One of the most important factors in getting that body you want is maintaining healthy food choices. Some people can get put off by having to prepare vegetables each day for lunchtime or evening meals. This can then lead to reaching for packaged meals or dialing for a takeaway. However, if you plan well and are prepared to spend some time once a week doing smart food preparation you will be setting yourself up for success.
A huge cause of why people end up eating unhealthy food is because they get caught out and hungry with nothing healthy on hand. That’s why if you are prepared, slip-ups are less likely to occur. Whilst preparing food may take a few hours to do in the one go, you will ultimately save on time over the week. That’s because you are doing all the chopping, cooking and cleaning in the one go. I know a lot of people starting out haven’t cooked this way before, that’s why I want to share some of my tips that I do for my weekly meal prep.
Create smoothie freezer bags – I have to admit that I prefer to eat whole foods over making smoothies, especially for breakfast. However, smoothies are a delicious quick snack to have on the go or a healthy alternative to biscuits or cake when sat at your desk. When you are doing your meal prep for the week get some snack sized zip-lock bags and fill them with your favourite smoothie ingredients and put them in the freezer. All you need to do is grab your pre packed smoothie bag from the freezer, add a liquid of your choice, blend and you have a quick healthy snack in a couple of minutes. By using frozen ingredients, it makes your smoothies nice and thick too.
Cook in bulk – There are quite a few meals that you can cook in bulk that will stay good in the fridge for a few days or you can freeze for meals later. Things like curries, stews and soups are all great freezer meals as they are easy to cook in bulk. I often buy minced meat in bulk and cook up a whole saucepan of it. Once cooked it can be split into Tupperware dishes and frozen for use another day. The joy of this is that when you come to use it you can make a Bolognese, chili or cottage pie (topped with mashed sweet potatoes or butternut squash). Slow cookers are also great for cooking soups, stews and curries. You can simply chop all your ingredients, add them to the slow cooker with your flavourings and liquid in the morning, leave it for the day and then come back to a nutritious home-cooked meal after work.
Eat your leftovers – If you don’t have time to do a big bulk meal prep session then when you do get time to cook make extra, so you can have leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. It’s all about making smart use of your time, so if you are going to the trouble of cooking, then you may as well cook a few meals in the one go. Now before you roll your eyes at having to eat leftovers, remember that’s it’s far better to eat the same healthy meal a few times, then it is to fall off the wagon when there is nothing healthy on hand.
Chop your vegetables in bulk – When you move to a healthy diet that doesn’t come out of a packet then you will find that there is a lot more time spent chopping vegetables. So whilst you are spending the time chopping them you may as well do it in the one go. I usually do this while an evening meal is cooking, making use of the time I would previously have spent leaning on the worktop checking Facebook. You can chop your vegetable sticks for snacks and then store them in an airtight container in the fridge (carrots and celery are my favourites). I know that the vegetables I buy will last over a week in the fridge once chopped and stored. If you are making stir fries, chop all your vegetables and then store in serving sized snap lock bags. You can either keep these in the fridge or freezer and are ready to go for when you need that quick meal. You just need to add your protein and sauce to the pan and you have an instant quick dinner and something that is far better for you than takeout.
Get good storage – If you haven’t realised already from all of these tips, you are going to need containers and room in the fridge to store all the food you are making. If you can, try and get containers that are serving sized so you don’t overfill them and overeat. Other handy things to have in the cupboards for meal prep are zip-lock bags (for your smoothies, vegetables and freezer meals, meats and fish).
Save money by wasting less – Somebody once told me that they didn’t like to prepare food in advance as they didn’t want to waste food. They preferred to eat ‘what they felt like’. Now, either that means that they shop every day for their daily food, or they take their daily food from their fridge or freezer on a daily basis. Shopping on a daily basis can be a recipe for disaster when it comes to healthy eating, especially if you had a habit of previously making poor food choices. Being in a supermarket when hungry can often lead to buying packaged, processed foods.
If you are taking food from the fridge or freezer on a daily basis, then having prepared the foods in advance will save time when it comes to cooking.
I’ve been preparing food in bulk for a few years now and I can honestly say that I waste less food now than I ever did before. I have vegetables in plastic dishes for the week, ready to be cooked and I can dip into the freezer at any time for meat or fish for the following day.
I know all of this can seem like a lot of work to start with but remember why you are doing it and that big changes don’t come easy. Once you start cooking this way, you will soon get in to a habit and I promise it gets a lot easier as time goes on. There is so much truth in that saying “by failing to prepare you’re preparing to fail”. Remember by having quick instant healthy meals on hand you are less likely to fall off wagon and grab a takeaway when you run out of time. If you can use some of these tips, then you will be well on your way to getting the results you want.
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