Four steps for Healthy Meal Prep!
Junk food tastes good, it’s convenient, and it’s cheap, but that doesn’t mean eating a bag of corn chips between classes is the only option.
Meal prepping is the act of preparing some or all of your meals ahead of time, and could make a huge difference to your health.
According to Kaitlyn Black, nutrition consultant with Made Foods, meal prepping is a great way to ensure making healthy choices.
“Pre-preparing meals is a daunting task, but in the long run [it] will save you time, and the stress of trying to figure it out on the fly.”
In addition, Black says that prepping your meals can save money in the long- term, because eating out is often more expensive.
From overnight oats to salads in a jar, the internet is awash with healthy meal prep ideas. For many college students the idea of preparing an entire week’s worth of food in one go can be overwhelming.
It doesn’t have to be overly complicated, just follow these four steps for healthy meal prep:
The first step to meal-prepping is to plan out your week.
Look at your calendar and make an inventory of the meals you will need for the week, taking into account things like lunch dates, events at school, and vacations.
Pick a day where you can set aside time to prepare meals for the week – this could be Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
It doesn’t matter when, just as long as you are setting aside time to be intentional with your food choices for the week.
Make sure to stock up on lots of BPA-free containers to store your food.
2. PICK YOUR MEALS
This is the fun part.
Decide on your menu for the week, and take into account your own personal health and fitness goals.
Kendal Cozicar, registered dietitian with Nourish Nutrition, suggests that students aim for meals that include a healthy balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
“Carbohydrates are important fuel for our body and brain, protein is important for our muscles and our enzyme and hormone functions, and fats are necessary for our cell function and to help absorb fat-soluble vitamins.”
According to Cozicar, eating colourful vegetables is an easy way for students to get a variety of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals) in.
Plant-based meals, such as those with beans, or quinoa, are also a great way to include protein in your meal without breaking the bank according to Black.
A plant-based protein meal might require more creativity than preparing a chicken breast, but it will save you money on your grocery bill.
If money isn’t an issue, there are meal kit options that can help you prepare healthy meals for yourself.
Made Foods recently launched their own meals kits, which require no subscription. Black says these are a great option for busy students.
With all your meals planned out, this step should be simple.
Try to get to the grocery store once a week before your meal prep, and only purchase as much as you need for the week in order to decrease wasted produce.
It can help to organize your grocery list by section: a section for produce, dairy, and meat, for example.
This will help keep you organized and could prevent you from making unnecessary purchases when you’re feeling frustrated in the cookie aisle.
Now that you’ve done all the preparation, it’s time to get cooking.
Certain foods such as sandwhiches or sauce-heavy rice bowls will go soggy if left in the fridge all week.
For these meals, prepare as much as you can ahead of time, and then put them together the night before.
Don’t stress if the meals don’t turn out perfectly. Just stick with it, and meal-prepping will become second-nature to you.
Remember to keep it simple.
You don’t have to be Canada’s next top chef, unless of course you want to be.