Meal Prepping 101: How to do it and why you should

The biggest barrier I see which prevents people from sticking to their healthy diet is a lack of planning. Last year, by and large, was the busiest time of my entire life. I was the President of my sorority, held two jobs, and was a full time student. I started most of my days before 6am to either teach spin or fit in my own workout. Afterwards, I would rush home, get ready and then head out for a full day of class. I would usually have a meeting (or ten) later on and usually wouldn’t arrive back home until after dark.

I learned early on that if I wanted to continue eating the way I liked (a.k.a. home cooked, nutrient-rich meals), I was going to have to make some changes. I didn’t have the energy or patience to cook an elaborate dinner for myself after my jam-packed days.

Solution? Meal prepping. I began devoting 2-3 hours each Sunday to making a couple main dishes and sides to have throughout the week for lunches and dinners. Meal planning saved me precious time (2-3 hours one day vs. 1 hour seven days a week), money (from wasted food, takeout and gas money from taking multiple trips to the grocery store), and my health (no fast food or ramen for this gal).

Tomorrow marks the first day of my dietetic internship rotations. For the next 8 months, I will be working 30-40 hours/week, taking night classes and working part time as a graduate assistant. Needless to say, I will be jumping back on the meal prepping bandwagon and you should too! Here are some helpful tips to help you:

1.) Make a tentative meal plan
Put your Pinterest boards, recipe clippings and cookbooks to good use! Select 1-3 main dishes to make on the weekends to reheat throughout the week. Decide what kind of sides you want to have with each one to create a complete, satisfying meal you can look forward to.

2.) Prep items you eat the most often
I love making a big batch of roasted vegetables to have as a meal side multiple times a week. They are a nice change from their steamed counterparts, but take longer, so I like to make them ahead of time. Do this with foods you eat on a regular basis such as granola, hardboiled eggs, chicken breasts, etc.

3.) Prep the items that take the longest
Ain’t nobody got time to wait for a chicken breast to thaw or a lasagna to bake when you’re about to knaw your arm off due to extreme hunger. Bypass this, by prepping the items on your meal plan that take the longest amount of time. Complex dishes that require multiple steps (such as casseroles or pasta dishes), meats that require thawing and vegetables or grains that take a long time to cooke all fall into this category.

4.) Get to (grocery) shopping
Once you know what you want to make, take stock of what ingredients you already have on hand and write down the ones you need to pick up at the store. That way you have everything you need, and don’t need to make emergency trips mid-week.

Example meal prep: Gnocchi with sweet potato blue cheese sauce, roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts, 2 turkey burgers, large salmon filet for salads, taco meat, homemade balsamic vinegarette
Example meal prep: Gnocchi with sweet potato blue cheese sauce, roasted broccoli and brussel sprouts, 2 turkey burgers, large salmon filet for salads, taco meat, homemade balsamic vinegarette
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