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Meal Prep Tips From Our Nutritionist

In this article by nutritionist James, he offers some of his best ninja tips for meal prepping.

Can I let you in on a not-so-secret secret? 

Almost everyone struggles with sticking to a healthy diet from time to time. Yes, even me. Even Joe Wicks. In fact, if any health professional tells you they don’t, they’re lying.

So, this month let’s talk about how we can make eating those healthy, nutritious foods that serve us well a little easier.

The thing is, what you eat matters a lot… How you eat can:

  • Help you live longer
  • Boost your immunity
  • Help you reach & maintain a healthy weight
  • Support your muscles and bones
  • Keep your skin, teeth, and eyes healthy
  • Lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers
  • Help your digestive system do its job
  • Support healthy pregnancies and breastfeeding
  • Not to mention give you more energy, cut down on aches and pains, help you sleep better, and improve your workout performance and recovery.

Meal Prepping Tips That Save Money Too

You know that feeling when you have a project hanging over your head and you just can’t get it started… But once you get it going, you wonder why you dreaded it so much? Meal prepping can feel that exact same way!

The thing is, once you get started, it can save you SO much time, money, and stress. With that in mind, I’ve put together a quick list of meal prep time and money savers for you.

Keep meal planning simple.

Don’t expect to become a meal prep pro overnight.

Pick ONE meal that gives you the most stress or where you find yourself struggling to eat well – like lunch – and start making those meals ahead of time. Once you get into a routine with lunch, you can branch out into other meals.

The reason so many people love meal planning, is because it takes the thinking out of it in the moment. You can enjoy nutritious meals that help you stay healthy, without having to make a decision on the spot when you’re hungry and in a rush. The chances of going for something convenient rather than healthy meals increases exponentially in these situations.

Double up on your meals.

Every time you make dinner, make extra! This way you have leftovers ready and waiting for you for lunch or tomorrow night’s dinner. So instead of cooking up a 500g of turkey or tofu for tonight’s tacos, double it. Yes, it really can be that simple — and that is why it works so well.

Having said that, I know that a lot of people don’t meal prep because they simply don’t like eating leftovers. I get that. But you can still get all of the time-saving and stress-busting benefits of meal prepping WITHOUT having to eat last night’s dinner!

Prepare some of the following in advance for the week ahead:

  • Your Elevated Food For Life Brilliant Bases if you’re a subscriber. These form the basis of so many of our dishes and allow you to avoid the lasagna-for-a-week trap
  • Proteins
  • Carbs like whole grains, rice, quinoa, etc.
  • Pre-chop your veggies

Then, just before it’s time to eat, just assemble the meal from your prepped ingredients – a little like we have done in our February 2023 fast and furious February month.

Some meal planning ideas:

  • You could poach chicken breasts, brown turkey or tofu, or roast a chicken.
  • Bake some sweet potatoes, steam some brown rice, or prep some quinoa.
  • Chop onions, dice carrots, or slice peppers.

Having everything prepped and on standby makes throwing together a balanced meal fast and easy. Plus, by preparing everything in advance, you’re more likely to make your own food, use every ingredient and reduce food waste too.

Have a game plan.

If you’re planning to cook a few different dishes at the same time, read all of the recipes through, create a plan, and do as much chopping/rinsing/pre-prep ahead of time as possible, as we’ve outlined in our last step.

This will help keep you organised, allow you to clean up as you go (a huge time-saver), AND chances are… you’ll actually enjoy making your meal!

Being prepared is a huge part of the meal prep process. From planning your grocery shopping to picking a day to do your batch cooking, it’s important you have a plan that takes you through the week ahead, so you know you’re covered with high protein, healthy meals for the week.

Cook up bigger batches of protein-rich foods.

When you’re thinking about meal prepping, you might be wondering what kind of foods you should be making for healthy meals. And it’s incredibly important that you have high protein meals regularly, especially if you’re training too.

Protein helps to build and support muscle, so it’s crucial that anyone who’s living a healthy lifestyle, or who is looking to promote weight loss has a good amount of protein in their diet.

Plus, by batch cooking high protein foods, you can save time and money. Think about it: it takes just as long to cook up 1kg worth of turkey burgers as it does 50g and buying in bulk usually results in a lower cost. So, you get more meals for your money.

Use your rice cooker or slow cooker.

