It’s Monday morning, and you’re running late for work. You’re about to grab your lunch for later that day but realize you forgot to prepare anything. Instead of a well-balanced meal, you grab a pack of instant noodles and run out the door.
Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone. The chaos of the American workday can wreak havoc on our eating schedules. Poor meal choices over a long period of time can lead to weight issues (both under and over the healthy range), as well as take a toll on us mentally.
So how can you plan meals to support overall good health and wellbeing?
Print Out Some Delicious (and Nutritious) Recipes
This tip may seem obvious at first, but many of us rely on the internet to find recipes last minute. Spend a few minutes printing off several recipes that include a variety of vegetables and low-fat protein choices like fish and tofu. Keep the recipe copies in a binder and storing them in a visible location in your kitchen, such as on top of your microwave or on the counter. Seeing them constantly will help remind you that you have a go-to collection of your favorite recipes.
Pull out a few of the recipes each week and put them on your fridge as a reminder of your meals that week. Take the recipes to the grocery store when you do your weekly shopping. You’ll have a readymade shopping list that takes minimal preparation.
Get Ready to Dice, Slice, and Chop
Scan your recipes for steps you can take ahead of time. Can you make pizza dough on Sunday for dinner on Monday? Can you cook a large pot of green beans that you use as meal sides throughout the week?
Consider chopping several types of vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and onions over the weekend. You’ll have these ingredients on hand to make a quick salad for a last-minute lunch or dinner during the work week. You can even prepare an artichoke-parmesan dip ahead of time and use the veggies and dip as a convenient snack during the day.
Make Friends with Your Freezer
When you have leftovers, go ahead and freeze them. You’ll have a delicious, healthy, and quick meal when you need it. Not only do you save time on future food preparation, but you’ll also be helping to reduce food waste.
This option works especially well for foods like soups and stews. You’ll likely be making large quantities anyway. Freezing portion-sized containers will also keep your eating habits varied, which is good not only for your tastebuds but your nutrition levels as well!
Use Leftovers to Your Advantage
A helpful tip for meal prepping is to plan on using leftovers as a base for a future meal. Schedule your meals to get the most out of your ingredients. For example, if you make baked chicken one day, consider shredding the leftover portions and using them in chicken enchiladas later that week.
You can also use this trick to make use of left-over rice (perfect for stuffed cabbage) or using up extra tortillas (great for chilaquiles).
Don’t let the chaos of the week prevent you from nourishing your body affordably. With a little time investment, you’ll be able to meal prep quickly and easily!