Sundays are for rest - and meal prepping. Preparing your meals for the week ahead is a great way to stay consistent with your healthy diet. Having your food ready, you are less likely to reach for processed food when starving. It also helps to be and eat mindfully (see stop.breath.eat for more details) in the following ways
- Having your meals ready keeps you from snacking during cooking
- You can choose your ingredients wisely and in accordance of your body's needs
- Without having to cook you have more time to enjoy your meals to the fullest and with every bite
- On a Sunday you are more likely to try new dishes and therefore get to experience new tastes
- With ready cooked meals you'll have the time to sit down, breath and eat mindfully
Reasons for meal prepping
The reason to have your meals ready for the week ahead can be different for each person and it is important that you define your goal for yourself.
- Count macro nutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates)
- Save money by having your meals organized
- Reducing food waste
- Be prepared for a hectic week
- Stay consistent with your diet
Knowing the real reason for meal prepping is important, because you would want it to be a sustainable lifestyle change, and not just something that is temporary.
Meal Prep Basics
Before you start with your meal prepping, always keep in mind these basic nutrition rules
- 1 portion complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, soba noodle, millet etc.
- 1 portion lean protein such as chicken, eggs, salmon, tuna, white fish, turkey, legumes
- 2 to 3 portion vegetables: be creative, be colorful
- 1 portion healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado
With these rules it is easy to come up with delicious meals for every day without getting bored of your food.
But not only the nutritional value of your food is of importance for a successful meal preparation. Cooking time, cooking method, storage life, availability and transport-ability are things you have to consider when planning your meals.
Cooking time and method
Even though you have more time on a Sunday afternoon to cook, the cooking time for your meals should be reasonable. Everything below one hour is perfect for meal prepping, so that you still get to enjoy your Sunday outside the kitchen. Of course, roasting your chicken in the oven on low temperature for several hours works as well, but making your own pasta from scratch might not be the best option.
As a cooking methods it's best to chose something which you can combine at the same time. Stir frying your chicken and at the same time oven roast your vegetables and sweet potatoes would be a great combination. You don't want to make everything in the oven (unless you have a huge oven) because you will end up waiting in front of your oven. One pot dishes are also a good option for example a casserole or a pasta bowl.
If you are adding beans or lentils or other legumes to your food, be aware that these have to be soaked the night before. So preparation for these food groups is lengthier. That being said, it is easy to just put them in cold water, rinse them off the next day and boil them. You can also choose the ones from a can, which are pre-cooked but you have to make sure that they do not contain any added sugar or preservatives. Water and salt should be the only additional ingredients. Adding seaweed like kelp or dulse to your boiling beans makes them easier to digest later on and reduce the amount of gas produced.
Organization is key
Before you can start with your meal prepping you have to get the according groceries. For a lot of people this is quite a pain because they end up spending hours in the supermarket and buying way too much food. Therefore stick to those simple tips before going to the supermarket
- Have your meals planned and broken down into single food items (including serving size)
- Write down all your food and categorize them according to your supermarket sections (such as fruits, vegetables, canned food etc). This makes it easier and especially more time efficient to find all your food.
- Never ever go to the supermarket hungry. You will end up buying much more than you wanted to.
But not only the grocery shopping needs to be organized and structured to facilitate meal prepping. Make sure to write down your recipes and keep a timetable (even if it is only in your head) about what to cook first. Arrange all your food in the kitchen and start cooking.
How to store your food
Food lasts in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, before bacteria starts to build up. If you know you are unable to finish the food, try to have them for both lunch and dinner. Or you can also meal prep twice a week (Sunday and Wednesday for example). It is important to have airtight containers which are BPA (Bisphenol A) free. Best would be to store your food in glass containers to avoid any contamination. If you plan on cooking some food with sauces (like salad, pasta etc) make sure that you separate the solid food from the sauce - otherwise all your food gets super soggy. Even old glass jars from pasta sauces can be used to store your food.
Pre-cutting fruit can also be part of your meal prepping routine, for example for your breakfast bowl. However, here we suggest that you cut them just before you are using them, as cut fruits loose a lot of nutrients when exposed to air.
Preparing portion numbers is also part of meal prepping! One thing you do not wish to have is an excess of food that you are unable to finish, and you end up wasting money and food. Always try to use some measurements as your portion control. For example cups or even a kitchen scale. This helps you to get a proper meal which will keep you full for long but is not too much to finish up.
At the beginning meal prepping will be a little time consuming. But don't give up - it gets easier with time and once you feel the benefits of meal prepping, you won't stop. Show us how you use our meal prepping tips by using #NYHmealprep #Nurtureyourhappiness. Looking forward to seeing all your preparations for the week ahead.