I'm constantly being asked how on earth I manage to (almost) always, not only put a healthy dinner on the table each night but also manage to eat healthy at breakfast, lunch and snack time too.
I have a trick and it saves me hours upon hours each week. Seriously! One to two days per week (usually Sunday and sometimes also on Thursday) - I put aside approximately one hour and I cook, chop and prep up a storm. This one hour of work saves me, on average, an hour to an hour and half EACH DAY!!!
I shit you not.
Here are the results of a typical prep session:
In one hour and eight minutes (yes, I timed it and no I didn't rush - in fact I read and answered a few emails whilst doing this) I prepped enough food to form the foundation for over 8 meals!! I batch cooked rice, quinoa and lentils. Roasted a giant bag of sweet potatoes, Chopped and prepped fresh vegetables (carrots, peppers, kohlrabi, cucumber, endive and tomatoes). Blanched broccoli, choped zucchini (on the mandolin), marinated and baked tempeh, chopped berries and mint and made a lemon tahini dressing. One hour and eight minutes!!
Here are a few ideas of how these foods will be used:
- Mixed Greens with chopped veg, lentils, broccoli and tahini dressing.
- Stir Fry with brown rice, tempeh, zucchini and yellow peppers.
- Brown Rice sushirito rolls with sweet potatoes and avocado.
- Brown Rice Pasta with tomato sauce, lentils and zucchini.
- Fresh fruit salad. Berries for morning oatmeal.
- Vegetable crudite with Tahini dipping sauce.
- Veggie Taco Night - warm up the lentils, add water and mash to create "re-fried beans", add brown rice, guacamole, cashew sour cream, cilantro and salsa and roll up in a tortilla. You can even crumble up some tempeh and add that in too!
- Spinach salad with quinoa, tempeh, strawberries, sweet potatoes, hemp seeds and juice of a lemon.
- Feeling hungry? Make a quick snack with any item: a bowl of quinoa with apple cider vinegar, a handful of sweet potato pieces, broccoli and zucchini with tahini, brown rice with zucchini mixed with some miso broth, a little bowl of berries....
- School Lunch? Throw in some already chopped fruit, or some veggies with hummus or a handful of sweet potatoes, or even some rice and beans.
I could go on and on but I think you get it. At least I hope you get it. Spend a little time now and reap the rewards throughout the week. When we provide ourselves with better options we tend to make better choices. Eating healthy isn't about what you can't have and never should be. Deprivation will only create a bigger problem down the road. It's about surrounding yourself with all the things you can and should eat and eating those things in abundance.
Having a few key pieces in place will make meal prep so much easier, far less stressful and infinitely more healthy. I try to always cook my own beans and lentils - because I can control the salt, it's far cheaper and I can cook the exact amount I want but I have no shame in using canned beans. Canned beans are better than no beans!! Beans are so freaking good for you. Please buy organic and look for no or low sodium. The only thing that should be in a can of beans.... is beans!!
With Rice and Quinoa already prepped, dinner is often just 10 minutes away.
Just the simple act of chopping a whole onion and storing it in the fridge can make or break a decision for take-out. Sounds crazy, but it's true!!
We tend to make bad choices when we're tired, it's getting late and stress starts to well up. Meals don't need to be fancy or complicated but when you have a few key, foundation pieces, those meals and snacks can always be healthy. It's kind of like a good wardrobe!!!
By prepping single items (not meals) you're setting yourself up for better choices at breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks!!
So, on this here day, I encourage you to give food prep a go. Try it out this week and see if you like it. Did it save you time? Did it prevent stress? Did it make answering "whats for dinner?" easier? Did it change your eating habits? Did you enjoy it? The possibilities are literally endless. Pro-tip - I don't cook with oil or salt so if my veggies (or fruit) are slightly neglected and looking at the end of their days - I throw them into the blender and make a smoothie. Everything else can be thrown into the instant pot and made into a nice soup. Not feeling like soup or a smoothie - shove 'em in the freezer until you are!!!
30% of food in this country is thrown out. By prepping your food, you're 98% more likely to actually eat it!!!