ByMarisa Urda, MS, RDN, LD
Meal prepping may seem overwhelming or intimidating, but in reality, taking some extra time to meal prep each week can be a great way to save yourself time on busy days or eliminate the stress of figuring out what to make when you’re on the verge of becoming “hangry”. Eating enough food throughout the day is important to make sure our bodies have the nutrients and energy they need to help us get through our busy days, and meal prepping can be a great way to make sure you have quick access to a healthy, delicious meal or snack.
When it comes to meal prep, the key is to prepare a handful ofitems that can be used in several different ways, which allows you to quickly assemble meals depending on what you’re in the mood for that day. As a bonus, eating a variety of foods ensures your body gets all the nutrients it needs. Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind when meal prepping:
- Go grocery shopping the day before you plan to meal prep. Trying to do everything in one day is time-consuming and can get stressful!
- Invest in good-quality containers that seal well and are freezer-friendly. The last thing we want is for all that food to spoil.
- Make the most of your time - while you have veggies roasting in the oven or rice cooking on the stove, start working on gathering the ingredients for the next recipe you’ll be preparing.
- Turn on some music or listen to an audiobook while you work. Even better, recruit a friend/family member to help you out to speed things up and make it more enjoyable.
What to Make?
When prepping your weekly meals, aim to prepare a couple of items from each of the categories below. That way, you’ll have a few more options to choose from and won’t have to eat the exact same thing each day.
Breakfast:Mornings can often be hectic, but don’t use that as an excuse to skip out on this important meal. After going (ideally) 8 hours during the night without eating, it’s important to give your body some fuel to start your day off right. Adding protein is especially important to ensure you are full and satisfied until your next meal or snack rolls around. Preparing breakfasts ahead of
time is a great way to save you a few minutes in the morning, and many recipes can actually be doubled and then frozen in portions. This way, you just simply thaw it out the night before, and breakfast will be waiting for you when you wake up!
Long stretches between meals can lead to a dip in blood sugar, which can leave you feeling sluggish and tired. Snacking is a great way to keep you satisfied until your next meal, give you the fuel you need to get through the busy day, and prevent you from over-eating later in the day. When it comes to snacks, aim to include at least 2 of the following: protein, fat, and fiber.
Eating the same food each day can get a little boring, but sauces are the perfect way to switch up the flavor and take your meal up a notch. Not only that, but most sauces are a great way to add dietary fat (like nuts, seeds, olives, or oil) to the meal, which not only makes it more satisfying, but can actually help your body better absorb many of the other vitamins and minerals in the meal. Don’t be afraid to add a drizzle of sauce or dressing to your salads or grain bowls.
Main Dishes and Side Dishes:
After a long day at work or school, coming up with a plan for dinner is likely the last thing you want to think about. Instead of resorting to take-out or fast food, aim to have some ingredients prepared ahead of time to throw together a quick and delicious meal. A well-balanced dinner has been shown to improve sleep, lower anxiety, and keep blood sugars more stable, among many other benefits. Make an effort to include a protein and carbohydrate (or starchy vegetable) with each plate, along with plenty of colorful vegetables!
Suggestions: Meat/vegetarian protein, grain (rice, farro, quinoa, etc.), a few roasted vegetables of choice, roasted starchy vegetable (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash)
Need a little inspiration? Here’s a sample plan to get you started.On Saturday, Use up any leftovers you may have in your fridge/freezer, then go grocery shopping and fill it back up with meals for the following week!
Recipes to Prepare:
- Tahini Chocolate Chip Blender Muffins
- Buckwheat Banana Bread Pancakes
- Chocolate Tahini Date Bites
- Curry Tahini Sauce
- Best 5-Minute Hummus
- Lemon Tahini Sauce
- Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chickpea and Sweet Potato Stew
- Beet and Chickpea Pasta with Lemon Tahini Sauce
- 2-3 roasted vegetables of choice (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, beets, etc.)
- A large portion of quinoa, farro, rice, or grain of choice
- 1 box of pasta (nutrition tip: look for whole-grain pasta or chickpea pasta for extra fiber)
- Trail mix: 2-3 nuts of choice, sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips