Food Prep 101- Planning Ahead

Working in the health industry, I have run the gauntlet on excuses. One of my favorite games is trying to counter each and every one of them so that someone slowly runs out and starts looking at me with wide-eyed panic, realizing that at some point they will have to admit that they just don’t want to do whatever task has been set before them, or maybe they are too lazy or lack the discipline. The main one I hear all the time when it comes to eating healthier is the classic I just don’t have the time. Well, here is the first of my counter arguments…

Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.Plan what you are going to make. Life is busy, I get that. No, I don’t have the added pressure of kids (unless you count my furbaby!), but if you can, take twenty minutes sometime on Friday or Saturday, and make a plan of meals for the week. Start with a few dinners, say three. There are heaps of healthy recipes out there on the internet- you don’t need to spend money on heaps of fancy cookbooks. Use what is already available, especially if cooking isn’t your thing. Stick to recipes at first until you get comfortable in the kitchen. A few of my favorite resources to get you started:

http://paleospirit.com

https://elanaspantry.com

http://nomnompaleo.net/recipeindex (great one for kids)

Plan to make extra. Why cook every night if you don’t have to? I can’t tell you how many times I am driving home at 8 P.M., grateful that I have leftovers, because there is no way I would be able to spend half an hour making dinner that night. Make enough so that tomorrow is already covered. If you are only planning for one or two people, you can most likely make enough for a few meals. I can take three hours and get enough food made for most of the next week by chopping and roasting veggies. That way when I get home, all I have to do is warm it up, and boom! off to bed.

Plan what goes on your shopping list, and stick to it. After you have your list of meals, make that list of ingredients. Do your best to pick recipes that include real food, heaps of vegetables, some meat, and some starchy veggies (sweet potatoes, potatoes, beets, etc.). Instead of wondering around the aisles looking for things you MIGHT need, stick to the things you know that you WILL need. This will keep you from accidentally wandering down the chocolate, ice cream, chips, or soft drinks aisle. Stick to the outside of the store, this is where the fresh food is always located. This trick can also be a great way to keep your food costs lower as you won’t be filling your cupboards with stuff you don’t actually need. In the beginning, you will forget to put things on your list, but as you practice, it will get easier.

Plan to make only ONE meal at a time. I hear it all the time. Parents aren’t up to cooking regularly because they have to make two meals every time, one for them, one for their kids. WHY IS THIS A THING?! Unless your child has legitimate food allergies, why are you feeding them something different, and usually out of a package and/or deep freezer (because hey, convenience), while you focus on getting yourself healthy, why not get the whole family healthy together? Take the kids shopping with you. Get them involved in meal prep and planning, even cooking if they are old enough. Make it a game- try to find a brand new vegetable every time you go to the grocery store and make something new and exciting with it. Do your best not to give in to the ‘I don’t like that’ bandwagon; If my 2.5 yr old nephew will eat salmon and brussels sprouts, other kids can too.

Plan to fail. That’s right, no matter how much planning you put into making your own meals, at some point you are probably going to get behind. Realize this and have a backup plan. Instead of ordering a pizza on your way home, know what quick, easy options are available that will give you the healthiest bang for your buck. For example, If I haven’t had time to do meal prep and it’s 8 P.M. and I’m finally on my way home, I’m going to stop at Chipotle or Q’doba and get a salad bowl with extra meat and veggies and heaps of pico de gallo. Great protein, lots of veggies, and rice as a carb hit, but no heavy bread or Frankenfoods where I have no idea what is actually in there. Quick, easy, healthy, and affordable.

That’s all for this segment…I’ll give you all a few more of my tips in the next segment. In the meantime, check these recipes out!

Chia pudding

This is a great snack you can prepare in larger batches and have waiting in the fridge as an after-school or mid-morning snack for you or the kids. Just keep the ratios the same.

1 cup of milk of choice- regular, almond, coconut, coconut-almond (I don’t recommend soy)

2 Tbsp of chia seeds

1 tsp liquid sweetener of choice (optional- try to wean off of this and use fruit instead)

Fruit of choice*- I love frozen berries with this

Mix everything together. Be sure to stir after ten, then twenty minutes as the chia seeds will sink and clump as they expand. Twice should be sufficient. Refrigerate at least half an hour, preferably overnight.

*Another alternative is to blend ripe bananas with the milk, then soak the chia seeds. This will make a banana pudding, and you shouldn’t need any sweetener if your bananas are nice and ripe.

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Hand Salve

For all my Crossfit fanatics, here is the best ripped hand salve I’ve come across:

1 Tbsp beeswax*

1 Tbsp shea butter

2 Tbsp sweet almond oil

10 drops essential oil (optional- I use vanilla here, but anything will work)

Melt shea butter and beeswax together on the stovetop over low heat. Remove from heat and add almond oil and essential oil if wanted. Mix really well, put in a container(s) of your choice and refrigerate till solid. Because of the beeswax, this will hold up fairly well in moderate heat, however, it will melt in the Hades that tends to be a North Carolina summer, so don’t leave it in your car/gym bag unless you trust your container. This also doubles as an awesome lip gloss.

Most of these ingredients can be found at a health food store. Whole foods is a great resource.

*For any recipes involving beeswax, I highly recommend having a special pot and whisk. This stuff is super sticky and difficult to clean out, even with hot, soapy water. Dry paper towels are actually the best.