From Munching to Meal Prep
How often do you get home, are starving, and don’t feel like cooking and cleaning up a meal for dinner? What about the dreaded, “What’s for dinner?” question from your significant other or kids. Many of us find ourselves in this situation more often than not. Do you ever look back on what you ate for lunch or dinner and realized it was all junk foods or snacks? Good news! There is an easy way to combat this problem, if you are willing to plan ahead. Meal prepping is something that has recently been gaining popularity, but it is not just for athletes and body builders. Meal prepping is simply preparing, cooking, (and pre-portioning) meals ahead of time. Meal preparation can eliminate the stress of having to worry about what to put on the table, but also has many other benefits as well.
Meal prep has three big advantages, aside from not having to worry about what everyone will eat. These advantages are it saves time, it saves money, and it helps you stay on track with eating nutritious, wholesome meals. Meal prep can save you hours of cooking time during the week if you set aside time during the weekend. When you prep multiple recipes/meals at once, you will be able to multitask and maybe even overlap cooking ingredients that go in multiple dishes. Meal prep will take the place of going out to eat and having to wait at drive thrus, or wait in sit down restaurants for your food. Meal prep will save you money. When we eat out, it usually costs us more than if we were to cook at home. When we pick what foods/recipes we are going to meal prep, we can try to plan to overlap ingredients to make sure that none of them go to waste. In addition to using all the ingredients we buy for our recipes, we can also base our meal prep around what is on sale, or what we have coupons for. Using your local grocery store ad is a great place to start when thinking about recipes for the week. Planning your meals ahead of time will keep you on track with your nutrition as well. When you are thinking about what to buy to prepare for the week, try to include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats/protein, low-fat or non-fat dairy and healthy fats (avocados, walnuts, olive oil are some examples). When you plan to buy, and prep all of these foods, you are setting yourself up to consume a more nutritious diet. When nutritious foods are prepped and available, you will be more likely to consume them as opposed to less nutritious options.
Here are some easy ideas for beginners: (use amounts suitable for your family size)
Marinate chicken in your favorite marinade (Italian dressing is always a good idea) the night before you would like to cook it. Grill chicken until cooked thoroughly (160 degrees). Serve it throughout the week chopped in salads, with barbeque sauce, in a pasta dish, or any other way you think of!
Buy assorted fruits and vegetables that are on sale at your local grocery store. Wash and cut them for easy snacking. Dips such as low-fat ranch, hummus, and nonfat/lowfat yogurt may be good pairings.
Keep nonfat or lowfat yogurt and cottage cheese, cheese sticks, and lowfat/nonfat milk easy available for a good source of protein and calcium.
A great way to eat more vegetables is to roast them. Roasting your vegetables brings out a whole new flavor profile. Try buying a head of cauliflower and broccoli, tossing it in some olive oil and pepper, and roasting at 400 degrees until crisp tender (about 30-40 minutes).
An easy way to incorporate more whole grains into your diet is to make a salad or have some oatmeal for breakfast. These are two of my favorites, and their flavor holds up really well throughout the week: Sweet Potato and Raisin Quinoa Salad and Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal.
Sweet Potato and Raisin Quinoa Salad:
2 cups peeled, diced and roasted sweet potatoes
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup seeds or nuts, toasted (can be pumpkin, sunflower, sliced almonds)
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
¼ cup sliced green onion
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
Combine roasted sweet potatoes, raisins, seeds/nuts, cooked quinoa, and green onion in a bowl. Combine dressing: balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and Dijon mustard in a separate bowl. Pour into quinoa mixture. Refrigerate and serve as a side dish or on top of some leafy greens! Yum!
**As time goes on, the raisins and quinoa absorbs the dressing. Additional balsamic, olive oil, Dijon mustard can be added for more moisture.
Peanut Butter Baked Oatmeal:
3 cups quick cooking oats
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup skim milk
2 tbsp melted butter
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup peanut butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients until combined. Grease a 9×13 pan and pour oatmeal mixture into the pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes (longer is you like it more crunchy). It is great served hot with warm milk and diced banana. Enjoy all week long!
About the Author:
Hi, my name is Ashley Parsons. I am from the Cleveland, Ohio area, but have had the pleasure of calling Bowling Green, Ohio my home for the past 5 years. I received my bachelors in dietetics from Bowling Green State University in 2015. I was then accepted into their combined dietetic internship and master’s program, which I will complete in May 2017. My goal is to move back to Cleveland area to be close to my parents, and work as a Clinical dietitian at The Cleveland Clinic. Some of my favorite things in life include my family, my dog, cooking, exercising, my church, being with friends, baseball, sunshine, and peanut butter.