Arghh, just hearing the term “meal preparation” makes me cringe outwardly, it brings to mind endless Tupperware containers and spending my whole Sunday in the kitchen preparing for my “new healthy week” after binge eating on the weekends.
For years I was obsessed with finding the best way to prepare my meals for the week. I tried cooking everything on Sunday. According to most fitness and nutrition professionals this was the only way to succeed without becoming overwhelmed and ordering takeout. Honestly, this was miserable, this meant my entire weekend was essentially dedicated to planning for the next week. On Saturdays I would have to grocery shop in order to prepare for Sunday where I would then spend my entire day in the kitchen. This method may work well for some people but it certainly didn’t work for me.
I am not about that life anymore. I no longer spend sleepless nights obsessing over meal plans and it has actually made it way easier to eat healthy throughout the week. I no longer have a strict plan to follow, subjecting my weekend to hours of measuring cups and Tupperware. I understand that everyone is busy but you have to eat, so make the most out of your food choices.
If you want to spend your weekends watching Netflix, drinking coffee and going out to dinner with friends (I do!) then don’t stress about the weeks meal preparation there are other ways to ensure a healthy diet throughout the week.
“Fail to plan, plan to fail” right? Well I disagree when it comes to meal preparation. I am going to outline some of my best strategies for eating healthy without a serious/stressful plan. Yes, these strategies still do require some planning but you have to give yourself some wiggle room because if we try to strive for 100 percent adherence it will ultimately end in disappointment and failure, it’s just not realistic.
#1 Batch Cook. This still requires some planning especially at the grocery store but really it just means when you are devoting time to cooking you are doing it all at once. I batch most things in life, I want to make the most out of the time I have. I never have a set day I prepare meals. It could be any other day of the week other than Saturday or Sunday. This is what works for me, but everyone has a different schedule and commitments so find out what works for you. When you strap on your apron in the kitchen be prepared to hustle and make more than one dish.
#2 Make foods which can be used for several other dishes or that you can use in veggie bowls for lunches. For example I always cook a big batch of lentils or beans and a grain (millet, quinoa, rice) etc. That way it can be used for quick meals throughout the week. (See my veggie bowl recipes blog)
#3 All aboard the slow cooker train. It’s winter and we are all craving warming meals like stews and soups. Slow cookers are huge time savers and if you have a larger slow cooker you can turn it into several meals.
#4 Always have healthy snack options available. I think it is important to listen to your hunger signals and not just eat for the sake of eating. You should always be prepared for a snack attack and it will help avoid your “hangrier” side. I always carry around an emergency snack bag to hold me over until my next meal including nuts and seeds, roasted chickpeas, green smoothies and juices, fruit etc. This will give you a grace period to prepare a meal and not settle for an unhealthy takeout option.
#5 Order groceries to your door with local food delivery services. Believe me this is a huge time saver, but also a great way to ensure high quality organic produce that is typically local and in season. I’m one of those people that really enjoy grocery shopping, I get excited looking at food labels and picking out the best produce… I know huge nerd alert! But it’s my thing. I understand that it is not everyone’s weekly highlight and that grocery shopping is very time consuming. Food delivery services will deliver fresh produce and other groceries to your doorstep, and provide you with recipes to go along with your groceries. Another option is healthy prepared meals like my girl Fitorganix.com in Toronto where you don’t need to think about cooking at all, she delivers your meals and snacks for the day and they are not only healthy but super delicious.
#6 Shortlist your go to healthy places to eat out. Be realistic, it might not always make sense to have meals prepared from home all the time. I scope out healthy options in order to eat healthy. I am a huge food snob and make sure if I am paying for it, it better be good quality. Don’t waste your money on crappy quality food!! Your body will thank you!
Preparing food does not need to be a huge ordeal where you spend 6-8 hours in the kitchen at a time. For me every week is different so it does not make sense to schedule the same day for meal prep. It should not be a stressful experience where you just end up giving up because you think it is too much work. Throw on some music (side note my favourite cooking music is soul and Jazz) and enjoy the process. Have a glass of wine while preparing, whatever it takes to be present with the experience of preparing food. It is so rewarding when you prepare your meals so take the time to enjoy the process and squeeze in time for yourself and your loved ones. It may never become “easy” but it can become more enjoyable and worth the effort.
Here is one of my
Sweet Potato Black Bean Chilli
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bell peppers, chopped (orange, yellow or red)
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
- 1 can black beans or adzuki beans (or cooked from scratch)
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tbsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tbsp. raw cacao powder
- 1 diced avocado (optional)
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro (optional)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop onion, peppers and sweet potato and set aside.
- Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan on medium to low heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent. (2 minutes)
- Add peppers and cook for another couple minutes to soften.
- Add sweet potatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, spices
- Bring to a low boil and then cover over medium to low heat and cook for 25-20 minutes until the sweet potatoes are tender. Stirring occasionally.
- With 5 minutes left add cooked beans.
- Top with chopped cilantro and avocado (optional)
Slow cooker instructions:
- Chop onion, peppers and sweet potato and set aside.
- Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to slow cooker, then onions, garlic
- Add diced sweet potatoes, diced tomato, tomato paste, broth, spices
- Put on low- medium heat for 6-8 hours. Stir occasionally
- With 15 minutes left add cooked beans.
- Top with chopped cilantro and avocado
– Sylvie Tetrault (OG Lifestyles)