Crazy summer schedules make it difficult to stay on a healthy eating plan. Now that the kids are heading back to school (and lunches need to be packed), it’s time to get the whole family back on a healthy eating schedule. One of the best ways to do this is to meal prep on the weekend. In this article you will find information on why meal prepping works, how to get started, meal prepping tips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and options for meal prepping if you don’t have the time or desire to prep on the weekend.
Why Meal Prep?
There are so many reasons this method works. Here are a few reasons why so many people love meal prepping!
1. It Works with Any Meal Plan! No matter which diet plan you are following, meal prepping works in keeping you on track.
2. Keeps you Focused on Your Goal! Preparing your meals ahead of time reduces the chances of making poor choices at meals and snacks and keeps the guessing game out of your daily routine.
3. Creates Variety in Your Diet! Each day can be planned to incorporate a variety of foods so you don’t get stuck in a rut, eating the same foods every day. Cooking a few new recipes on the weekend will give you the opportunity to try new things and incorporate them into your week.
4. Saves Time and Money! While you will spend time on the weekend prepping your meal, so much less time will be spent throughout the week trying to figure out what to eat. This will leave you more time during the week to exercise, run kids around, and perhaps relax. Plus, you will be less likely to eat on the go!
5. You Can Meal Prep the Whole Family! Not only can you meal prep for you, but you can get your kids’ lunches ready for the week. Your kids will have healthy and well planned lunches ready to go for the week.
Where Do I Begin?
So you have made the decision to meal prep. In order to get on the meal prep bus you need to get your supplies. Using one of the many sites dedicated to meal prep recipes (Pinterest seems to have everything), decide on a few recipes you’d like to try and make a grocery list. If you don’t already have containers for meal prepping, purchase enough for the week. I am a big fan of Tupperware products since they have a lifetime guarantee, there are a ton of options and they are dishwasher safe. Otherwise, your local grocery store, dollar store and Amazon have quite a few disposable and washable containers. You may want to purchase some with dividers and some without depending on your meals for the week. Now you are ready to begin the process.
Let the Prepping Begin!
You have heard it many times: “Breakfast is the most important meal”. Well, it’s true! Breakfast literally breaks the fast your body experienced as you slept. Unfortunately, many people either grab a quick breakfast item with little nutritional value or skip breakfast altogether. Eating a nutritionally balanced breakfast kicks off your metabolism for the day, reduces hunger eating and poor choices, provides energy, and helps your brain function better. Preparing easy to grab and go nutritional breakfast items ahead of time can help you stay on track. Each breakfast should contain a healthy carbohydrate like whole grain toast, oatmeal, and fruit and a protein like eggs, peanut butter, and nuts. I have used Pinterest frequently to find recipes I love. A few general suggestions for easy breakfast prep are listed below.
- Oatmeal Muffins or Whole Grain Muffins– Grab one of these along with a protein source and you are ready to start your day.
- Egg Muffin Cups– These are super easy and quick to make while providing a lot of protein. If you would like a lower fat and cholesterol option, use egg whites. You can also include veggies in these to get your first serving of veggies for the day. If you are on a low carb diet, these are a fantastic option. Or pair this with a healthy carb like oats, granola, or fruit for a balanced breakfast.
- Overnight Oats– Perfect all in one options including protein and carbohydrates can make breakfast easy. Use peanut butter or PB2 for added protein.
- Make Ahead Breakfast Smoothies– You have 2 choices here! Use a freezer bag to throw into the blender for a quick smoothie in the morning or prepare several smoothies for the week and keep them frozen.
- Homemade Granola Bars or Granola– Granola stays fresh for a long time and does not need to be refrigerated. These are great to make for many weeks in advance and variety. Choosing recipes with nuts or peanut butter will make this an all in one breakfast go-to item.
Do you feel like you don’t have enough time for lunch and make poor choices or forget to eat and binge eat after work? Lunch prep is a great way to assure you are getting a nutritionally balanced lunches and makes it easy to grab on your way out the door. There are several ways you can prep your lunches ahead of time.
- 1. Prepare 1 meal for the whole week. If you don’t mind eating the same foods for lunch each day of the week, this an easy and fast way to meal prep on the weekend. Just prepare 1 recipe meeting your nutritional goals or diet plan and divide into daily portions.
- Prepare 2 recipes and alternate your lunches each day. This will take a little more time but will provide variety in your lunch.
- Prepare 1 protein for the week. Just pick different sides precut fruits and veggies or create a salad to complement your entrée. This will provide a little variety and keep it simple.
- 4. Prepare parts of the meal and mix it up throughout the week. Make a few veggies or whole grains(brown rice, quinoa, couscous, etc.) to add to your protein variety throughout the week.
Meal Prep Recipe Resources
There are so many resources available for meal prepping but sometimes it is hard to determine which recipes will work or even taste good. Here are a few websites I have found useful:
- Pinterest– Many people use this site to find and store recipes they love but sometimes the recipes are a total fail. Pinterest does have a rating so check for recipes with high user ratings!
- Eat Yourself Skinny– Provides a variety of meal prepping tips and recipes meeting a variety of diet plans such as Weight Watchers, Paleo, Gluten Free, Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy Free, and Low Carb.
- Sweet Peas and Saffron– A lot of great ideas for meal prepping and recipes.
- Family Fresh Meals– Written by a mom for moms, this website has a lot of awesome recipes for your lunch and for your kids.
Other Meal Prepping Options
Maybe you don’t want to spend a bunch of time on the weekend prepping for the week. The weekends can often be filled with activities, sports, parties, cleanings, and just wanting to enjoy time home. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on the weekend, here are a few tips to help prepare your meals and keep you on track!
- Make an extra serving (or two) of your dinner. Pack up your leftovers for a filling and nutritional lunch the next day or two.
- Re-create leftovers. Use your leftover steak, chicken, fish, or other protein to add to your pre-cut veggies, salad, brown rice, quinoa, or wrap it up in a wrap (whole grain or protein variety).
- Pre-cut your veggies and fruit to for easy, healthy sides and snacks. When you get home from the grocery store, wash and cut your fruits and veggies. Then, either bag them or put them into containers so you can quickly pack them in your lunch.
You Are Ready!
You are now ready to begin your meal prep journey and healthy lifestyle. So let’s get started. Once you’ve made your meals, share your success. Post pictures of your meal prep in the comments or on social media with the #sandybummealprep. Don’t forget to share the recipes you love!