Have you vowed to eat cleaner and cut junk food from your diet? Pack snacks to bring to work or school so you’re not munching on junk from vending machines? Maybe you’re planning to prepare meals in advance so healthy eating is easier when time is crunched? You’re on the right track!
There are many benefits to purchasing, prepping, cooking and packing your own food for the week. For starters, you won’t have to put much thought into what you’ll be eating each day–it will be mapped out already. You’ll also be able to create a healthy menu that’s in line with your nutrition goals. Here are three steps to get started.
Step one: gather supplies
What you’ll need:
Parchment paper or aluminum foil
Small zipper-lock bags
Food storage containers
Herbs and spices
Condiments of choice (salad dressing, salsa, BBQ sauce, low-sodium soy sauce)
Step two: shop and prep
Choose a day when you have time to grocery shop and prepare your meals (Sunday works well for many people). At the supermarket, look for food items that make meal prep easier, such as chicken breast tenders or triple-washed spinach.
Wash, drain and chop your salad greens, vegetables, fruits and beans. Next, bake your lean protein (such as chicken) in batches. A good way to create variety quickly and easily is to divide your protein of choice into sections, then season each differently. For example, season one section with BBQ sauce, another with honey mustard and the third with liquid aminos and herbs.
If you’ll be eating eggs, try baking them in the oven to save time. Lightly grease the wells of a muffin tin and crack an egg into each well. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, then plunge the tin in cold water and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
Another time-saving tip: roast vegetables together instead of cooking them separately. On high heat (400 degrees F), roast sweet potatoes, white potatoes and veggies in large batches on lined baking sheets coated with a healthy non stick-spray or coconut oil.
The same process works for grains. Cook large batches of brown or wild rice, quinoa, barley or any healthy grain of your choice. For an easy meal, combine already-cooked rice with veggies and a protein, toss with soy sauce and you’re done!
Step three: Assemble your meals
Weigh and measure your protein and carbs, then place each serving in a separate container.
Separate lettuce and vegetables into containers for daily salads, keeping toppings (such as nuts and dried fruit) separate to add to salads on the day you’ll be eating them. Measure out salad dressings or condiments of choice, and add them to small containers.
Divide snacks into appropriate-sized servings—this will help prevent overeating and mindless munching. Buy healthy, ready-made snacks such as protein pretzels, trail mix and popcorn, and store them in baggies or small containers.
Measure and weigh fruit for snacking.
Make shakes and smoothies the night before so they’re ready to grab in the morning
Make a batch of homemade protein bars (recipe below) and cut into daily portions.
Quick, No-Bake Protein Bars
2 cups quick-cooking oats
4 scoops vanilla protein powder
1 tbsp. ground flax seeds
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (or nut butter of choice)
1/2 cup water
Optional: nuts, seeds or dried fruit of choice
In large bowl, mix together all ingredients. Spread mixture into square pan lined with parchment paper. Freeze bars for 30 minutes, then slice. If desired, spread a thin layer of peanut butter on top of bars.