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12 Months to Better Health: How to Do Weekly Meal Prep

By Sara Butler

Weekly Meal Prep

Meal prep -- it’s a term that strikes fear in the hearts of people everywhere. OK, so that may be overly dramatic, but when you mention meal prep to people, you may hear a lot of groaning. That’s because meal prep is a great idea, but it’s also an idea that most people think takes a lot of work and planning to pull off.

As a part of our 12 months to a healthier you series, this month we’re doling out meal prep and why it’s really nothing to fear. In fact, if you can master meal prep, you’ll find that eating healthy at home or on the go is a piece of cake. OK, maybe not cake, but something vaguely resembling a much healthier version of cake.

Here’s what you need to know about getting ahead of your meals this month and making meal prep a breeze!

Tip No. 1: Start Small

Every great journey starts with just one step, including your meal prep journey. When looking to create positive changes and new habits, starting small is key. It’s a good idea to start simple and small as you learn more about meal prepping and what works best for you. That way you won’t become overwhelmed.

Begin by planning a few snacks or meals over the next few weeks. This can help you to figure out the type of planning strategies that will work best for you. Then, you can build on what you’re learning by adding in more meals as it works for you.

Tip No. 2: Know Your Food Groups

It’s a good idea to represent each food group as you begin to plan. Focus on whole foods such as whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, legumes, lean protein, and vegetables. Try to give added sugar and refined grains a pass; they bring less to the table.

As you go through recipes, be mindful of your meal prep, consider each of the food groups and if any are missing, simply add them in!

Tip No. 3: Organize and Invest

Look, no one said that meal planning would be easy, but you can make it a lot easier if you organize yourself and invest in the right containers.

Organize your kitchen and pantry, make a grocery list, and make sure you know where all your ingredients and tools are. Doing so will make meal prep a more streamlined process. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, just as long as it’s a system that works for you.

You can also make the process a lot easier by investing in good food storage containers. Go through your cupboard and toss out the mismatched containers and lids, then replace them with high-quality containers that are microwave safe and in various sizes.

Tip No. 4: Bring Your Pantry Up to Snuff

You must have a baseline to work from in meal prep. After all, you don’t want to run to the store to buy healthy staples each and every week to get the job done. Having a few of these great pantry staples on hand will simplify the whole process:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Polenta
  • Canned beans of your choice
  • Low sodium canned goods such as broth and corn
  • Canned tuna, salmon, and chicken
  • Avocado or olive oil
  • Potatoes
  • Dried fruit
  • Mixed nuts
  • Nut butter

These essentials will help reduce the stress of meal planning and make you more efficient!

Tip No. 5: Spice It Up

One of the keys to healthy cooking is spice. Spices can be used in place of added salt and sugar to make your food more delicious, so don’t skimp on the spice. Make sure your pantry is well stocked with herbs and spices you enjoy.

Tip No. 6: Shop With a List

Always make sure you have a shopping list on you when you head to the grocery -- and never go to the store hungry! Ignoring these tips can lead you to give in to temptation and spend more money on less healthy food than you probably want.

Tip No. 7: Cook in Batches

Making large quantities of a recipe is what meal prep is all about. For example, on your meal prep day, you may want to roast a large tray of vegetables or prepare a large quantity of your protein source that you can use in various recipes for the next several days. These batches can be used in different ways throughout the week and make cooking dinner in the evening a whole lot less work.

Tip No. 8: Pre-Portion

One of the best things about meal prep is pre-portioning your meals ahead of time. This can help you keep track of your nutrients throughout the week, and also help you to save time in the long run. All you need to do is prepare a large portion of your chosen recipe, then portion it out in individual containers to enjoy throughout the week for lunch or dinner.

Tip No. 9: Don’t Forget to Have Fun!

You will stick to your new meal plan if you’re having fun while you’re doing it. View what you’re doing as an investment in yourself and as a way you can take better care of yourself and your family.

Speaking of family, getting kids and spouses involved in meal prep can make it fun for everyone. Have household members help you to cook the large batches or chop the vegetables so that they’re invested; children will typically be more interested in eating the food that they’ve prepared. Make it quality time you can all spend together.

If you’re flying solo, then turn on your favorite podcast or music, making it something you can look forward to doing each week. Audiobooks were made for meal prep.

Taking the time to plan out your meals for the week and prepare the parts you can in advance is a great way to help you make better food choices throughout the week -- but it also saves you time and money. It can seem a bit overwhelming at the start, but with time you may find that weekly meal prep is a step you’ve put off for far too long!

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