Meal Prep 101
Meal prepping doesn’t have to be devoting your whole Sunday to make every meal for the week. It can simply mean getting a few things ready to save time, reduce stress and make things run more smoothly at meal time.
It also has the bonus of keeping meals to plan and nutrition on track. How easy is it to grab take away on the way home from work if you know nothing is prepared at home, when you are tired and hungry. Is this turning into a regular habit?
It also has the bonuses of saving money and food waste. When we buy what we plan to use there are less nasty surprises of rotting food in the fridge at the end of the week!
Let’s get started
1. Start simple- Choose one meal that you enjoy but causes grief to get ready during the week. A popular dish to meal prep is salmon fillets with green vegetables and a source of carb. If you would like a recipe check out my, Salmon fillets with cous cous and greens blog.
2. Choose a time that you can shop for ingredients-or delegate to another household member
3. Block out time in the diary for when you can cook it- ensure enough time is scheduled so it can be enjoyable
4. Pump up the music or have quiet time- what ever get’s the mood right to make cooking relaxing. This way you are likely to do it again as it becomes a pleasant experience.
5. Get started, whether it be chopping, peeling and washing for salads or vegetables ready to be cooked or cooking a whole dish.
6. Dishing up time- think about proportions of foods- around half the volume of the meal most times should be vegetables with around one quarter protein and one quarter carbohydrate.
7. Choose your containers. Ask yourself here will you be eating the meal-home or work?What will be easiest to reheat the meal in-Is it for the oven, stove top or microwave? If you can save on washing up by heating and eating from one that is a bonus!
8. Refrigerate or freeze. You may wish to label containers if they are going in the freezer with the dish and date. Over a few weeks you will get some variety in the freezer you can call on.
Now you have nailed one meal and that worked well, let’s look at creating a few for the week.
This could be for breakfast,lunch or dinner.
Let’s look at a few ideas for each meal.
If breakfast is something you fall short on due to lack of time, grab some containers and prepare a few days worth in advance.
Overnight soaked oats do well here where you can make a week’s worth and add different nuts, yoghurt, fruit or seeds to give a different taste each day.
If you prefer eggs for breakfast, prepare some vegetables to go with it. A handful of spinach, sliced mushrooms and half a tomato in each container with the egg in it’s shell ready to add at work. This can be all beaten up in a bowl and scrambled or added to a pan where you fry the egg.Variations of this could include adding corn, canned beans, broccoli and wholegrain toast.
Even easier is grabbing a packet of muesli and container of natural yoghurt and a punnet of berries and taking these to work at the start of the week ready to make each morning. This is still meal prep!
Lunch could be planning to cook extra for dinner and taking leftovers
It could be making a sandwich or wrap in the morning or night before or grabbing a can of soup.
A pot of soup made on the weekend ready to take each day and rotating the type each week works well for winter.
In summer making a few containers of salad and varying the protein source each day such as mixed canned beans, canned fish, boiled eggs, lean chicken, cheese or turkey,marinated tofu keeps it interesting. Varying the salad dressing added just before eating keep sit interesting also. Asian based,Italian or French dressings. Lining up the salad containers and adding some mixed nuts to some,seeds to others. When making dinner cut up a few extra vegetables and add them to the salad containers e.g. capsicum, carrots, snow peas, spring onions.
For wet dishes such as soup,curries, stews and pasta sauces preparing the whole dish in advance works well as the taste is still delicious after reheating.
For dishes such as stir fry and accompanying vegetables these are often nicer if cooked fresh. You can prepare by having the vegetables washed and cut and meat or seafood cut and marinated ready for a stir fry. If you like a piece of grilled meat or fish the vegetables again can be washed,cut and ready to steam, grill or barbeque. Using some frozen vegetables can also cut down on preparation time.
Choosing a dish that can be converted into numerous variations reduces cooking and preparing time too. For example a basic bolognaise could start with the meat base and turn the corner to become a chilli con carne if beans, paprika, chilli, corn and cumin are added or a shepherds pie if mixed vegetables are added. Cutting up the same or similar vegetables for a stir fry could also be altered to be an Asian noodle soup or a Thai curry.
Choose an array of vegetables for the week that can be use in a few dishes and prepare these in containers at the one time. If you struggle to get in enough vegetables check out my blog on how to get more veggies in and taste good too.
You will find some tasty sporty recipes from sports dietitians on the Sports Dietitians Australia website
With a little planning of the weekly menu, a scheduled time to shop and one to cook, your weekly diet will be nutritious and delicious. You will be, Eating Like An Athlete! (check out my book)
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