Meal Prep Blog – Melissa Darlow

Meal Planning

 

When it comes to improving our diet, many people find that eliminating potential barriers can help them stay on track. 

Maybe it was a long day of work and you come home to an empty fridge and result to ordering takeout. Or you are running from meeting to meeting and opt for a vending machine snack instead of lunch. We’ve all been there. For many people, the mental and physical energy required to plan and cook a nutritious meal can become overwhelming to the point they decide to opt-out entirely. So how do we set ourselves up for success and prevent overreliance on sugary rich or convenience foods?

Planning meals and snacks can help to alleviate mealtime stress. There are many other benefits of meal planning and prepping depending on what your goals are. Maybe you’re managing a condition and need to limit or increase certain foods, or you are trying to eat more fruits and vegetables or save money by eating out less. Regardless, any level of preparation is a worthwhile habit to develop as life gets busy, and eating well can support our ability to respond, react, and manage life events and stressors.  Follow these 5 tips below to get started.

 

  • Make a plan
    • Think about the way you want to approach meal prep. Do you want to plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Just dinner? One month at a time? Or one week? Getting clear on your strategy is an important first step as it sets the stage for the following actions. When it comes to gathering menu ideas, think about what you already have on hand.
  • Take Inventory
    • Head to the pantry and freezer to assess what you have. Are there any canned or frozen foods that you can implement into recipes? What types of seasonings or condiments are available to you? Once you have a baseline of the items you already own, start to gather recipes.
  • Consider each food group
    • When planning your menu, consider recipes you’ve cooked before as well as foods you currently have. Keeping things simple will save time and reduce stress. To ensure you are consuming a variety of nutrients, think about the different food groups and where they fit in within your plan. It is also important to consider if you or other members of your household have dietary restrictions or preferences. In addition to this, choose recipes that feel doable. If something requires multiple steps or kitchen gadgets you don’t own, it is probably best to move on to a simpler recipe.
  • Menu Creation
    • Start with protein. Building meals around protein is a great way to ensure satiety and that you are consuming an important nutrient that maintains skeletal muscle mass. Stock up on lean meat, poultry, salmon, or other fatty fish that can also be stored well in the freezer. Other protein-rich staples include eggs, tofu, beans, lentils, and legumes which can all be added to salads, stir-fries, pasta, and other dishes.
    • Next up is fiber. We all need fiber as it aids in digestive health, manages blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and supports a healthy gut microbiome. Fiber also keeps us full and satisfied until the next meal because it slows down digestion. You can find fiber in all fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, legumes, squashes, and potatoes. An easy way to ensure fiber makes it into your meals is by relying on pantry staples such as whole grains: rice, oats, quinoa, and legumes: canned or dried black beans, chickpeas, and lentils. You can also lean on frozen vegetables in addition to or instead of fresh to improve the efficiency of your meal planning.

 

 

You can also consider this list as a way to get started:

 

Lean Protein:

Eggs

Chicken

Salmon

Tuna

Tofu

Ground turkey

 

Vegetables:

Spinach

Broccoli

Zucchini

Cauliflower

Eggplant

 

Fruit:

Berries

Banana

Apple

Oranges

 

Starch:

Oats

Quinoa

Potatoes

Plantains

 

Dairy:

Yogurt

Cottage cheese

String cheese

 

Miscellaneous:

Avocado 

Nuts

Olive oil

Peanut butter 

 

  • Make Time
    • So now that you have an idea of groceries needed and recipes to prepare, it is time to put the plan into action. The best way to integrate a meal plan is to make it a priority. Consider what your schedule looks like and where you can carve out time for prepping. Perhaps you have an hour on a Sunday or maybe it is a Wednesday. No matter what day or time, the key to success is making time and following through.

 

Ultimately, planning meals and snacks is a helpful tool to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs. If the process seems overwhelming and you are unsure about where to start or what types of foods to prioritize, then consider meeting one-on-one with a Registered Dietitian today!