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!

Food Prep, nutrition

Spring cleaning: makeover for your fridge

When you are ready to start making healthy habit changes, physical environment can be an influential factor in your success. When you open the fridge and see leftovers, expired jars of sauces and dressings, processed foods with long ingredients lists, or soda – it hardly inspires adoption of new healthy habits.

Out with the old. In with the new.

If you’ve already started your health journey, you may have already crowded out a lot of foods in favor of more unprocessed options.  If not, here’s a few places to start.

Crowd Out:

  • Soda or other sugar sweetened beverages. Instead drink water or iced herbal teas. Even if you are drinking diet soda, cutting that out can make a big difference in how you feel. Artificial sweeteners have been known to cause all kinds of issues depending on what studies you read. Your body doesn’t know the difference between real or artificial sugar, so you can be setting yourself up for various imbalances in your body by continuing your diet coke habit.
  • Yogurt with artificial sweeteners or sugar-sweetened fruit. You may think you are doing yourself a favor by choosing low-fat yogurts, but check the labels — there’s either a lot of artificial sweeteners or a lot of sugar added to make them taste better.  Instead, get some plain greek yogurt and add your own fruit – fresh or frozen works.
  • Expired or tired food. Everyone has that ancient bottle of mayo or a veggie crisper full of good intentions and wilted greens. Time to toss them both and start with a clean slate. When buying fresh fruits and veggies, have a plan in mind for how you will use them, and if you wash and prep them right when you get home for the store, they will be there ready to consume when you need them!
  • Prepackaged or frozen entrees. They have ingredients and nutritional labels. Can you pronounce the ingredients? What’s the sodium count? Making your own food is one of the best things you can do for your health, and you completely control the ingredients list. Also, did you know that calorie counts and nutritional info can be off by plus or minus 20%? That can add up over time. Whole, unprocessed food is the best way to guarantee you are getting the nutrients you need to support your healthy body’s needs.

Add In:

  • Water or iced tea! Having nice cold water or some homemade iced tea with lemon on hand means you may drink it. Get yourself a cool pitcher or some mason jars to keep in the fridge so you’ll always have something cold to drink, especially as the weather heats up.
  • Seasonal fruits or veggies! Living in northern California, I’m lucky that I am able to buy fresh, seasonal and local produce right in our grocery store. Buying local and in season foods ensures that your food will have the right nutrients and taste better too. Mass produced food that has to travel thousands of miles to get to you may not have the same quality or even taste as purchasing local.  Pro-tip: wash and prep veggies right out of the grocery bag and even package into single-serving size grab and go containers to take for a snack or for lunches on the go.
  • Healthier spreads and condiments. Ditch the sugar sweetened ketchup or salad dressings and opt for fresh salsa, hummus, lime or lemon juice as a substitute for your jarred condiments.
  • Meal prep! Make room in your fridge for things you can cook in advance when you have time on the weekends or pick a day out of the week that works for you. Think about cooking once and eating twice as a practice, meaning cook to have enough for leftovers you can bring to work for lunch. Or make bulk quinoa, beans, or salads that can be used for a variety of meals during the week.  Once you clear out room in your fridge, stocking back up with easy to assemble meal options will help ensure that you will stay on track with your health food habits.

Have other pro-tips for keeping your fridge game on point? Let us know in the comments!

Food Prep, nutrition

Winding down 2017 — as a prepper!

Chopping Vegetables with caption: Meal Prep Mania

It’s not what you think. I am not preparing for the end of the world by stocking up my underground bunker in the middle of nowhere. I find myself at the end of the new year venturing into new territory!

For the last two weeks, I have been testing out a service: meal prep. I’m not just creating Pinterest boards full of bento box perfection (although I did create a Food Prep board). I’ve started preparing meals for a client at her insistence.This wasn’t what I had in mind when I started on this health coaching track, but hey — if I can help someone take control of their health and well-being, why not! She wants to eat healthy, but doesn’t want to take the time to do all of the prep.

I get it.  There’s sometimes when it’s easy to grab some pre-boiled eggs and some string cheese and call it a day. But to really eat healthy, to get in your greens and fiber, and all the goodness of whole food nutrition, it takes work and planning.

And meal prep for someone else keeps me on track too. I’m definitely getting more efficient the more I do this.

I thought I would share a few tips for you to try if you’re embarking on a food prep adventure in the new year.

  1. Planning starts with the menu. Pick a few recipes that you plan to make and that you can make in bulk.  I usually will make a few different entrees, a few vegetable side dishes, and sometimes a grain. Then I find a few breakfast recipes like steel cut oats, protein muffins, egg fritatta muffins, and green smoothies. Once I have the menu down, I make a grocery list. Many times I already have a lot of staples at home, but I’ll just need a few extra thing.  I also plan things like extra greens for smoothies and salads, fruit and veggies for snacks, and some basic protein options like eggs, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt that can be used at any time for a snack or meal.
  2. Shopping – I try to do all my shopping at one place, and since I know the layout of our local store well, I try to put my lists in the order that food is laid out at the store.  Believe it or not this saves time. For produce, I tend to buy organic, or at least follow the Dirty Dozen/Clean Fifteen guidelines. I also go with frozen organic fruit for smoothies.  I consume such a small amount of food, it usually goes bad before I can eat it unless it’s frozen.
  3. Unpack and prep. Once home, I put away anything I’m not going to immediately use, but I will wash and chop all the veggies needed for recipes so they are good to go.
  4. Plan your order. If you are roasting vegetables, I try to get those washed, chopped, and prepped to throw in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or so, and I can switch out sheet pans as I go. I try to find all recipes that cook at roughly the same temperature to save some time too.
  5. Clean as you go. I am one of those people who tends to use every bowl, pot and pan in the house when I do food prep.  I like to clean up between each recipe to keep things organized and to save some time at the end when the last thing in the world I want to do is wash another dish.
  6. Package for mix and match. As I prep my food, I portion everything out for my portion sizes that are roughly the same caloric value or macro nutrients. That way, I can just grab a few things to mix and match during the day that can also be interchangeably breakfast or lunch or dinner. I tend to make “buddha bowl” type things where I can add  various proteins to greens, grains, roasted vegetables, and maybe add an interesting dressing or sauce, or just top with hummus or some other pureed bean recipe. I like to make it an adventure.
  7. Save what works! When you find a recipe that’s easy and tasty, make sure you pin it to a Pinterest board or add it to your folder of favorite recipes.  You’ll want to add that to the rotation.
  8. Have fun! Put on some good tunes and your Fitbit and dance around the kitchen.  Time on your feet is time you aren’t on the couch, and cooking really can be a lot of fun.

Now that I have a few weeks under my belt of actually doing this for someone else, I can see some benefits for myself. I’m challenging myself to try some new things — like baking.  It was never really my thing, but now I have made a number of different sugar free and low sugar treats, and really awesome protein muffins made from black beans!

Whether your goals for 2018 are to eat healthier or move more, there’s a way to build some simple steps into your life to get you on that track. I’d love to discuss your goals and intentions for the year. Are you ready for the big things ahead?  I know I sure am! Contact me for a free consultation if your are interested in learning more about health coaching and about how you can incorporate more home cooking into your diet and lifestyle.