Do you want to start meal prepping and nutrition planning but really have no idea where to start? Or where the time is going to come from? Healthy eating can be a mountain, or it can be a wonderful journey. Unfortunately, most people turn it into an impossible mountain. For example, they try to change every single aspect of themselves overnight and during busy seasons of life, then turn around and wonder why they failed. Well first, give yourself a fighting chance, and secondly get some assistance. You did not arrive at your current destination overnight; therefore, you should not try to change it overnight. Taking small steps to reach a large goal is a much more sustainable and realistic approach. Quite frequently, I find myself readjusting people’s goals and desires in nutrition coaching/counseling. Everyone wants to do the right thing. Very few people would say to me out-loud, “oh yes, please, I want to select an unhealthiest lifestyle, feel horrible, and be a terrible example for everyone around me, including my family.”
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The reality is, we are busy and/or we just do not know how to go about the task of achieving the healthier version of you. I get it. I promise I do. More than you know.
So here are four meal planning tips to move you down a better trail.
You must set aside some time to plan. I tend to do this before my kid wakes up, or after he goes to sleep, sometime midweek. This way I am armed and ready for the grocery store and can purchase everything I need for the following week, I only go to the store once a week.
Step One. Make the Menu
“Ummmm, how do I do this lady? I am not a foodie or even know what I am doing in the slightest.” Yes, yes, I know. That’s why you are here, staring at whatever illuminated screen before you. Do not over think it. Take a post-it, small scratch piece of paper, or even your smart phone, and write out the days of the week. Select your dinner entrée first, alternating the type of meat you select. For example, chicken, turkey, fish, repeat. DO NOT do more than three different options for ease of meal prepping. Once you have rotated your dinner entrees move onto lunch options. Pick two options, rotate through the week. Breakfast is last. IF you are truly as busy as you say you are, pick one and stick to it.
After you have outlined the main part of your weekly menu, add sides to dinner and lunch. One carbohydrate choice and one large portion of non-starchy vegetable (if you are quite clueless as to what these options are, do not fret, more to come about this exact topic). With your sides, I suggest limiting to three options to rotate as well for dinner. Example, dinner could be brown rice, sweet potato, baked potato, repeat, for your carbohydrate. Broccoli, carrots, green beans, repeat, for you non-starch veggies. Limiting to three will help you tremendously when you are first starting down this journey. Pick items your family likes, not what YOU think is healthy at this point in the game. You are just now starting on this journey and cooking is better than eating out! You have improved already. Good work.
Now focus on breakfast, select a protein, carbohydrate and calcium choice. Example, eggs or egg whites, high fiber bread or fruit, and unsweet almond milk or low-fat dairy.
Step one complete, planning
Step Two. Find your recipes and create your shoplist.
If you need help in this area, I have recipes in my members only section, be sure to check consider if you are muddled and lost! I like to provide easy, fast, healthy options. If I start letting my Google happy fingers take over, I tend to get overwhelmed by TOO many options! So I have to narrow it down, and select basic ways of cooking at this point. Example, cooking ________ (fill in the blank) fast and healthy. Try to keep ingredients less than six, and recipes you can use for lunch and dinners. Crockpots and power cookers can be your friend for the busy lifestyle. Once you have found your recipes, be sure to create a shop-list.
Step Three. Actual prepping.
Again, do not overthink. I have NOT always meal prepped. Once upon a time, I cooked during the week. Oh my goodness, NO ONE has time for that! I love to cook, but hate to be in the kitchen for an hour plus each evening, after working and so on, missing time with my family! Not fair in my opinion. Why do I have to go to the kitchen to work MORE when others do not! Insert whining sound….
Look at your schedule and block out about an hour to hour and half. During this time, use every single kitchen cooking equipment you have! Example, during my meal prepping my stove-top, oven, counter-top grill such as the super basic George Foreman Grill , and crockpot are all going! I do not want to be in there any longer than I must be! AND I PROMISE THIS WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE TO COOK AHEAD for the family. This small block of time will save your weekly time spent in the kitchen tremendously, and helps your grocery budget! Saving time and money? Sign me up!
What do you prep?
Look at the meats in your menu, can you cook any ahead of time? For example, if I have enchiladas or spaghetti on the menu for the family, I will cook the ground turkey in advance, so it takes way less time during the week to assemble the actual menu dish. Are there any casseroles or assembled dishes? Sometimes assembling these types of dishes will allow the flavor and spices to really set, creating a wonderful new taste!
Are there any sides or dishes you can cook in advance because they take quite a bit of time? Sweet potatoes, for example. I know tons of people “nuke” their potatoes, but sweet potatoes have such a wonderful flavor if cooked slow. So, I rub them in coconut oil, wrap in tin-foil, and cook in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours, or until easily pierced with fork. They are fabulous! Do not even need sweetener or butter added, promise. All the veggies I select on my menu, I try to have easy prep ones, stovetop, take less than ten minutes to cook, so I do not need to prep those items.
Now to my breakfast item, I do not have time to cook eggs every morning, so I will bake crust-less mini-quiches in a muffin tin. Easy, quick, on-the-go protein. The carbohydrate I usually try to have a ready-to-eat food so I have minimal breakfast prepping. Example, apple and greek yogurt with a few nuts.
As I finish each item, I am cleaning and tucking away dishes into the dishwasher.
Step Four. The final step, not to be forgotten. Proper cooling and holding.
Many folks disregard this aspect. DO NOT do take this step lightly, unless you enjoy hugging a toilet bowl due to foodborne illness….
Once you have finished a dish, be sure to cool in shallow containers. The food does not need to be covered or placed in the fridge until it has cooled. If you cover your cooked dish too soon, you will literally create a breeding ground for bacteria. If you place in fridge too soon, you will decrease the temperature of the fridge and possible cause issues with the surrounding food items. The cooked items should be transferred to a shallow dish, allowed to cool, then covered and placed in fridge. Cutting up meat or dividing soups will decrease cooling time. If cooled properly, your cooked food can be safely enjoyed for the week ahead. While cooling I usually resume normal life, and set a timer of when to come back to my cooked items.
I am including some links to my favorite dishes for cooling and reheating!
That is it! Good luck on reaching a better version of yourself, and remember one small step at a time will yield better results than trying to change your dirty habits overnight. No one has the willpower to change everything about themselves in one swoop. It takes time to change and achieve discipline regarding your healthy lifestyle.
I hope this post helped you to know your first steps toward meal prepping. If you need more help, ideas, recipes, tips, or want someone to do the planning for you, be sure to contact me! I would love to work with you, near or far!
If you are not completely ready to commit to working with me, consider the members only Foodie Club!
For only $5 per month you have access to Secret Sartain recipes, tips, tools, and of course a chance to ask your questions! It is my favorite place to connect with you! AND I have a wonderful Meal Planning Template just for My Foodies!
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