Preparation is always the key to success, so it’s no surprise that it applies in the kitchen too! Start with these 6 tips from nutrition Expert Jessica Spiro to begin planning for a healthier week.

Do you have goals of healthier eating that you’ve been trying to achieve this New Year, but already worried you are going to fail? I promise you that it’s not your fault.

Life happens.

If you don’t have any healthy snacks on hand, there’s a good chance you are going grab your kids’ treats instead. Or say you haven’t eaten since breakfast, well then that bread basket at the restaurant is likely to end up empty. But if I could wish for one thing, it would be to help you stop being so hard on yourself and focus on taking the steps to set yourself up for success. But how do you do that?

You set yourself up for success by having a plan.

You may have heard of the meal prep phenomena, where meals and snacks are prepped in advance. Social media is abuzz with people posting pics and for good reason – it’s a great way to stay on track with your healthy eating goals.

You don’t have to prepare every meal and snack ahead of time, but you will at least want to have healthy ingredients prepped and either ready to eat or ready to turn into a meal. This way, you are not left empty handed when that craving hits or you need to make dinner in a hurry.

Here are a few tips for meal prep success:

1. Stock up on healthy items at the grocery store.

Seems like an obvious first step, right? But it’s important to do the majority of your grocery shopping on a day when you can go home, wash and chop your fruits and veggies, hard boil a bunch of eggs, make homemade trail mix, and have whatever healthy items on hand.

This includes buying healthy snacks, like yogurt and peanut butter packets. When coming up with snacks, think protein, fat and fiber to keep you full and your blood sugars stable. While it’s fine to include carbs, make sure they are complex carbs or are paired with one or more of the other 3 nutrients. The last thing you want is a sugar crash!

2. Prep your meals.

Whether you use good ol’ Tupperware, fancy meal prep containers, or even mason jars, containers are the foundation of meal prep. They not only make it easier to grab your healthy meal and go, but they also help with portion control. As for veggies, there is no need to portion control those!

3. Start small.

Don’t feel like you need to plan out all 5 days of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners in advance. Try it out first with one meal for one week.  If it’s working for you, then work your way up and start prepping 3 days of meals in advance. Figure out a realistic and sustainable plan that will work for you and your family.

4. Repeat ingredients.

It’s easy to get excited about all the wonderful Pinterest meal creations, but see where you can repeat ingredients. For example, use quinoa one day in your salad, the next day in a rice stir fry, and then as breakfast with eggs on top for weekend brunch. The whole point of meal prep is to make healthy eating convenient, so re-use ingredients as much as possible.

5. Be easy on yourself.

Know with every new change comes room to grow. You may struggle the first few weeks and end up eating out, but don’t stress about it. Each week is a new opportunity to look back and see where you struggled and how you can overcome the individual challenges you face. Meal prep is part of a lifestyle change which can make it appear daunting, but it is also why it eventually leads to long-term success.

6. Plan to hydrate.

Last but not least, make hydration part of your meal plan! This one is often overlooked but is so very important. Most people mistake hunger for thirst, and even mild dehydration can lead to a decrease in your metabolism by 3%! So how much water should you drink? An easy rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces. For example, a 150 lb person should drink 75 ounces. A good tip to make sure you are meeting your hydration needs is to drink a 32 ounce or 40 ounce bottle of water twice in a day and you are good to go!

Adapted from the original article.

Jessica Spiro, RD, CLC is a registered dietitian nutritionist from Encinitas, CA specializing in pre- and post-natal nutrition, as well as cancer, food allergies, diabetes management, and heart health. Check out more fun recipe ideas and nutrition tips with Jessica!

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