Healthy Meal Prep – Don’t make it harder than it has to be!
I don’t believe that anyone wants to be unhealthy. I do believe that many people fear that getting healthy will end up ruling their every waking moment. Healthy meal prep does not have to be such a chore! Being healthy should not rule your life but it can gently become your life. In reality, being healthy should not be a task, it should be a lifestyle. We want you to BE healthy not just TRY to be healthier or do healthy things, and that’s exactly why our team is here – to help you BE healthy!
Treat your body with the love and affection that you would a high-end sports car or gorgeous purse (or insert any material good you simply adore) and take care of it properly. We know that proper diet and exercise is key for good health, so plan to condition your body and choose quality fuel so it keeps running for years to come! Like it or not, “your abs are made in the kitchen” and so is that next pant size.
First, PREPARATION IS KEY
Ben Franklin’s famous quote, “fail to prepare and prepare to fail” doesn’t make up for his hairstyle but it does ring true in every scenario that I can think of. From both professional and personal experience, I have found this to be true in the health and fitness realm with undeniable certainty.
As a fitness professional, advising and helping clients to prepare as best we can for their fitness and nutritional needs has been crucial in getting optimal results. As a busy woman who doesn’t want to sacrifice quality personal time or my health and fitness capacity, a lack of preparation will derail me from both tracks in a split second.
I think of it like having health or home-owners insurance. If you wait until you need a doctor to figure out how to pay for a doctor, be prepared to sew that arm back on yourself. If you wait until you need to rebuild your She Shed before figuring out how you’ll pay for that She Shed, well….you’ll make a funny commercial. Seriously, I think you get the point.
How can you do it?! Let’s start by focusing on three of our most valued commodities: time, intellect, and money.
#1: TIME – use it wisely! Healthy meal prep won’t take long…
Aside from my ten-year old nephew, I haven’t heard many people say, “Gosh, I’m so bored and I just do not have enough to do!” Most of us would love to have more time in our day to get work done, enjoy family and friends, to relax and finally read that book. Many of us wish simply wish we had more time so that don’t have to brush our teeth and pour our commute coffee at the same time! Healthy meal preparation does not have to take up any more time than you already spend on shopping, cooking, and eating. In fact, I would be willing to bet that it saves you time in the long run! Here are 3 simple concepts to help you use your TIME most effectively. You’ll find some of these repeated as you continue to read.
Plan your meals for the week, or at least a few of them. Create, say, 5 meals that you want to make and write out the grocery list for them. I am a listaholic and suggest that you create columns for your ingredients based on the grocery store sections: meat/poultry, dairy/eggs, fruits/vegetables, miscellaneous. (You don’t need to list them in the exact order they are stocked in these sections like I do because, well, I’m just a nerd and pretend I’m on Supermarket Sweep.) Think simple at first and we’ll talk about how to yum it up later.
Personally, I like to trade off weeks or meals between great and fun recipes and simple and easy staples. This way, I enjoy the parts I enjoy more and don’t feel overwhelmed to make every healthy meal super gourmet. Sometimes, simple is better!
Also, I have a greater appreciation for the yummier meals and the meals that I throw all caution to the wind simply because I do not eat it all the time. Absence makes the belly grow fonder…
Here are two of my favorite meals to cook; one is my “enjoy the process” and one is my “just make it edible” meal. Healthy meal prep doesn’t have to be bland!
"Enjoy The Process" Meal: Agave Sriracha Pork Chops with Coconut Quinoa and Snow Pea Stir Fry Pork Chop & Sauce: Thick cut (about 1”) pork chop (bone in or bone out) 1 Tbsp. Sriracha 1 tbsp. agave (agave is about 1 ½ times sweeter than granulated sugar) 1 tsp. coconut oil ½ small lime, juiced
Veggie Stir Fry: ½ lb. snow peas ½ chopped bell peppers (red, orange, yellow) 1 tbsp coconut oil Jasmine Rice OR Quinoa OR brown rice: -Determine the appropriate dry portion you wish to cook -Determine the appropriate amount of liquid required to cook it and simply substitute the coconut milk for water. (You can use actual coconut milk which is quite rich and creamy but very high in calories and saturated fat. This coconut is a bit too calorie dense and sweet for my waist and taste so I prefer to use non-dairy coconut milk in place of the water. It provides just an extra bit of sweet flavor and creaminess to the rice/quinoa.) -Few sprigs of cilantro
-Preheat oven to 350. Heat coconut oil in an oven-proof skillet. Season chops with pepper (I think adding salt makes the dish taste too salty!)and brown in the skillet, about 3-5 minutes per side. If the pork sticks to the pan, it may need a little longer on that side before you flip. -Mix sriracha, agave and lime juice together and cover the chops. -Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the pork is cooked through and juices run clear, about 15-20 minutes. -While the pork is cooking, cook your jasmine rice/quinoa/brown rice in your coconut milk according to their cooking directions. You’ll also heat coconut oil in another skillet on medium. Add your cut veggies to the skillet and stir/flip frequently. You’ll only need about 3-6 minutes to cook them. -Plate your pork chops, coconut milk rice/quinoa and stir fry veggies. Top the rice with some sprigs of cilantro and throw some sesame seeds on the veggies.
"Just Make it Edible" Meal: Chicken, rice, veggies (a classic!) You’ll need chicken, rice/quinoa, veggies all portioned out according to your needs and the amount of meals you wish to make - Cook your chicken however you like (grill, broil, bake, crockpot, etc.) - Cook up brown rice or quinoa as package directs - Saute some onions and add any veggie you want to a quick stir fry OR place any veggies you prefer on a baking sheet and bake until tender. - Throw appropriate portions of each into a container to grab ‘n go!
