Meal Prep 101

In Home and Entertaining, Lola Shreveport by Lola Magazine

Benefits of Prepping Your Food

You get up early, make the kids breakfast and pack their lunches, you kill it at the gym and reap the benefits of feeling awesome, just to get frustrated at the nutrition part of losing weight and staying healthy. Part of what intimidates people about meal prepping is the misconception of the time that it will take up a lot of time. The reality of it is that you can pull together a weeks worth of lunches and dinner starter kits in a couple of hours and not eat the same thing every day. It just takes a little planning.

1. You’ll Save Money
For those who think eating healthy is way too expensive, think again. Meal prepping will save you money because you can buy items in bulk and take advantage of your freezer.
Don’t be scared to buy five pounds of chicken instead of one. You can cook one pound at a time if you want to, and freeze the rest so it will always be ready to defrost. You can freeze fresh herbs, baked frittata cups and cooked veggie filled meatballs. Always stock up on staples when they’re on sale, such as olive oil and grains.

When you have your go to groceries and a list ready you’ll speed through shopping and simplify your prepping if you have staples to work with. I swear by my staple shopping list: chicken, ground turkey, and white fish, sweet potatoes, veggies, greens, grains, eggs, nuts, apples, bananas, old fashion oats, yogurt and unsweetened almond milk. With staples on hand, you can easily create meals like my current favs: Overnight oats with blueberries, lemon broiled halibut and sautéd spinach, and chicken fajita sweet potatoes.
Try including one item in your cart that you will enjoy in moderation, such as organic dark chocolate.

2. You Can Multitask
Meal prepping is perfect for busy individuals. Once you get the hang of it, it will be a like riding a bike. While I’m making dinner on Sunday nights, I like get my lunches for the week going and dinners kits prepped. Chop once, use twice! This simple task will help you cut time in the kitchen, and you will feel organized and ready to go for another day of clean eating. Fill that oven up with all kinds of things for the week. My favorite is the one sheet pan lunch for the week method that I’ve shared below.

Hate leftovers? So does my husband. So usually I do what I call dinner kits. I prep the basic things needed for a few meals during the week. That makes it easier to just throw it all in a skillet or the oven the night we are ready to eat it. Prepping veggies for snacking, hard-boiled eggs, lettuce for salads, grains, beans, and the occasional roasted chicken makes weekday cooking easier while keeping everything fresh.

3. You’ll Learn Portion Control
When focusing on weight loss or muscle gain and you prep your food in advance, it’s a sure way of knowing what you are consuming. Preparing your own meals will give you insight into what a true portion of food is.
As we all know, most of the time the food in restaurants, even ‘healthy’ ones, are providing you with a way bigger portion. By paying attention to your own food when cooking, you will be less likely to overeat. For more portion control advice, I offer one on one coaching and group challenges, learn more on the website.

4. You’ll Feel Better
Eating clean fresh foods will not only help you to loose or maintain a healthy weight, it will also give you clearer skin and mental clarity. Eating foods rich in nutrients will help sustain energy throughout the day by give your body what it needs. Bonus: your body will no longer have those junk food cravings!

5. Side notes for kids
I like to chunk chicken breast and toss in seasoned bread crumbs for easy healthy chicken nuggets you can make ahead. And as mentioned above, the veggie filled meatballs. Use a box grater to shred zucchini and carrots and add to a meatball mixture to hide veggies.
Pre chopping veggies, portioning hummus into small containers, and cubed baked turkey breast is an easy healthy school lunch ready to go for the week. My toddler also loves the overnight oats mentioned before.

Clean Eating Tips for the Dorm Room:
-Prep overnight oats for a quick on the go breakfast instead of reaching for the sugary pop tart or donut. They are packed with hunger fighting fiber and wont take up too much space in the tiny fridge.
-Fill up on the salad bar. Foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as nuts, avocado, olives, and seeds such as chia or sunflower seeds, are needed in your diet in order for your body to function properly.
-Try to avoid overly processed foods and fast food joints. They are overloaded with sodium and preservatives.

Lunch for the week on one sheet pan:

INGREDIENTS
1 red bell pepper
2 zucchini
½ pound Brussels sprouts
2 carrots
½ head of broccoli
½ red onion
½ pound snap peas
1 pound (2) chicken breasts
Olive oil, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

PREPARATION
1. Preheat oven to 425˚F/220˚C.
2. Cut vegetables, season with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, and garlic.
3. Place veggies each in a separate corner of a baking pan lined with parchment paper. I like to mix the carrots, bell pepper, snap peas, and onion together.
4. Next, season both sides of the chicken with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the remaining rosemary, thyme, and garlic over parchment paper. Seal parchment paper to keep chicken moist, and place on the center of the baking pan.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked and veggies are done to your liking.
6. Rice your cauliflower by rough chopping it and then pulsing it in a food processor until it resembles rice. Thats it! (you can prep a lot of this ahead of time and freeze it!)
7. Spoon about a cup of cauliflower rice into each tupperware with veggies and chicken. (If using plastic tupperware, allow food to cool down first).

This meal works great with brown rice, so feel free to add some to your meal prep as well. If you are feeling adventurous try seasoning half the veggies and one chicken breast with another flavor mixture, My favorite is ginger and coconut aminos soy sauce replacement to create a stir fry flavor.

Overnight oats

2 cups old fashion oats (not quick cooking)
2-3 cups almond milk (you can use any other milk you like)
2-3 tbsp honey for drizzling
Fruit for topping

Place 1/2 cup oats in a Tupperware or small mason jar, fill with milk, top with berries or sliced banana, drizzle with honey. Put the lid on, place in fridge. Overnight the oats will soak up the milk making them soft and yummy and ready to eat!
Get creative with your flavors, stir in almond butter or superfood powders like açai. The flavor combos are endless.