On Your Health

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The Basics of Meal Prep

01/29/2016

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Are you beginning your journey to healthy eating? One of the key components to a healthy diet and lifestyle is preparation. As you begin to make healthier choices you may find that meal planning and the process of mapping out and preparing your food for the week will keep you accountable and help you resist the urge to nibble on less-than-healthy options.

Here are our seven must-follow steps for a week of successful meal planning:

1. Plan every meal

Spend some time exploring your favorite  nutrition blogs, Pinterest, and cookbooks to plan out a week’s worth of meals. If you’re cooking for the whole family, this will give you a chance to prepare for different variations in your family’s diet. As you write out your family’s weekly plan, be sure to think about every meal and snack, thus eliminating any temptation you might have throughout the week to veer off the health eating course.

We recommend rotating the same recipes throughout the week to keep things simple and gradually incorporating new recipes into your lineup.  For example, if your family loves healthy smoothies, oatmeal, and omelets, rotate these options through the majority of your breakfast meals. Then, if you have some free time over the weekend, try a new recipe like these Fruited Buckwheat Pancakes.

2. Clean out the cabinets

Before you bring new food into your home, make sure your fridge and pantry are ready to go! If you have a large amount of processed foods in your cupboards, consider donating it to your local food pantry to make room for whole foods and unprocessed goods. Throw away any old food in the fridge, check the expiration dates on your products and enjoy the satisfaction of a clean kitchen and pantry.

3. Knock out grocery shopping

To save your sanity and get ahead for the week, make a grocery list and knock out all your grocery shopping in one weekly trip. By avoiding multiple trips throughout the week, you are more likely to stick to your meal plan and save money and save time. Before you go shopping, be sure to take stock of your pantry and cross off any staples you already have to avoid purchasing items twice.

4. Prepare your fruits & vegetables

After you get home from the grocery store, use the momentum from this shopping trip to clean and prepare all your produce. One of our favorite things to do is to prepare a big fruit salad at the beginning of each week, and then portion it out every day to get a rainbow of nutrients. After cleaning your veggies, chop them into bite-sized pieces and place in snack-sized baggies or small Tupperware containers for snacking throughout the week. For an easy go-to side dish, roast a tray or two of vegetables (a few of our favorites include carrots, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts), let them cool, and portion them into serving sized Tupperware to grab with each meal.

5. Prepare your proteins

For the meat eaters in the family, consider cooking large batches of meat to portion out throughout the week. From baking, grilling, or throwing a large batch of meat in the crock-pot, a few of our favorite proteins to use are chicken, shrimp, ground turkey ad fresh fish. These options are easy to throw on top of a salad, in a soup or stew, or as a standalone dish to eat with some of your roasted veggies.

6. Prepare your grains

While quinoa is technically a seed, not a grain, it remains one of our favorite nutritious options to prepare when meal planning. Packed with nutrients and protein, prepare a large batch of quinoa to supplement any meal throughout your week. If you don’t have any quinoa, prepare a big batch of brown rice to use throughout the week.

Try this Pear and Quinoa Salad as a great lunch option.

7. Portion, portion, portion

As you plan and prep each item for your week, portion out individual sizes in your fridge to make it easy to grab-n-go a healthy meal every day. Do you struggle with portion sizes? Registered dietitian Stephanie Wagner offers some great tips for understanding portion control in this video.

Meal planning and preparation can be a daunting task, but one you can accomplish! When you first start out, it may take a few weeks to really establish your food prep routine. There is no right or wrong way to meal prep, and remember, the process is meant to reduce stress and help you throughout the week – not burden you with an extra chore.

If you prefer cooking and building your meals every day, then keep doing what you’re doing and explore new ways to add healthy options into your daily meals. Whatever you do, don’t give up! You have taken the first steps to a healthy lifestyle and the rewards will far outweigh the challenges of creating a new routine.

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