Happy 2017! What were some of your New Year’s Resolutions? Did any of them include healthy eating? The key to healthy eating is quick healthy meal prep. What does that mean? Make sure that your kitchen is stocked with healthy foods and that you have a plan in place to make meal preparation easy. If you are curious as to some of the things a registered dietitian, like me, does to prep meals for a busy week, read on…..
1. Make Whole Grains Your Friend
Whole grains contain carbs and more importantly fiber. This combo helps to keep you energized and satisfied throughout a busy day. By satisfying your hunger, you are able to stay more focused on the things that matter: work, kids, exercise, etc. It is troublesome to always have a nagging hunger feeling. Incorporating whole grains into your snacks and meals is key to weight management. Some of my favorite whole grains are oatmeal and quinoa.
You can actually make quinoa over the weekend by making a large batch that you can easily pull from over the course of the week. A tip to help make quinoa savory and flavorful is by taking 2 cups of dry quinoa and add 2 cups low sodium chicken broth + 2 cups water. Sprinkle in some parsley flakes and onion flakes to your liking and you have a quick whole grain side that can pair well with grilled chicken, fish, veggies and even beans or legumes for a hearty and satisfying meal. Or you can make quinoa plain (2 cups quinoa and 4 cups water) to use as a filler for meatballs or as a breakfast cereal topped with berries, walnuts and a splash of your favorite milk (almond, cashew, cow’s or soy). To store the extra quinoa simply keep it in an airtight container within your fridge for up to a week.
2. Quick Protein
Protein is key to any meal plan for weight loss/maintenance. Many people underestimate the importance of protein in meals. Protein, just like whole grains helps to satisfy and nourish your body. Try to get protein at every meal and snack as much as possible. For a quick and portable protein source, consider boiling about half a dozen eggs over the weekend for a quick protein source. Eggs are a good source of vitamin A, iron, vitamin B12, riboflavin, phosphorus, and selenium. Other quick sources of protein and fiber include beans, legumes, nuts and seeds. Any of these foods are easy to fix and mix together for a quick meal or snack.
3. Work the Magic of the Colors of the Rainbow
Strive to eat your colors of the rainbow (fruits and veggies) each and every day. Dedicate a fridge bin(s) to the storage of fresh fruits and veggies and fill your freezer with frozen varieties too. On weekends, simply take a large cookie sheet and place chopped veggies on it. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil, pepper and sea salt over top and roast them in the oven at 450°F for 15 minutes. After fifteen minutes, take the veggies out and turn them over. Add a little more pepper and salt to taste and place them back into oven for another 15 minutes. Let the veggies cool for about 10 minutes and place them into air-tight containers to store in the fridge for the week. This will give you a variety of veggies to add to your meals quickly and easily during a busy week. For fruits, you can make large fruit salads with a splash of lemon juice. When ready for a snack or dessert, simply portion out about 2/3 cup serving of your fruit salad for a quick on-the-go snack or dessert.
4. Stock up on Food Helpers
Not all convenience foods are foes. Weeks are busy, and you will need help to consistently eat healthy. So when I make my weekend food shopping run, I tend to pick up the following items to help me stay on track for the week.
Rotisserie chicken (try to find one that is plain or simply cooked with herbs to help decrease excess salt and unwanted added sugar that tends to be found in chicken prepared in sauces such as teriyaki, BBQ, honey-glazed or sweet and sour).
This is a must especially if you enjoy salads for lunch or need a quick dinner for an evening. Rotisserie chicken is flavorful and it an easy way to add chicken to a salad for lunch or reheat with your quinoa and roasted veggies for dinner.
Other food items that I consider to be “healthy food helpers” are protein-rich granola bars, single serve cups of hummus, plain Greek yogurt or fruited Greek yogurt with the lowest amount of added sugar, single serving packs of unsalted nuts and seeds. By having these food items in stock and ready to go, you will be able to make nourishing, satisfying, and healthy snacks in no time. The other bonus of these “healthy food helpers” is that they are good sources of protein, which add to the satiety (or feeling of fullness) factor.
Last but not least, be sure to stock up on what I like to call “on-the-go fruits” (bananas, tangerines, small apples or pears).
When you combine any item from your “healthy food helpers” with any of your “on-the-go fruits” you have a bonafide “power snack” to go to for your afternoon snack. By eating a satisfying afternoon snack, you will be able to finish your day on a healthy note and not over eat during your dinner.
So this year, don’t just make a resolution to eat more healthy each week. Rather take the necessary steps in meal preparation to make this goal a reality. If you fail to plan ahead and take some very simple and basic organizing steps to fill your pantry and fridge with healthy foods, you may come up short of your weekly goal. So before your week starts, take some time on the weekend to restock your fridge and panty with some whole grains, quick protein sources, fruits and veggies, and healthy food helpers so you can be successful in your quest to eat healthy all week long.