Both are inexpensive “set it and forget it” cookers that will save time and effort – and they both make delicious food in bulk too.

Whether you’re making a protein rich stew packed full of healthy vegetables, or you’re bulk cooking brown rice for a healthy, complex carbohydrate to add to your meal prep dishes, these can not only be left to cook away while you’re busy, they can also help you to batch cook, so you only have to do it once.

Super convenient, a money saver and a great way to support you on your meal prepping journey.

Make it fun.

Being healthy and meal planning doesn’t’ have to be “chicken and rice and force it down”. Not only can the food be delicious, it can fun to prepare your food too!

Pick out one of our delicious and super healthy, balanced meals, created by our professional chef and nutritionist, and start cooking. If you know your food is going to tick both the taste and the health boxes, not only will you enjoy cooking them more, you’ll also look forward to them each day.

And, why not listen to your favourite music or podcast, or download an audiobook to keep you company while you get busy in the kitchen.

The Benefits of Meal Prep

On top of eating more healthily, there are a range of benefits that meal planning offers. And, if you’ve struggled to consistently eat well and make healthy choices, this might be the answer to all your prayers!

Let’s take a closer look.

Healthier Eating

As we’ve mentioned above, healthy eating is incredibly important. But, it’s something that even I have struggled to stick to. So, enter meal prep.

Meal planning can facilitate healthier eating because it gives you full control over the nutritional content of your meals, so you know you’re eating what you need to to achieve a healthier body. Plus, this helps you stick to your dietary goals and portion sizes too.

Not only are you eating the right thing, you have it ready made for you, so you’re less likely to choose convenience over nutrition.

Time-Saving

If you’re not a fan of spending lots of time in the kitchen, or you’re simply too busy to cook complex, nutritious meals that meet your dietary requirements every day, then meal prepping is a saving grace.

It reduces the amount of time you spend cooking and decision making each day, and it fits in to hectic schedules too.

Cost-Effective

Buying food in bulk is often more friendly on the purse than buying smaller portions of food regularly. And, if you cook food and freeze half, then you’er making the most of the produce you do buy, reducing food waste and eating healthily too. It’s a win win.

Organised Lifestyle

Having a meal plan can help to create a more organised approach to eating. As we mentioned above, it can be hard to stay consistent when convenience and speed are a priority.

So, with meal prep, you can not only do your grocery shopping more easily, you can ensure you’re eating the right food for you each and every day.

Storage Containers for Meal Prepping

You know those social media “meal-prep” pics of food containers that are stacked up all perfectly in people’s refrigerators?  They’re not as great as you think. Yes, they might look great (or “oddly satisfying,” as they say on social media) … but those plastic containers can actually do more harm than good.

Unfortunately, plastic storage containers can cause unwanted chemicals to seep into your food, which pretty much defeats the purpose of healthy eating!

To help you get the MOST health benefits out of your meal prep, I’m going to break down the dos and don’ts so you don’t unknowingly sabotage all your efforts.

TIP 1.

Never reuse plastic water bottles or other plastic containers that food comes in (like yogurt containers). These might save you money and can e handy when you start to meal prep, but they often contain harmful plastics. Instead, put them straight into the recycling bin!

TIP 2.

Plastic containers that have the recycling codes 1, 2, 4, and 5 on the bottom are generally considered safe as, long as they are in good shape. Plus, they’re cheap, unbreakable, and light (a big issue if you’re taking them to and from work).

One thing to remember? Heating these containers shortens their lifespan, so the moment they start to show signs of wear (with cracks, scratches, or discolouration), send them out for recycling.

(IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: many researchers are now questioning whether even plastics labeled “BPA-free” are safe, and they are studying the long-term health effects!)

TIP 3.

Think about making the switch to glass containers. With glass, you don’t have to worry about plastic residue. Plus it can safely go into the freezer and microwave. And because glass containers last forever, in the long run, you will save money too.

Plus, meal prep is a continuous thing. You’ll be doing it week in week out, so you need a storage container that’s reliable and healthy too.

TIP 4.

A compromise! If you bring your prepped meals to work and want a lighter/less breakable option, store your food in plastic and when it’s time to heat it, transfer it into a glass container for heating. That way you get the best of both worlds.

A bit more washing up, but at least you get the best of both worlds there!

