TCM Classic — Postmates much? We’re looking at you! Learning how to master meal prep can be the key to building and sustaining healthy habits, in the kitchen and beyond. We are re-vistiting this meal prep 101 guide from one of our favorite nutrition experts at a time of year we all need it most…
Meal Prep masters know that a life of healthy eating comes down to a strong plan from week to week. If like us, you find yourself over-relying on meal delivery services more than once a week, cookbook author and nutritionist, McKel Kooienga of Nutrition Stripped has the solution. McKel’s meal prep 101 is everything you need to take your mise en place to the next level, plus two craveably clean recipes to get you started…
Meal Prep 101
As a dietitian nutritionist, I teach clients daily about the rule of simplicity and how important it is for staying on track with healthy eating. But…what if you don’t have enough time to pursue healthy eating? Or what if you spend more time thinking of what to eat than actually cooking what you eat? Or what if you’re overwhelmed with all the elixirs and superfoods and don’t know how to actually get back to basics with just eating real food?
Well, you have the time, but you just might not know it yet! I’m going to share some of my time-saving tricks for meal prep that will create more space in your life to eat healthy and do more of the things you love. Like you, I work 40 sometimes 60 hours a week and it can be exhausting. The last thing I want to do is come home hungry, think about what I want to make for dinner, cook and then clean up. Or even worse, I don’t want to start my morning without having a clear game plan for breakfast, lunch and snacks to keep me feeling really good all day long and energized. Meal prep is my secret weapon when it comes to staying nourished and on track during a busy week! We all want more time – more time to spend with our friends and family and time for doing activities we love. It’s just about creating the time.
STEP 1: PLAN IT OUT | Use productivity and planning tools like journals, your calendar, etc. and block off time for your non-negotiables (i.e. your hot yoga sesh followed by meal planning). Following a meal plan program like my NS Society can help save time by having ready-made grocery lists, recipes and batch cooking plans.
STEP 2: SHOP LIKE A PRO | Make a list ahead of time with everything you’ll need for the week and go into the grocery store with a plan. Nerd alert: I like to organize my list in the order of my path in the grocery store to be even more efficient. You can also reuse your lists in the future to save even more time. Find some healthy grocery shopping inspiration here.
STEP 3: GET COOKING | A well-executed batch cooking session can take as little as one to two hours. Start by making a list of items you want to cook and note how you’re going to cook them, i.e. roasting, boiling, baking, etc. It might look like this:
+ Preheat oven.
+ Wash/chop all veggies and season any proteins.
+ Roast veggies and cook proteins in the oven at the same time.
+ While veggies/proteins are cooking, cook any grains on the stovetop like quinoa, rice, etc.
+ While veggies are cooking and grains are roasting, prep smoothie ingredients in bags for the freezer so you can put them straight in the blender with an added liquid in the morning.
STEP 4: MAKE IT HAPPEN | No excuses! Mark your batch cooking day on your calendar (I like Sundays) and prioritize it as you would any other appointment. Make it one of your non-negotiables. What are “non-negotiables” and why do we all need to identify these in our life? Non-negotiables are, simply put, things that are not up for negotiating. Meaning we don’t dabble, waver or move these in and out of our life. They’re a constant, and they can be compromised to fit schedules and our lifestyle, but they should never be compromised at the core. Establishing your set of non-negotiables can be a powerful and helpful tool at maintaining balance and achieving greater success in your life and with meal prep!
STEP 5: BE EFFICIENT | Are there times of the week or time of the day where you can bulk task grocery shopping and cooking all at once? Is there a time of day where the grocery store is less popular/busy so it enables you to maximize your time there? Take a look at where you can take some shortcuts with your time and utilize those. Try out meal prep for yourself using these simple recipes designed to be meal-prep friendly!
Maca Cacoa Smoothie
Makes 1 serving
1 scoop chocolate plant-based protein powder
1 tsp maca powder, optional
1/2 cup canned full fat coconut milk
1 cup water or almond milk
1 Tbsp almond butter
pinch of cinnamon
dates to sweeten, optional
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Add ice as desired.
Original recipe from the Nutrition Stripped Society.
Energy Almond Butter Balls
Makes 30 balls
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup almonds
1⁄2 cup cocoa powder
1 Tbsp maca powder, optional
1⁄2 cup almond butter
3 Tbsp maple syrup
3 Tbsp coconut oil
pinch of sea salt
In a food processor or blender, combine the oats and almonds first and grind into a fine flour, then add almond butter, coconut oil, and all remaining ingredients. Mix with the processor or blender until combined and form into balls with your hands, put them in the refrigerator until cold and enjoy!
Original recipe from the Nutrition Stripped Society.