2020 did a number on our view of shopping and cooking. Old ideas of meal prep include repetitive foods, strict plans, and time-consuming efforts (that may not even be that healthy) for the consumer. Here are some ways to keep that from happening.
· Beware of faux-health foods
· Keep it whole to keep your body happy
· Balance pantry items with fresh ingredients
Convenient Health Foods are Not So Healthy
So, you’re ready to jump into healthy eating. You make a plan to get some healthy groceries and stock your pantry for the week. At the grocery store you find items like granola, veggie burgers, gluten-free and vegan snacks, and you’re all set.
But, as McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN tells us in Nutrition Stripped, tons of these so-called “healthy” choices are certainly convenient, but not all that healthy. Gluten-free and organic snacks might be just that, but they are often still packed with empty calories and tons of sugar. Pre-made juices and smoothies are filled with extra sugar, while lean deli meats might seem okay calorically, but are filled with preservatives, sodium, and nitrates.
Becoming more conscious of those faux-health foods is super important for maximizing your meal preparation shopping and strategizing for healthy eating each day.
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Making your Meal Prep Healthy and Fresh
Have you ever grabbed a "health bar" and realized sugar was the number one ingredient and you couldn't read the next 537 things that were in it... Us too! You quickly realized that not all pre-made foods are all that good for you. But what do you do when you don't have all the time in the world to read every label and shop every store searching for healthy alternatives?
Here’s a good way to keep it simple: “whole foods are better”.
Instead of those “healthy” apple chips in the store, opt for a whole apple instead. Don’t go for that celery juice that’s pumped with extra sugar—try some celery slices with organic peanut butter instead.
And, if you’re concerned about keeping your fresh foods fresh, it’s time to invest in an awesome portable lunch box.
Here’s a great piece from The Spruce breaking down 2020’s best lunchboxes by category.
What’s “Food Boredom” and How to End It
At-home meal prep usually looks like a Sunday evening spent laboring in the kitchen, preparing multiple meals. Since you’ve got to be economical, you buy several large quantities of different items, combine them into a meal, and replicate that out for 5 days of the week.
That can get boring fast, but you also don’t want to be grocery shopping every other day to keep your meals interesting!
A quick tip for avoiding food boredom is to get several pantry ingredients that can be varied easily and aren’t prone to spoilage, and then go shopping routinely for the fresh ingredients.
For example, purchase some hearty potatoes, brown or wild rice, and bulk quinoa that will last a long time. Then keep it interesting by swapping out different veggies and protein options at the beginning of each week.
That way you can have a few different options throughout the week to choose from without wasting groceries or spending every evening at the market, while still incorporating new fresh ingredients into your meals each week!
Start Upping your Meal Prep Game Today
Keep these tips in mind:
1. Not all convenient health foods are created equal
2. Swap out processed options for whole food options
3. Invest in a great lunchbox for your specific needs
4. Purchase bulk pantry ingredients less often and buy fresh ones regularly to keep meals interesting
5. Look for help from a meal prep service
Now It’s Your Turn
What you planning on changing this year to make your meal prep more interesting? How has -or- can meal prepping changed your lifestyle or daily habits?
Let us know in the comments!