Setting aside a few minutes to prepare your meals can make a massive impact on your food choices for the week. Prepping your food transforms your good intentions into actual follow-through and real results: you’ll reduce the likelihood of ordering take-out and increase the chances that you actually consume your food purchases and not simply add them to the compost heap. It also ensures that you’ll consume more nutrient-dense foods and reduce impulse eating on unhealthy snacks.
Here are five fool-proof principles behind the magic of food prep.
- Start small
When do you struggle the most with healthy eating? Breakfast, snacking, dinner? Identify your target area and focus on preparing food for those times. If breakfast is your weak link, prep by putting it together the night before: overnight oatmeal, yogurt parfait, or a frittata take a handful of minutes to prepare at night with minimal-to-zero effort in the morning. If lunch is your weakness, spend a few minutes in the morning or evening prior putting together a mason jar salad or a grainless protein bowl for an easy—daresay even pretty—self-contained lunch you can grab and go.
Don’t feel like you have to prep for every meal during the week—start with your trouble times and expand from there.
- Chopped produce is eaten produce
Fruits (with the exception of berries) and vegetables can be washed and chopped ahead of time and stored in a closed container in the refrigerator. This not only reduces cooking time, but it also increases the likelihood that they will be eaten as a snack—by you and your little ones.
- Supplement with staples
Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, barley, and farro are excellent accompaniments to virtually any meal of the day, and cooking several servings of them at once will go a long way. Once they’re cooked, store them in an air-tight container in the fridge, where they can last for three days. Reheat the brown rice for one night’s stirfry, or mix the quinoa with your breakfast bowl. Who says your daily fiber intake can’t be easy?
- Tools rule
Utilize your gadgets. Slow cookers, rice cookers, Instapot, even toaster ovens can all make your life easier—and help you achieve your health goals.
The key to slow cooking is prep everything the night before—wash it, measure it, chop it—so you can truly dump and go the next morning. Extra bonus: dinner is ready when you get home. For those homerun crockpot dinners that everyone in your family loves, double the recipe and freeze the rest.
When freezing, label everything with the expiration date. Most items will keep in the freezer for three months.
- It’s a family affair
Get the whole family involved. Kids can help wash and even chop fruits and veggies, or measure out grains and other ingredients. Some tools, like slow cookers, are very easy for kids to use—anyone can dump in the pre-measured ingredients, stir, and set!
Using an app like Meal Board allows you to keep pantry list as well as grocery lists and share it with household members with real-time syncing, so that not one person is wholly responsible for ensuring you’ve got what you need.
And that concludes our three-part series! When you plan better, you eat better. Stress-free, weekday meals will give you and your whole family a boost to your health, your wallet, and more time to enjoy together.