MEAL PREP 101
Meal prepping is an investment in your health as so many of us struggle to make smart choices during a busy work week. Going out to lunch, grabbing anything in reach on the go, or going hungry because life gets busy are all habits that negatively affect our energy level, mindset, and health. You can pre-prepare any meal of the day to reduce stress while improving your health on the go. It seems like a daunting task, just another thing to add to your schedule, but taking some time on the weekend or even after work will save you quality time for things you enjoy during the week. It could be as simple as making extras at dinnertime to package up for a lunch, or two, or three. Find a system that fits your budget of time and money.
►Choose which meal/meals will be the most beneficial to have prepared:
- Stave off hunger by starting your day with a healthy breakfast
- Have control over your second most important meal of the day – lunch. Most of us know the feeling of that mid afternoon bonk after a fast-food midday meal.
- Preprepared dinner can give you time for an evening wind down, time with your family, or a hobby.
- If you do not mind the lack of variety, choose a protein, carbohydrate, a vegetable, and make enough for a set number of meals.
- Mix it up by having fun with spices! Even if you make a big batch of chicken for the week, they don’t all have to be seasoned the same way. Have some fun with it.
►Keep it simple:
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh when the alternative is none.
- Buy pre-cut fruits and vegetables to save time.
- Buying any one meal on the go five days a week could cost upwards of $50 a week.
- Preparing home cooked meals saves money.
►Be thorough with your shopping list:
- Once you have decided what to try, I use the word “try,” because you may have to practice a bit with the best storage system (to freeze or refrigerate) and to find out which foods reheat well.
- Be sure you have a good storage system to keep food fresh and healthy. You will want storage containers that are BPA free as these chemicals can leak into the food during reheating.
- Be creative with seasonings to prevent bland tasting reheated meals.
One of my Y Weight Loss participants that has taken the course twice to give her new healthy habits time and space to grow, swears by meal prepping to meet her calorie needs. When you are at the Y at 5:00 am and getting home at 5:00 pm, it is easy to make a quick unhealthy choice at that moment of being tired and hungry.
“Overall I would say meal prepping on Sundays was one of the best things I have started doing for myself. On Sundays, I will make my breakfast, lunch, and dinners for the week as well as preparing a few snacks that are easy to grab when I am in a hurry. Having breakfast ready to go helps me save time in the morning. Having lunch ready saves me money and calories I was wasting every day buying fast food. Having dinner ready to go gives me more time in the evenings for what I want to do after work. It takes up a few hours of my Sunday, but it makes my week so much easier!” -Grace, Armbrust YMCA
I need to get back into the habit myself! Of my seven and a half years with the YMCA, six and half years were spent working part time as a personal trainer. It was easy to make healthy choices for lunch because I was home for the day at 1 pm. When I began working full time, I had a lot of hungry days because I was not in the habit of bringing lunch to work. The weeks I make the effort to plan leave me feeling more focused and energized throughout the day. Yesterday, a Tuesday when I made dinner, I just made a big batch. With a bag of gluten free pasta, a bag of frozen broccoli, a jar of alfredo sauce, and a couple of chicken breasts, I am set for the week! For healthy snacks I keep an omega-3 mix of nuts and dried cranberries, instant oatmeal, walnuts, string cheese, and applesauce (apples seem to die in my office quickly, maybe the heater?) Surround yourself with healthy options!
You know when you’re at the grocery store with those good intentions only for those beautiful veggies you so carefully selected only die a slow death in the crisper? Meal prep them, and you have saved even more money by wasting less food. Practice makes perfect guys, do not make it harder than it needs to be, make it work for you!
-Amber Cornist, Armbrust YMCA Health & Wellness Director
Recipe ideas: https://www.loveandlemons.com/healthy-meal-prep-ideas/