Meal Prep
Food Prep

By request: meal prepping for convenience

So many of my clients are constantly on-the-go, whether work-related, kid-related or just busy schedules. When we’re busy, it’s easy to let go of our healthy habits and wing it when it comes to our planning, shopping, meal prep, and exercise.

Life happens. We get busy. But when we invest in our health and well-being, we stay fueled for the busy, and we keep focused on our goals. Is it overwhelming? It can be, but it doesn’t need to be.

First things first

Let’s look at the big picture. Are you setting yourself up for success?

When it comes to nutrition, environmental control is one of the biggest keys for success. Having the right things on hand is one piece of the puzzle, but first, take an inventory of what you have at home. Are there trigger foods in your house that you will reach for when you’re tired, hungry, and in a rush? If so, remove them if you can. If you can’t remove them, move them. Find yourself a spot for all of your go-to health foods and put the trigger foods out of sight. At my house, anything on the top shelf is going to take me a lot of effort to get to (short girl problems) so I have to really think about my choices.

Have you ever done a pantry makeover? Check out my post about things to consider when cleaning up your pantry. There’s a few helpful hints for crowding out some of the less healthy staples you may be hanging onto in your kitchen. Makeovers are also one of my favorite things to do with clients as well!

Keep it simple

As a bariatric patient, it’s hard to balance meal prep when the amount of food we can eat is so small. The goal here is to not waste food, so learning how much to prepare for yourself is key. Buying or prepping food in bulk that can be frozen is a good way to make sure nothing goes to waste. There are some really simple things you can do to make sure you’ve got some solid choices available for your meals and snacks. I try to keep things basic and versatile so they can be worked into any meal.

  • Hard boiled eggs (a great source of protein you can use in salads or on their own, any time of day)
  • Grilled chicken breast (keep seasoning simple so you can use in different ways, like in salads, with roasted veggies, taco salads, etc.)
  • Roasted vegetables (you can roast anything from broccoli and cauliflower to cabbage and Brussels sprouts to mushrooms and peppers)
  • Cottage cheese (great with fruit like berries, or apples with cinnamon, or on a salad with chickpeas)
  • Yogurt (plain greek yogurt is versatile and can be used as a topping for chili, as a base for salad dressing, as a chicken marinade, or mixed with berries for a sweet treat)
  • Prepped raw vegetables (for use as snacks raw or as ingredients for quick meals such as stir fries)
  • String cheese
  • Tuna (canned or packets for portability)
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables (berries are great for smaller portions for smoothies or with cottage cheese and yogurt, and riced cauliflower or other veggies are great for quick sides for dinners)

Protein first

Most bariatric patients continue to use protein supplements to ensure they meet their protein recommendations from their surgical programs. Making sure you always have protein on hand is key (and a variety of different flavors is helpful so you don’t get bored). A few tips for making protein shakes more convenient include:

  • Get pre-mixed ready to drink proteins
  • Mix protein shakes in advance that you can just grab and go
  • Store a scoop of protein in a small container that you can toss in your purse or lunch bag in case you need a boost while you’re on the go
  • Get an insulated shaker bottle to keep your protein cold while you’re running around

Have a game plan

While it takes a little practice to get this done efficiently, it’s good to have a game plan for your healthy habits. Sit down the night before you shop to think about what food you want to have on hand for the week. When prepping for the work week, I’ll sit down on Saturday or Sunday morning to come up with a list of ingredients for my shopping list. I always double check what I have on hand to make sure I use up all of my fresh fruits and veggies or any leftover food from the week. The keep it simple approach works well. The list above is pretty much what I buy when I am keeping the thinking to a minimum. If I am planning specific recipes, I’ll figure out what spices, herbs, and other ingredients I need. Sometimes when I get bored, I comb through my Pinterest boards for ideas too.

Be efficient

I’ve memorized the layout of my grocery store, so I typically make my shopping lists to reflect the flow of the store. I’m a nerd like that. But efficiency continues when I get home. Meal prep starts the minute the grocery bags hit the counters. Any frozen items go right into the freezer, of course. Fresh veggies get washed and prepped before they go into the fridge. I store prepped veggies in glass containers so I can see when when I stack them in the fridge, making it more likely that I will use them in my meals for the week. I typically make 6-12 hard boiled eggs for the week, so I can get those on the stove while I am prepping veggies or putting everything away. Things I like to prep in bulk are chicken breasts or thighs that I season and grill for dinner, but make extra for use during the week. Pro tip about chicken: picking up an already cooked rotisserie chicken is a big timesaver too! I break it down and make bone broth that I use later in the week for quick sautéed vegetables to cut down on the need for cooking with oil.

Another tip I have is to get everything in containers the night before to take with you for lunch the next day. That way, you can just grab your meals, pop them in your lunch bag without too much thought. This saves you some more time, so you can get that workout in before work!

What are your tricks?

Have some cool tips for meal prep and planning? Share them in the comments!

Recipes

Bariatric-style baking: Hermit cookies

As a bariatric surgery patient, the holidays can be a challenge. Staying on track with eating low carb can be a struggle, especially at potlucks and holiday parties. I’m about 17 months out from my surgery, but am celebrating a full year at my goal range and maintaining my weight. It’s easy to see how old habits can come back, so finding safe alternatives to bring to parties is one of my keys to success.

I am so not a baker.  Growing up in a house with a diabetic and a Weight Watchers instructor (mom and dad respectively), I didn’t learn about baking at home. I’m learning from Pinterest! You can find pretty much anything there, and there are so many resources for bariatric-friendly recipes and ideas, you are more than likely to find something within your skill and patience level and that works with your dietary goals.

IMG_8434 Bariatric Eating is one of my go-to sites for recipes and for information about maintaining post-surgery. Their Inspire protein line is definitely one of the best-tasting supplements out there in the bariatric formulated arena. I subscribe to their email updates and recently received one that was full of holiday cookie recipes. I saw the one for Hermit Cookies and I knew I had to give them a try. My baby brother and my grandmother used to bake hermit cookies together, so there’s a touch of nostalgia there. I’m pretty sure the recipe called for brown sugar and molasses, which is strictly off limits for me, post-bariatric surgery.  This bari-friendly recipe uses almond flour, so it cuts down on the carb content and is also gluten free, which is important for people with gluten and wheat sensitivities.

I know a sugar-free recipe is successful if my husband tries one and tells me they are okay to bring for our Christmas Eve dinner. The recipe is simple and easy to follow, so might be a good one to try if you’re wanting something lower in carbs and sugar but definitely a seasonal taste.

So consider hermit cookies to bring to your next gathering.  You can bring hermits, so you don’t have to be one.

Ingredients

  • 2½ cups almond flour
  • ⅓ cup Truvia
  • 2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large brown eggs
  • ¼ cup raisins, chopped – optional

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Blend the almond flour, Truvia, Pumpkin Pie spice and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in the raisins if you choose to add them.
  3. Next add the eggs and blend into a soft dough. Gather into a smooth ball. Divide in half.
  4. Roll each piece into an even 1½ inch log, place on lightly sprayed baking sheet, press to flatten slightly. Bake for 15 to 25 minutes, until logs begin to turn golden and are firm to the touch.
  5. Cool and cut into one inch bars with a chef’s knife.

Recipe credit goes to Susan Maria Leach, founder of Bariatric Eating.