Juggling a healthy diet with a busy work-life schedule is no easy feat.
The demands of work, everyday life, pregnancy and/or little people mean you’re short on time. There aren’t enough minutes in the day to cook a healthy, balanced meal every day of the week.
On the other hand, you don’t want to turn to fast food or shop-bought convenience meals. On the whole, they are low on nutrition and high in the stuff you don’t want to be eating. Good nutrition is important for everyone. You want and need to be at your best for yourself and your family.
There is an answer. It’s to provide freshly-cooked, healthy meals but 100% prepped in advance. This not only saves on cooking time, but also saves on clearing and washing the utensils and food preparation area each day.
Here’s how to super-simplify your meal prep:
Schedule Meal Preparation Windows
To cut the overall time spent cooking each week, you need to prep a few meals at a time. The more meals you can prep in one window, the more time you’ll save. However, fresh foods can deteriorate fairly quickly so ideally, you’ll be scheduling a couple of prep times a week, say Wednesday and Sunday.
Invest in Good Quality Containers
You’re going to need a set of containers in a variety of sizes. Larger sizes for one-pot meal prep, and smaller sizes for keeping wet and dry ingredients separate until cooking time.
Opt for glassware where possible; these are safer than plastics which may leach nasty chemicals into food and can mess with your hormones. Stainless steel containers, on the other hand, are the best solution for transporting meals.
Read Up on Food Safety
It’s likely that you may be storing foods longer than you are accustomed to, so make sure you’ve read up on the latest FDA guidelines before you plan your meal prep for the first time.
Work Out What Kind of Meal Prep You Want to Do
Do you want to cook entire meals at prep time to reheat later in the week? Or do you want to prep ingredients to cook for later? Or a combination of both?
This will depend on the kinds of meals you like, as well as how much time you have.
Full one-pot meals take more time to prepare, but are easier to serve later in the week. Prepping ingredients only is a solution for those who only have a small window of prep-in-advance time, but can devote 15 minutes or so each night to actually cooking the ready-prepped ingredients.
Keep Recipes and Ingredient Lists Simple
Ambitious meal plans and multi-ingredient recipes don’t fit with the super-simplified meal prep system.
Instead, plan balanced meals with only four or five main ingredients: a source of protein and/or dairy, some healthy carbs and two or three different vegetables.
The best healthy meal plans for each trimester use the same ingredients for a couple of different meals. For instance, you could prep vegetables to go in a casserole, and then prep some extra to stir-fry later in the week. Or you could batch cook some bolognese with lean ground beef and make some homemade burgers in the same prep session.
Finally, remember that there are some ready-made healthy energy snacks available for fast, guilt-free food on-the-go.
Some Recipe Ideas for Super Simple Meal Preparation
- Batch cook (and freeze extra portions) of pasta sauces, casseroles, stews, soups, and crockpot recipes. Simply reheat as needed.
- Marinate meats and seafood in advance to add all the flavor you need for a last-minute meal without turning to pre-packed sauces.
- A salad is the ultimate healthy fast food. Just keep all ingredients ready and separate until needed. Add chicken, seafood, nuts and seeds, or cheese for a quick protein boost.
- Stir-fry is almost as fast. Just pre-chop ingredients and keep separate until you are ready to use them.
- Skewers with healthy combinations of protein and veg are easy to prep and easy to cook last-minute.
- For easy veg prep, try roasting or mashing veggies then keep them until needed.
With these handy tips on meal preparation, there’s no need for you to go down the fast food and takeout route every time. In fact, you can continue to enjoy tasty nutritious meals on-the-go by applying these five easy steps and making them part of your daily routine.
Dave Asprey is the creator of the widely popular Bulletproof Coffee, host of the #1 health podcast, Bulletproof Radio, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, "The Bulletproof Diet." Through his work, the Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur provides information, techniques and keys to taking control of and improving your biochemistry, your body and your mind so they work in unison, helping you execute at levels far beyond what you'd expect, without burning out, getting sick, or allowing stress to control your decisions.