Meal Prepping 101
What exactly is meal prepping?
Simply put - it’s making or preparing food in advance of when you plan to eat it. In other words, setting yourself up for nutritional success during the week! Let’s face it - even with the best of intentions sometimes we put healthy eating on the back burner when short on time. We’ve all been there before, right? All of the sudden it’s 6PM and you start to get hungry (or hangry!?) and find something convenient to eat that may not be the healthiest choice.
Meal prepping is one way to help you meet your health goals - it can even help with managing your blood sugars if you prep balanced meals with good sources of fiber!
What do you need to get started?
Inspiration! Figuring out what you want to cook can be intimidating at first. Start off by thinking about the “plate method” - you’ll want to make meals that are balanced with healthy fats, lean proteins and good sources of fiber to keep you full and feed your gut microbiome! Looking through cookbooks and healthy pinterest recipes can give you ideas if you need some help to get started.
A plan. Write out your ideas for the week! Using a meal planner like this one can be a great tool.
You don't want to bite off more than you can chew (literally), so start slowly and plan just a few meals. Once you have your plan, take inventory of your refrigerator and pantry to see what you already have before going to the store to buy ingredients. Making a list based off the things you need for the recipes you put in your meal planner will prove to be very helpful.
There are a few different ways to think about meal prepping. One way is to simply double your dinner portions and use the extra serving for lunch. Another thought is to make enough food at once that will last you a few days. There’s no right or wrong - figure out what works best for you and your family!
Time. Can you find an hour or two of time one day a week to do your prepping? Turn on some music, get in the kitchen and start cooking! Take advantage of all the equipment in your kitchen to save time. Use the oven to cook your proteins, your cutting board to chop up those fruits and veggies, and the stove to prep your whole grains!
DIETITIAN TIP: Make things easier by using the same protein for a few recipes during the week. An example of this would be having grilled chicken with farro and roasted carrots for dinner on Monday night and turning it into a “whole wheat chicken wrap” for Tuesday’s lunch! Yum!
Supplies. Once you’ve cooked and prepared everything, store food in containers you can easily use to reheat. Individual glass containers and silicone bags are great investments that will make your meal prepping easier and eco-friendly! Storing dressings and sauces on the side can help keep your food fresh longer. Keeping chopped veggies/ salads separate from cooked items will help them stay crisp! It’s important to consider how long your meals are safe to eat once you’ve made them. As a general rule, you don’t want to prep meals for more than four days in a row unless you plan to use your freezer too!
An appetite! After all the planning and preparation it’s time to enjoy! Your pre-cooked, pre-portioned meals make week day eating a breeze. There’s little to no clean up in addition to the added benefit of feeling healthy and full because your meals were perfectly portioned and balanced!
Tara Karr MS, RD, LDN, CDCES