A common challenge for many people working to adopt healthier eating habits is balancing the desire for healthy eating against the perceived time demands that such endeavors require. Time, it seems, is the enemy for a lot of people. As proud parents of an 18-month old, my wife and I can relate. So let’s discuss how we can prep and organize our food to make healthy meals easier to execute.
Our rules aren’t meant to be restrictive, they’re more like guidelines to help you streamline the process. You can choose how to apply them, but following them will make life easier:
1. Have protein at every meal. Protein is incredibly important to our diet.
2. Have veggies at every meal. We already know why!
3. Preferable carb sources are rice, quinoa (or similar grain), potatoes/sweet potatoes or fruit. These are all healthy carb sources that can be made and stored in bulk.
4. One day (Sunday seems to work well) you’ll set aside 30-60 minutes to perform food prep tasks like cutting, washing etc.
5. You’ll cook in bulk. You’re already cooking, so making extra doesn’t require more time upfront and will save you time later on.
6. Healthy processed foods can be used to supplement daily intake. Sometimes it’s just easier to have a protein bar handy than a container of chicken.
My process is pretty simple. I hate lines, crowds and wasted time, so early Saturday morning I head to the grocery store to get what I need for the week. At some point on Sunday, I’ll tackle food prep. I try to prep and make enough protein, veggies and carbs to last a few days, but also afford me some variety. If I have something more elaborate I’d like to make, I’ll do it on Sunday. During the week, I’m a “lazy chef”. I make meals that require little, if any, prep work and can be completed within 30 minutes. I also try to make sure that my meals require minimal oversight. For example, here’s my recipe for boneless, skinless chicken thighs:
1. Preheat oven to broil
2. Remove thighs from package and place on tin foil lined pan.
3. Place pan on top oven rack for 20 minutes.
4. Go do something else.
5. Turn over for 5 minutes.
The thighs come out crispy and tasty thanks to their higher fat content, but you can season to taste. If need be, I can have veggies and carbs going simultaneously. Clean up is easy too!
I bought a rotisserie chicken, which became shredded chicken. We have a variety of ways to use it including in tacos, a casserole or over a salad.
I washed and cut up bell peppers then stored them in container. When I need to use them over a salad, for roasting, or as part of another dish they’re ready to go.
My wife washed and cut up our strawberries. She also washed and separated the grapes. One less step during the week, while allowing for some versatility in how the fruit is used.
I made a ground beef and ground turkey mix, quinoa and a bag of mixed veggies. For dinner I mixed everything together in a bowl. I can do the same with the leftovers or keep the items separate and use them for other dishes. My wife was eyeing the ground meat for empanadas – I won’t argue!
Today’s article offered just a few ideas for food and meal prep strategies. However, I hope you can see how a little work up front can yield better results during the week. After all, it’s easier to maintain healthy eating habits when you know where your next meal is coming from. Even with only a few examples, we still can create variety within our daily meals. Again, do the work upfront and your waistline will thank you.