch category can work for dinner, too
Make sure any dishes you pick are well-rounded and include lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables. Choose colorful ingredients with different textures. That way you will get a variety of nutrients. Also, consider meals where you can reuse ingredients, so your meals can be creative.
Meal prepping will improve your diet quality and it is a healthy, time and money-saving choice. It is definitely healthier than take out and it leads to a higher-quality diet. Therefore it gives you the necessary nutrients and less stress about meals.
As previously mentioned it saves you money and time and you will only spend a few hours during the week making the meals that you can enjoy during all other days. Having the plan will help you get only the ingredients that you need so you will save money on groceries.
In conclusion, when you meal prep, you will make healthy, not impulsive food choices. Choosing meal planning and prepping will do great things for your fitness and health and you will achieve your goals.