Meal Prep 101: A Health Coach’s Guide
by Linda Arrandt, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, Simple + Well
Spending quality time in the kitchen is well worth the effort, but let’s face the facts - we’re busy! Our weeknights are full of kids’ sports practices, tutoring, and work running late. Having shortcuts in your toolbox will help you have home cooked meals on the table every night.
1. Plan to shop and prep on Saturday or Sunday
It is time well spent to make weeknight mealtime easy. It will help keep you and your family on track to eat healthier all week. First, go through your fridge and trash old or expired food. Next, create a meal plan for the week. I like the Real Plans meal planner. It’s very user-friendly and can target grocery lists for specialized diets like gluten-free, Whole 30 or Keto. Lastly, create a list of what you need to purchase.
2. Shop with your grocery list and your meal plan in mind
You can shop once or twice a month for organic chicken, wild caught fish and freeze them. Costco is a great place to buy meat, and they usually carry organic staples such as almond butter, brown rice, and Simple Mills Almond crackers as well. They also have an array of organic veggies and fruit. It’s best to buy produce twice a week for the freshest ingredients, but I also buy organic frozen broccoli, for the times I don’t want to leave the house for fresh veggies.
3. Prep your food when you return home
Unpack groceries and put produce next to the sink. Put everything else into the fridge or pantry. Move the vegetables that you already had from the fridge and add them to what’s there. If anyone were to come into my kitchen during my prep time, it would look like a chaotic mess, but that’s ok! There’s a method to the madness.
4. Call in the troops to get the prep work done
I highly recommend getting help from family members or if you can afford it, paid help. Hire or train a sitter or housekeeper to do some of the prep work so that you have what you need on hand. One of the best things you can prep is fresh-cut veggies for snacking. Use them for grab-and-go and on-the-run snacks. Put them on the counter when your kids come home from school so they have good things to eat instead of mindless, nutrient-deficient junk food. Similarly, when you or your spouse come home from work ravenous, try to have fresh cut veggies and some fresh guacamole to dip the veggies in ready to pull out of the fridge. This tactic will tide all of you over until dinner.
5. Chop all of the staples
Onion, carrots, and celery are good to have on hand for soups and stews. If you are short on time, purchase them pre-cut. You may pay a premium, but there are really no excuses when you’re short on time.
6. Store your fresh cut veggies in glass Pyrex dishes with lids
I like to use glass containers because they are the easiest and safest for food storage. You can safely put hot food or liquids in glass while with plastic, you have to wait for the food to cool. Placing hot foods in plastic can cause harmful chemicals to leach into your food. Similarly, never ever heat or reheat food in plastic as it can be carcinogenic. Besides glass, I like the Systema brand of storage containers because of their many size options, they snap closed, and many have compartments. They are great for school lunches and quick grab-and go-snacks. You can find them at Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Target.
With this method of regular meal planning, your family will bring home less take-out food and eat out less often, therefore saving you a lot of money and giving you more power to eat healthily. “Health Reform” needs to start in our own kitchens. Remember, you have the power to choose to eat well and get educated for a lifetime of great health and longevity. I know it takes a big time and effort commitment to start to think this way, create a plan and prep, but you and your family are worth it!