Plan when you’ll cook. I do my meal prep on Sunday nights and I actually look forward to it all week. I love to cook and love the feeling of being productive so this is a happy time for me. This may not be you and that’s okay, but planning when you’ll cook is the first step to making sure that you actually get the food cooked ready to go. Like much in life, if we think we should wait until we have the time it’s likely we’ll never find the time simply because we need to make the time. It won’t be as bad you think, I promise!
Plan one-dish options. This is a great way to save time and brainpower by throwing it all together in one dish, be it a pan, a crock pot, etc. One-dish options save you time on dishes and total preparation because you aren’t worrying about using different cooking sources or juggling timing of the dish components. If you’re not a big fan of certain vegetables, this is also a great way to sneak in things because, if it’s all mixed together, you can’t pick it out as easily!
Here is one of my favorite one-dish options: Turkey Sausage, Bean & Kale Soup in a Crockpot -16 oz. turkey sausage -3 c. chopped kale -½ c. bean of choice (if you use dried beans and pre-soak them, rinse them of the soaking water and note that they will take 2/3 the time to cook as dried beans that are not pre-soaked. The choice is yours!) -16-20 oz. broth (your choice: bone, beef, chicken, vegetable) -Any other vegetable you want to use (I added in raw carrots, raw zucchini, red onion all chopped to about ¼” pieces) -Cut your turkey sausage into bite size pieces. Heat skillet over medium heat and brown the piece -Place your pre-soaked or dried beans into the bottom of the crockpot, layer the browned turkey sausage over the beans, throw all the veggies on top, pour your preferred liquid on top. -Add any additional spices you’d like – salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, hot sauce (my favorite to add!), garlic powder, chili powder, etc. -Turn your crockpot on for 5-6 hours on low (for dried beans) or 3-4 hours on low (pre-soaked beans). Remember: all crockpots cook a little differently!
#2: INTELLECT – Use your noggin! Healthy meal prep isn’t rocket science though…
Intellect: “The faculty of reasoning and understanding” that you can freeze stuff and use it multiple ways! Okay, I adjusted Webster’s version a bit.
Freeze things: Staple proteins like chicken, turkey, lean pork cuts, etc. can be bought in bulk, portioned out, and throw in the freezer! Our friend, Sally, will explain this later. Did you know that the freezer life for raw chicken is around 9 months?!
Use the same food in multiple ways: Take one main food source, chicken is our example, and use it in various ways to be economical with time, money, effort and taste buds!
Two of my favorite yummy chicken dishes are Baked Chicken Caprese and Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breasts. Stay tuned for these recipes next month!
#3: MONEY – don’t waste it! Healthy meal prep doesn’t cost more!
Listen, eating junk does cost less because junk lasts longer. You’ve all seen the McDonald’s food on display and how each shriveled morsel of that “burger meat” remains steadfast in its place on that “sesame seed bun” after….years…..and years….Sure, that sounds normal! Looking for a little fast food gross reading?
Junk food is cheaper than quality food. By “junk” I mean highly processed, pre-packaged foods. They can sit on shelves for months on end. Also, a Nissan is much less expensive than a Mercedes but both require maintenance. A higher quality machine should require less maintenance work. You want a higher quality car, you pay a higher price. This doesn’t mean that heating healthy foods is going to make you have to downsize your home. If you put better fuel into your machine, it will operate better. Period. Invest
I have two simple suggestions that will help you to be more economical with your health food choices.
FIRST, buy and plan meals that includes seasonal fruits and vegetables. Healthy meal prep can be CONVENIENT! Fall and early winter are great times of the year for squash; spaghetti squash, acorn squash and butternut squash. One of my favorite dishes to cook, present, and eat is Spaghetti Squash Chicken Parmesan. Check out Part 2 for this recipe! SECONDLY, Buy in bulk! Healthy meal prep can be EFFICIENT! Use in multiple dishes, cooked different ways! (You did read the "Intellect" section, right?!) Freeze in bulk to thaw and cook later. Ta-da!
Let’s do a little math problem. Meet the aforementioned Sally. Miss Sally requires 3 oz. of protein per meal. She also chooses to eat chicken ass her protein for 2 meals per day, per week.
(3 oz. x 2 meals) x 7 days = 42 oz. We know (or Googled) that 16 oz. = 1 lb. 42 oz./6 oz. = (2.625) we'll round down to 2.6 lbs of chicken per week. Sally eats 2.6 pounds of chicken per week.
Sally goes to Karns and finds that chicken is on sale from $2.54/lb to $1.99/lb. (Thank you, Karns!) She scoops up a 5 lb. package for $9.95 because she knows her math! While she won’t eat 5 pounds in one week, she read the “Intellect” section and plans to freeze it.
If Sally purchases 2.6 lbs of chicken when it costs $2.54 per pound, she will pay $6.60. If Sally purchases 2.6 lbs of chicken when it costs $1.99 per pound, she will pay $5.17. This equals a $1.43 savings! For mathematics sake, we can equate that savings to be $73.32 over the year! This may not seem like a huge number but it adds up! There are many more things I can think of that I'd like to spend my hard-earned $73.32 on than chicken!
This is what we do, we teach people how to be healthier and meal prep is part of that!
Written by Samantha Stewartz