One of the many new trending crazes on social media is of people posting pictures of not only what’s on their plate or in their cups, but what’s in their tupperware style containers and the epic event is known as “Meal Prep Day.” As a nutritionist at NY Health & Wellness Center, bodybuilder, CrossFitter and all around busy lady, meal prepping has helped me stay on track with my fitness goals, helped with time management and has made my pockets and bank account a bit happier. Along the way I’ve been able to come up with a few pointers:
KISS – Keep It Simple Silly
One rookie mistake I’ve made was forgetting that I am no Bobby Flay and I am not in a professional kitchen at home. Even though trying new recipes can be a lot of fun for your taste buds, it’s not always time efficient or practical. In addition, having too many dishes cooking at once will be overwhelming especially if you have a limited workspace in your kitchen or until you build up your meal prep routine. I like to pick two proteins, two vegetables and two carbs/starches per prep session. Making extra of a dish and using freezer safe zip-locks will help you save time in the future and you will thank yourself for it!
Consider the easiest and healthiest ways to prep food, they should always be simple and efficient. Cooking methods like baking and roasting are great because you can pretty much cook anything in the oven while you are preparing other food(s) or multitasking around the house, just set your oven timer and go. Be aware that times and temperatures vary and you do not want to dry out your chicken! Grilling is another personal favorite and my go-to kitchen gadget is my George Foreman Grill. Across the board, use spices and herbs (fresh if possible) instead of sugar and salt filled marinades. Try making your own too.
Think Outside the Box
Be creative in the kitchen by re-purposing kitchen gear and using your spice cabinet.
You can use a large cookie sheet and aluminum foil as dividers so you can easily make three or four different flavors of chicken at once all on one pan, and a lot less to clean afterwards.
Re-purpose your muffin tins to make hard-boiled eggs, frozen steel-cut oatmeal, veggie frittatas and blended smoothies to name a few.
Do not be afraid of your spice cabinet. Herbs and spices do a lot more than make our food taste good. A few of my favorites are cayenne pepper and hot sauce (both contain capsaicin which suppresses ghrelin, boosts your metabolism and helps to burn fat), cinnamon (controls insulin and blood sugar levels, boosts metabolism, helps to burn belly fat and suppresses ghrelin), garlic (contains allicin and antioxidants which detoxifies, reduces inflammation and blood pressure), turmeric (reduces inflammation and fat, improves insulin resistance and detoxifies the liver) to name a few. Mix it up!
Someone Else’s Poor Planning Is Not My Emergency
The key to making any lifestyle change successful is knowing the importance of proper planning. If you are an “always on the go” type of person like myself, you will appreciate this simple tip. Make a list of the foods that you will prep and make your grocery list from that. Pre-measure and pre-pack your food(s) as soon as you’re done cooking them. It’s much easier to have all of your meals ready to grab-and-go throughout the week, it helps you to create new habits, and prevent mindless eating.
Gear That’s Worth the Investment
Purchasing a great set of Tupperware is priceless. I personally use glass containers because they are a lot less risky than plastic containers for re-heating. Glass and ceramic do not contain the same harmful chemicals or toxins and in the long run hold up a lot better in the dishwasher and withstand daily wear and tear. Other kitchen essentials I always recommend are a meat thermometer, food scale and measuring cups, large containers for food storage, a cutting board, kitchen timer, and freezer safe zip-lock bags.
The most important thing to remember is that meal prep does not have to be difficult and what works for me and my schedule will be different for you and yours. Find what’s best for you!
Jessica Santiago, DTR, is a nutritionist at NY Health & Wellness Center located at 450 Mamaroneck Ave, Harrison, New York, 10528.