The key to quick and easy nutrition is preparation. If you are not prepared when hunger strikes, you are likely to grab whatever looks good — and that may be very bad nutritionally!
Be prepared in two ways:
- Have healthy options for meals and snacks readily available;
- Know what to look for and what to avoid if you get caught in a take-out/dine-out/event situation.
So how do you get prepared? Let’s break it down. To have healthy options for meals and snacks readily available, you need to stock your fridge and pantry with the right ingredients. Healthy protiens, whole grains, veggies and fruits. How do you do that? By shopping for the right ingredients. That means you need a grocery list and you need to plan your meals.
When it comes to meal planning, keep it simple and plan for batch-cooking and simple-to-assemble cold meals like salads. Batch-cooking means you cook for multiple meals at once and package up the leftovers for quick and easy re-heatable meals. Some great batch meals include chili, soups, stews, roasts, skillet meals, mini meatloaves, and egg muffins.
TIP: Get a large slow cooker to cook a large batch while you are out and about!
Once your meals are planned, make a list with the ingredients you will need. Next, add the ingredients needed for cold meals and a good selection of healthy snack options. Some healthy snack ideas include raw veggies with hummus, fresh fruits, nuts, hard boiled eggs, and unsulphured dried fruit.
TIP: Keep a master grocery list with commonly purchased items and then write add-on items on a sticky note!
Plan your grocery shopping for a day when you will be able to do some prep immediately after shopping. Cut up your snack veggies and any large fruits. Put them in large containers and grab some as needed, or portion them in small contains so you can grab and go. You can even prep a crockpot meal and refrigerate it overnight so it’s ready to go in the morning!
Plan a time to do your batch cooking and cook enough for several meals. This could be on the weekend, after grocery shopping, or the one night a week you have time to make dinner.
TIP: Package leftovers into portions so you can grab and go or quickly dump into a pan to re-heat!
BONUS TIP: Put your grocery shopping, prep and batch cooking time on your calendar!
Pack enough meals and snacks to keep you satisfied while you are away from home. Having healthy snacks with you will keep you away from the vending machines.
Next, let’s review what to look for and avoid when you get caught in a take-out/dine-out/event situation. You can eat a healthy meal in most situations if you are properly prepared!
In the best case scenario, if you know in advance the restaurant you will be dining in or taking out from, take a moment to check the menu online. Knowing your options ahead of time will reduce impulse selections and external influences (i.e., friends or colleagues ordering unhealthy options). If you don’t get a chance to check the menu online, take a moment to mentally center yourself before reading the menu.
Remind yourself what to look for:
- Healthy protiens, including chicken, bison, eggs, beans and legumes;
- Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, oat, millet and sprouted grains;
- Vegetables and fruits (you can often substitute fries with fruit);
- Items that are steamed, roasted, broiled, or grilled.
Avoid: breaded and fried foods; sauces and dressings (ask for these on the side so you can control the portion); and breads, pastas, white potatoes, white rice, flour and corn tortillas.
TIP: Ask for a box ahead of time if the portions are large so you can divide the meal before you start. Now you have a second meal to take home!
Having a plan in place, scheduling your prep time, and always having a strategy to be mentally prepared in unplanned situations will help you build the healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime!