The New Year can be a time of fresh beginnings for dietary changes and is a great place to start, but just how do you start eating healthy?
Eating well doesn’t have to be rocket science, but it does take a little planning ahead. Because, let’s face it, the last thing any of us wants to do at the end of a long day is figure out what’s for dinner. By setting just a bit of time aside each week to plan and prepare meals, you can literally throw together a satisfying and healthy meal in minutes that you and your family can enjoy. Here are some tips and tricks to start meal planning with ease and prowess.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
It can be hard to hear, but it’s true. Planning and preparing for each week is an ideal way to stay on track with a healthy eating plan. Though it takes a little more time up front, the rewards are tenfold.
A good place to start is to plan for 4-5 dinners (that have lunch leftovers) and 4-5 breakfasts each week, to have a solid base while allowing flexibility for those days with a lunch meeting or dinner with a friend. It’s a good idea to focus on meals that can be partially prepared ahead of time, to make it easy to create a quick morning or evening meal each day. Being a visually inclined person, I like to make a table in a Word document with my week overview that outlines each day of the week, each meal, and any prep I’ll need to do that day. It makes it easy for me to plug in my favorite quick and healthy meals, and creates a record of things I’ve made to pull from again in the future.
Stocking your pantry
Stocking your pantry well is a good way to start, so you can always have the staples to create a delicious meal. Here are some staples I always like to have on hand:
- Bulk beans and grains: It’s easy to cook larger batches ahead and freeze or eat throughout the week.
- Oils, vinegars, sauces, spices, stock: Great for whipping up a quick sauce or dressing in minutes.
- Produce: winter squashes, leafy greens, onions, garlic, ginger, apples, lemons, limes
- Refrigerated: meats/tofu/tempeh, eggs, raw milk or almond milk, goat cheese
- Frozen: berries for smoothies, frozen veggies, whole grain bread
- Seeds & Nuts: for salads, soups, chia pudding, etc.
- Wrappable things: collard greens make the best wrap — just cut off the bottom of the stem and blanch for 1 min. You can also use cabbage or lettuce leaves, rice paper, seaweed.
Meal prep power hour
Setting aside time — even one hour a week — to prep your meals is a great place to start. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Cook and freeze grains: Make large batches of quinoa, brown rice, or other grains and freeze in 1-2 cup containers or freezer bags. Pull out of the freezer the night before it will go with your meal.
- Roasted veggies: Roast a bunch of veggies ,have on hand for salad toppings, wraps, veggie bowls, etc. Good this time of year are winter squashes (delicata, acorn, kobucha, butternut, yams), beets, carrots, eggplant.
- Prep your breakfast: Start by making and freezing savory muffins, egg muffins or hearty breakfast cookies, or pre-chopping veggies for scrambles.
- Sauces & Dressings: Prep a couple salad dressings, stir-fry sauces, hummus for snacks, etc. to have on hand.
- Crockpot it up: This one is tried-and-true for a reason. Make a chicken, a pot of vegetarian chili, or a mung bean and rice dal to enjoy throughout the week.
Weeknights with ease
Some of my favorite dinners can be assembled in minutes. The power hour of prep can make this quick! One of my standbys is a Superfood Bowl with grain component (quinoa or brown rice), roasted veggies (winter squash, beets, etc), fresh greens, protein (chicken, tofu, nuts, seeds), sauce, something fermented or some caramelized leeks/onions if I’m feeling fancy. This simple meal is delicious and can be made with different flavors each day.
- Superfood Bowl examples:
- The Northwest Bowl: Quinoa, roasted delicata squash, caramelized leeks, raw red cabbage, kale, pumpkin seeds, lemon tahini sauce
- The Sushi Bowl: Combine brown or jasmine rice, tofu or chicken, julienned carrots, cucumber, an over medium egg, seaweed, and soy ginger sauce.
More Resources Here are some of my favorite resources for healthy (and delicious) recipes, meal planning, nutrition, and more:
- Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, Nourishing Meals Cookbook & Blog
- My New Roots blog
- I Quit Sugar Program
- The China Study
- The Ultimate pH Solution
- Electric Beet Juice Co.’s 1 Week Deluxe Detox & 3-Week Guided Cleanse/Meal Plan Programs
Here’s to your health and more delicious food in your life!