Meal Prep: A Helpful Eating Strategy

Meal prep does require planning, however there is no correct method-it differs based on food preferences, cooking ability, schedules, budgets and personal goals. The idea of meal prep is to prepare whole meals ahead of time to save time when meal times comes around, reduce any stress around cooking, food wastage, and ensure your meals are nutritionally balanced. While meal planning you’ll less likely opt for take-out, or a less nutritious meal when you’re overwhelmed or exhausted. Planning ahead of time can lead to more nutritious meal choices in the long run.

Choosing your meal ahead of time removes the element of impulse purchasing and eating. Even if you’ve had an extremely stressful day at work, you’ll be less tempted to grab a less nutritious meal when you know you have your food ready and prepped to eat at home. When you have time to meal prep, shop, and cook in advance you can be more purposeful about what you’re putting on your plate- hence you make rooms for more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats.

Benefits

  • Saves money

  • Saves time

  • Can help with weight management, as you decide the ingredients and portions served

  • Contributes to a nutritionally balanced diet

  • Reduces stress as you avoid last minute decisions about what to eat, or rushed preparation

Prepping for Meals

  • Discuss with your family/partner what types of foods and favourite meals they prefer to eat

  • Start a monthly calendar to record your meal ideas, recipes, and shopping lists

  • Repeat: You don’t have to craft new meals every week, get into a cycle of planning for a week and repeating it later. You can even make simple swaps such as replacing brown rice for quinoa or sweet potato.

  • Consider specific meals or foods for same days of the week. For example, Meatless Mondays, Spaghetti Saturdays.

  • Start small: Aim to prep enough dinners for 2-3 days of the week

Getting Started

  • Choose a specific day to 1. Plan your menu, 2. Write your grocery list 3. Food shop, and 4. Set aside a day to cook (get your partner and kids involved too!)

  • On your meal prep day start with the foods that take the longest to cook protein, whole grains, legumes, and roasted vegetables.

  • If you prefer not to precook your proteins, marinate them beforehand (poultry/fish/tofu) which makes it easier to stir fry or pop them into the oven.

  • Prepare staple snacks (easy to grab and make) that everyone enjoys such as greens for a salad, hardboiled eggs, chopped fruits, or packets of dried fruits.

  • When you cook a recipe, make extra portions for extra meals to freeze for a different day. Ensure that you date and label so you know what you have on hand.

  • For lunches, use individual meal containers and divide up the cooked food into the containers which makes it easier for the upcoming week.

  • To ensure a non-stressful morning, prepare the ingredients for your smoothie the night before and keep everything in the blender in the fridge. Similarly, you can prepare overnight oats and keep it in the fridge.

References

1. Petre, A. (n.d.). How to Meal Prep - A Beginner's Guide. Retrieved July 07, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-meal-prep

2. Staff, A. (2017, November 20). Meal Prep: A Helpful Healthy Eating Strategy. Retrieved July 07, 2020, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2017/03/20/meal-prep-planning/

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