Meal Prep Timings Tips

The thing that gets most of us off track and into using processed foods instead of nutritious, healthy options is the time crunch… but if you time block for meal planning today, you won’t be panicking about what to have for dinner each evening.

If you’ve never done it, it may sound pretty foreign, but time blocking  is starting to change my life.

You may be telling yourself that it’s a waste of time to spend that much time planning, but I find that planning is the key to making me more efficient.

When you create meals on the fly you duplicate tasks, make unnecessary trips to the shops, get started without all your ingredients, or get stuck in a rut and wind up serving … pasta (again).

But, if you allot the time to plan, you will save time in the end and you will end up eating a better variety of fresh, delicious, healthy meals.

Meal planning is really a three-part process. You need to choose your recipes (Elevated ones if you’re a subscriber) and make your list, allot time to shop, and allot time to prep.

Those three tasks are all it takes to have your meals completely organised for the week.

So your first task is to time block the space to take care of all three. First you need to block out a space to choose your recipes.

You could use recipe books and the like and you need to take the time to plan a menu that gives you a variety of nutrients – for those of you who are subscribers, our Elevated recipes do a lot of that for you.

Keep it interesting so you don’t get bored and remember that if you follow our tips such as roasting two chickens instead of one, you can have a chicken dinner one night, have enough left overs for protein through the week and make a Brilliant Base Bone Marrow Broth too. Alternatively, if you make our free recipe, Brilliant Base Tomato Fondue, plan it in every couple of days using the recipes that include it.

Next you need to shop. Here at Elevated, both Jason and I tend to shop in multiple stores and markets, so making a list is a great idea. These days you don’t even have to write the list down.

Try asking Alexa to create a shopping list instead of asking her for your favourite tune – and it will appear in the app on your phone.

No Alexa? Use Siri or another electronic list maker, or go old-school: grab your pencil and paper and get a list working but make sure you don’t leave anything out.

By time blocking shopping time and creating a list you can avoid the stress of forgotten ingredients.

The last part of planning is prepping. You have to prep to make cooking a breeze.

Our subscribers can use Sundays to set some of our Brilliant Bases on the go and then use them through the week. Alternatively, you can pre-chop veg, pre-cook quinoa or boil some eggs for later use.

If you make time to get all your ingredients ready over the weekend, you’ll be amazed how quickly your meals come together during the week.

That’s it! If you block the time to do each of these tasks, making dinner will be hassle free. Planning saves time. And it reduces stress. And we can all use a bit of that at the moment.

Download our meal planner here to help you out

Points to remember

  1. What is time blocking? Simply put, it’s all about reserving a segment in your calendar for a certain task. This allows you to focus on that one particular task and improves your productivity.
  2. For time blocking meal planning, first you need to set aside time to choose your menu. Create a block to pick what you will be serving for breakfast, lunch, and dinner this week. No more opening the fridge and asking, “What’s to eat?” If you meal plan, you’ve got that covered. Choose recipes that work well together so your shopping list can be more efficient. Tonight’s protein incorporates into tomorrow’s lunch, etc. If you don’t have a lot of “go to” recipes (ie you’re not an Elevated subscriber) you may need to allot extra time for the recipe hunt.
  3. Next you need a shopping list and the time it takes to actually go to the shops and buy the necessary supplies. Give yourself 30-45 minutes to write down exactly what you need to cook this week’s recipes and any special shops you’ll need to hit to get everything to make it happen. Block out the time to shop.
  4. You may break these tasks up and time block just planning recipes and making your shopping list today. Then maybe you time block to shop and prep the next day and cook the day after, but at some point you’ll need to make time to prep. That means batch cooking chicken, hard boiling eggs, blanching your greens, chopping crudités or spiralising veggies for dinner. Time block a segment of your day just for prepping your ingredients so when it comes time to cook, you are ready to go and you can knock out your meals 1-2-3.
  5. People always want to jump in and get “going” without taking the time to plan. How many times have you gone to the shops without a list only to discover when you got home that you forgot three key items? Planning saves time. And it reduces stress. You don’t have to sweat going to the shops because you know that you have an hour to shop for the items on your list and you will have everything you need to finish your meals without an extra trip. Time blocking isn’t constraining; it’s liberating because it frees up all the time you would have spent trying to make up for mistakes.

Hopefully, all the above tips will make your next meal prep session a breeze rather than a chore.

Got some more meal prep tips for us? Let us know and we’ll include them on a future article!

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