As a registered dietitian, I’m often asked, “What’s the best thing that I can do right now to eat healthier?” The short answer? Food prep! But today’s dizzying pace of life leaves all of us wishing we had a few extra hours in the day as we struggle to fit in work, family, friends, exercising, and healthy eating. So, shy of skipping out on sleep, what else is a busy health-conscious person to do? Dedicating just one or two hours a week to food prep can alleviate much of the hassle that comes from daily cooking (not to mention that it will help to keep you on track during the week when you might otherwise hear the take-out calling). Here are a few of my best food prep tips for beginners:
- Start small
You don’t have to make every meal of the week ahead of time. Simply having a few staple items prepared does wonders. Try keeping fresh cut vegetables, your favorite protein (like grilled chicken), and a healthy whole grain (such as cooked quinoa or brown rice) already prepared and handy in the fridge. With those three simple things prepared, you can throw together a quick stir-fry, an at-home-burrito-bowl, or a fancy salad in only a few minutes.
- Plan it out
Once you’re more comfortable with prepping ahead, sit down and make a plan for the items you want to prep for the week. Having a written plan not only helps to guide you in what you need to accomplish in the kitchen, but it also helps you write your grocery list.
- Measure twice, cut once
When writing your meal plan and considering food prep tips, try to re-use ingredients in multiple meals throughout the week. This way, when chopping up tomatoes for tacos tonight, you’re also chopping up the tomatoes that you’ll layer onto your salads over the next few days. Now there’s only one mess to clean, but multiple meals prepped!
- Do double duty
If you’re going to take the time to make one meal, you might as well make a double batch and freeze the leftovers. By doing so, you’ll slowly stock your freezer with healthy “freezer meals” that only need a quick defrost and reheat. Foods that generally freeze well are soups (try this recipe!), stews, chili, and sauces.
- Don’t go overboard
Most foods only stay fresh for 3-4 days in the fridge, so too much food prep ahead of time can be wasteful unless it’s intended for the freezer. Using the 2/2/4 rule, remember that things should be completely chilled within 2 hours, stored in containers no more than 2 inches tall, and kept no longer than 4 days.
Did we miss one of your favorite food prep tips? Let us know in the comments!
Post written by FFC contributor Carla Schmitz.