Do your resolutions include eating healthier this year? Are you pressed for time or short on money but want to be healthier? Spending one day each week on food preparation helps you get a head start which can mean the difference between a New Year’s success or a dietary burnout. All you have to do is spend 3-4 hours on Sunday for some shopping, washing, chopping, and a little cooking for delicious healthy meals all week long. Here is a quick and easy guide to help you get started:
Meal prepping is all about having things on hand so that when you need to throw something together for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it’s ready in a cinch! This means pre-cooking a few vegetables, washing and prepping lettuce for the week, cooking your grains or legumes for use later…you get the idea. This week we are talking about the best things to have in your fridge, ready for consumption, with just a little effort at the beginning of the week. Next week we will talk about menu planning, so stay tuned for part 2!
- First of all, if you are planning on purchasing food to last the whole week, it is crucial that you store produce correctly. This will ensure that your food lasts as long as possible and you aren’t making trips later in the week! If you are unsure about how to store certain fruits and vegetables, this site http://nutritionstripped.com/how-to-store-produce/ is a great reference!
- Prepare your grains and tubers ahead of time: Brown rice, quinoa, or wheat berries take a long time to cook, but are great reheated for breakfast porridge, stir-fries, soups, wraps, or thrown into salads. Start a pot of water boiling first thing when you come home and start cooking whatever grains you are planning to have throughout the week. Precooking whole wheat pasta can also be helpful especially if you are planning on packing them for lunch to toss with some vegetables and pesto. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, and squash are great cooked ahead and will save you a lot of time through the week if you cook them all at once! Just wrap them in foil and put them in a 350 degree oven for an hour.
- Cook your proteins: Soak and precook any beans or lentils you’d like for the week or open a few cans, rinse, and put in bags, see-through containers, or mason jars. You are more likely to remember to add a few beans to a salad, soup, or pita if you can see them! If you like sprouted lentils, this would be a great day to soak them overnight so you can enjoy them the rest of the week! Blend up some homemade nut butters or homemade hummus (see a great recipe below) if you desire. If you include animal proteins this is also a great time to hard boil some eggs or pre-cook a few seasoned chicken breasts.
- Prep your greens: A head of lettuce easily goes to waste in the drawer of your fridge because the thought of chopping off a few pieces, washing and drying each day takes too much time! If you do it all at once, you are much more likely to throw greens into a salad, sandwich, or a burrito bowl. Make sure you remove all of the liquid from the lettuce before chopping and throwing into a perforated bag and storing. The drier the leaves, the longer they will stay fresh! If you like Kale, a delicious way to store raw leaves all week long is to massage them with a little olive oil and lemon juice. They stay tender and flavorful for a whole week!
- Chop and/or freeze: Get busy peeling and chopping your veggies for the week! If you are planning on making a soup of curry, get your onion, carrot and celery chopped ahead of time. If you want veggies for salads, dice them, grate them, or slice them and put them in bags for quick assembly or simple snacking. Jicama sticks, cucumber slices, and shredded carrot stay fresh for a long time in airtight containers. Again, if the work is already done and they are ready to go, you are much more likely to consume them! You can also store them in the freezer for healthy smoothies, stir-fries or soups if you are worried about them staying fresh!
- Remember your snacks: speaking of snacking, don’t forget to have healthy snacks on hand! Besides dipping veggies and fruits in hummus or nut butter, try making a few treats ahead of time! Homemade low-sugar granola bars, soak some overnight-oats, make date-bites, or even dark-chocolate dipped fruits. Freeze some bananas for nice-cream, or other fruits for smoothies!
- Make Sauces or Dressings ahead: If you want fresh, tasty salads or wraps, make your own condiments! You will have complete control over what goes into your food if you make dressing from scratch, not to mention the taste is far superior! Making your own Thai peanut sauces, or pasta sauce is also a great way to save time and promote healthier eating!
Spending a few hours meal prepping for the week can be fun! Turn on some music, pull out the apron and your favorite kitchen utensils and get busy! You will be amazed how much more motivated you are to eat healthy when good, healthy food is so readily available! Give it a try this week, and while you’re at it, make some of this homemade hummus!
This recipe makes about 1 ½ cups of hummus and will last for a week if stored in an airtight container. It’s delicious with cucumbers and red pepper or spread on sandwiches! It’s very basic and can be the starting point for fancier hummus varieties if you’d like to add roasted red pepper or pine nuts or even paprika!
- 1 lemon, juiced
- ¼ cup tahini
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Salt to taste
- 1 14 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- Water for thinning
In a food processor combine the lemon juice and tahini. Whip for 1-2 minutes to lighten the tahini so the consistency will be smooth and creamy. Add the olive oil, garlic, and salt. Process for more minute. Add the chickpeas and process until smooth (should take another 1-2 minutes) adding water if necessary to make the texture how you like.