With the cooling weather and school already in full swing or about to be, we are all shifting out of the “lazy days” of summer. Busier schedules can make it more difficult to make healthy choices. Planning ahead is so helpful for staying (or getting) on track, so this month’s challenge is designed to set you up for success.
Carve Out at Least One Hour Each Week for Healthy Meal Prep
This one hour will save you time and money in the long run and as you get used to the prep, it will blend into your regular routine. (Prevention’s 5 Things I Learned When I Meal-Prepped Every Sunday For a Month)
Here are some simple ideas on how to spend that time.
1. Stock Your Car, Desk, Purse/Bag and Shelves with Quick Healthy Snacks –
Derail a fast food fix by keeping healthy snacks like Kashi bars, Lara Bars, mixed nuts with dried fruit in strategic places for on the go hunger pangs. For something a bit more like a meal, stash a few Go Picnics in your bag. They are a healthier version of Lunchables with the added bonus of not needing refrigeration. Of course, you’ll want to keep them from extreme heat. I keep them in the cooler in the back of my car. It will get you by until you can sit for a healthy meal. (Approx. Time: 10 minutes or less)
2. Wash and Prep Produce as Soon as You Get Home –
Or take time to pre-dice when you can by setting aside a specific day of the week. This will ensure they are ready in a flash. If you can’t even squeeze in time for these tasks, buy those that are already prepared in the grocery store. The extra money is worth the nutritional value and can save on healthcare and missed workdays in the future. (Approx. Time: 30 minutes or less)
3. Stock the Freezer with Healthy Meals –
We will all have those nights where we realize it’s already dinner time and there is nothing ready. Instead of picking up the phone for high caloric take out, keep the freezer stocked with healthy, preservative-free meals. If you have time to make and freeze your own that is wonderful. (See 25 healthy recipes you can make ahead and freeze.) If not, here are some of my favorites to keep on hand. They are often less per head than fast food and even Walmart stocks these brands, so no need to go to a specialty grocer. No excuses!
- Amy’s Broccoli and Cheese or Vegetable Pot Pie: Makes a meal by itself, takes up little space, and keeps a great crust in the microwave.
- Kashi, Amy’s, or Newman’s Own Pizzas: Take less than 15 minutes to make and pair well with some veggies and dip for a complete meal for 2-3 people.
- Amy’s Burritos: Make a great lunch on the go. Pop one in the microwave and grab a piece of fruit to be out the door in less than 5 minutes with a healthy meal.
(Approx. Time: 10 – 45 minutes)
4. Plan Your Week’s Meals with Grocery List Beforehand –
Many people swear by this. Not only do you not have to scramble to figure out what you are going to eat for dinner in less than an hour, but you can be sure you have everything you need for it. Before you make your grocery run, write down your daily dinners and note all the ingredients you need to pick up. It’s also a great way to involve your family, so everyone can be excited about what’s for dinner. (Approx. Time: Less than 20 minutes)