Thursday, May 22, 2014

MEAL PREP: Set Yourself up for a week of Healthy Eating

Summer is almost here and that means hanging out with friends, enjoying the "good life" (read: wine, pasta, summer bbqs, vacations, buffets, parties etc etc etc). The weather is nicer, days are longer and we all have a little extra energy so we are making more plans. In my opinion, this is all great stuff but in the face  this temptation, it's important to stay on schedule as much as you can and maintain your healthy eating habits WHILE having fun.

The key is to set yourself up for success and prepare those healthy meals ahead of time. I know myself enough to know that if a friend calls me and says "let's grab a coffee/drink/ice cream tonight," I will be less likely to indulge in appetizers, dinner or whatever if I know my meals are already waiting for me in the fridge at home.

A lot of people think of meal prep as a daunting task but it can be your best friend if you "prep smart".

First, Scan your fridge for leftovers before you make something new. Sometimes it's easy to forget what you made yesterday or the day before. It's also pretty easy to forget about those beautiful herbs you bought a few days ago at the market. If you scan your fridge first you will catch those items you can implement into your meals before they go bad. Spinach is a big one for me. When I see it I remember it and then I can add it to soups, salads, pasta sauces or wraps. When I don't see it I forget to use it.

Also, plan out your meals so that you can use them in two different ways. For example, if I want to eat spaghetti and a meat sauce (turkey works great and it's super lean) I will cook the meat in one pan with onions and garlic, while I make the sauce separately. Why? Because that same meat can be used the next day in turkey tacos or can be frozen for use on one of those nights where you just don't have the time or energy to think of something new. Put it in a wrap, throw it on a salad, either way you have more options on how to use it and that is super helpful in your meal prep.

One of the best pieces of advice one of my girlfriends gave me was to eat salads for lunch every day during the week. I already am a huge salad and vegetable lover (I was the only kindergarten kid who requested fruits and vegetables for a snack every day) so for me this wasn't a huge change. This was a great idea because it helps keep you eating clean all week long, saves you money when you have a lunch prepared and it's just a time saver when you don't have to run out to grab lunch. The best method that works for me is to line up my containers for the week on a Sunday or Monday night. I chop one giant salad and then fill all the containers. 

In each container I put: lettuce, cucumbers (in some containers- because cucumbers can spoil easily so I eat these salads first and the salads for later in the week will get fun toppings on a Wednesday night - this prevents my salads from spoiling and it is pretty quick to just add cucumbers on a random night), maybe some alfalfa sprouts or pea shoots, and grape tomatoes (I don't add chopped tomatoes because they release liquids and spoil quickly). I'll add to my salads depending on what else I have in the fridge that week- chopped fruits, boiled eggs, grilled chicken. I really only use leftovers. **will do a separate post on how to make your salads heartier in the future.

Another tip I've found that works great is to use the time you are already in the kitchen to prepare more than one meal using the same ingredients. For example, if you are chopping vegetables for a stir-fry tonight why not chop a few more of the ingredients and have a pot of rustic vegetable soup on the stove. During the time you would have made one meal, you will end up with two, which means you will have the next evening to just relax and watch a movie or go for a walk...or whatever it is that helps you feed your soul. The time you freed up for yourself is invaluable. So why not?

Another tip is to just make extra of whatever it is you are making. For example if I'm making a baked chicken dish I will double the quantity of the meat and the sides. That way tomorrow's dinner is also done within the same cooking and prep time.

My last tip for staying on track with meal prep for the week is to use your tools to your advantage- ovens are great because you can cook multiple things in one shot, blenders are amazing for sauces and stews, slow cookers and pressure cookers can be your friends too. My favourite tool though is my kitchen timer. I use it to ensure I don't burn something while I'm busy multitasking and meal prepping. If you don't have one yet, I'd highly recommend getting one and keeping it on hand for future food adventures. (You might even have one on your stove or you can use the one on your's truly a lifesaver).

Hope these tips work for you as well as they have for me. I honestly feel one night of meal prepping and planning makes my whole week run smoothly. I really feel it when I miss a Sunday night at home prepping in my kitchen and it throws off the whole week. Set yourself up for success all week long and you will feel way better about all the little pleasures that summer brings your way.

Happy prepping!

No comments:

Post a Comment