Healthy Meal Prep

Mar 25, 2017 by

Meal Prep: A Helpful Healthy Eating Strategy

Chopped vegetables on a cutting board for meal preparation, including acorn squash, Brussels sprouts, carrots, and kale, as well as white beans and dried farro.

Who hasn’t left work late with a growling stomach but little energy to shop and cook? A busy schedule is one of the top reasons why people choose quick takeout meals, which are often calorie-laden and a contributor to expanding waistlines. [1-3]

Now, imagine a different scenario where within a few minutes of walking through the door you have a delicious home-cooked dinner, and perhaps even lunch packed-up for the next day. Amidst hectic weekday schedules, meal prep or meal planning is a great tool to help keep us on a healthy eating track. Although any type of meal prep requires planning, there is no one correct method, as it can differ based on food preferences, cooking ability, schedules, and personal goals. Here are some examples:

  • If you now eat fast food or takeout several nights of the week, your goal may be to choose a specific day of the week to create a food shopping list and hit the grocery store.
  • If you already food shop once a week and have basic cooking skills, your goal may be to choose one day a week to do most of the cooking, or try a new recipe.
  • If you already cook some weekday meals for your family, you might decide to create a schedule so that you are not deciding last minute what to make and to ensure you have the needed ingredients on hand.

Some benefits of meal prep:

  • Can help save money
  • Can ultimately save time
  • Can help with weight control, as you decide the ingredients and portions served
  • Can contribute to an overall more nutritionally balanced diet
  • Can reduce stress as you avoid last minute decisions about what to eat, or rushed preparation

Prepping for Meal Prep

  • Discuss with your family what types of foods and favorite meals they like to eat.
  • Start a monthly calendar or spreadsheet to record your meal ideas, favorite recipe sites, and food shopping lists.
  • Collect healthy recipes. Clip recipes from print magazines and newspapers and save in a binder, or copy links of recipes onto an online spreadsheet.
  • Consider specific meals or foods for different days of the week. Remember Wednesday as Prince Spaghetti Day? Some families enjoy the consistency of knowing what to expect, and it can help to ease your meal planning. Examples are Meatless Mondays, Whole Grain Wednesdays, Stir-Fry Fridays, etc.
  • Start small: Aim to create enough dinners for 2-3 days of the week.

Getting Started

  1. Example of a meal preparation calendarChoose a specific day of the week to: 1) plan the menu, whether week by week or for the whole month, and write out your grocery list 2) food shop, 3) do meal prep, or most of your cooking. Some of these days may overlap if you choose, but breaking up these tasks may help keep meal planning manageable.
  2. As you find favorite ‘prep-able’ meals, or your menus become more familiar and consistent, watch for sales and coupons to stock up on frequently used shelf-stable ingredients like pasta, rice, and other whole grains, lentils, beans (canned or dried), jarred sauces, healthy oils, and spices.
  3. On your meal prep day, focus first on foods that take the longest to cook: proteins like chicken and fish; whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and farro; dried beans and legumes; and, roasted vegetables.
  4. Also consider preparing staple foods that everyone in the family enjoys and which you can easily add to a weekday meal or grab for a snack: washed greens for a salad, hardboiled eggs, a bowl of chopped fruit, cooked beans.
  5. If you prefer not to pre-cook proteins, consider marinating poultry, fish, or even tofu on your prep day so that you can quickly pop them into the oven or stir-fry later in the week.
  6. Multi-task! While foods are baking or bubbling on the stovetop, chop vegetables and fresh fruit, or wash and dry salad greens for later in the week.
  7. When you cook a recipe, make extra portions for another day or two of meals, or to freeze for a different week. Be sure to date and label what goes in the freezer so you know what you have on hand.
  8. For lunches, get a head-start and use individual meal containers. Divide cooked food into the containers on prep day.

Storage

Meal prep can save time and money if you are preparing just enough for what is needed the following week. Refrigeration and freezing are an important step to successful meal planning. However, forgotten food such as produce hiding in a drawer or a stew stored on a back shelf in an opaque container for too long can spoil and lead to food waste. Label all prepped items with a date so that you can track when to use them by. Rotate stored items so that the oldest foods/meals are kept up front. Store highly perishable items like greens, herbs, and chopped fruits front-and-center at eye-level so you remember to use them.

When it comes to freezing, some foods work better than others. Cooked meals tend to freeze well in airtight containers. Foods with high moisture content, such as salad greens, tomatoes, or watermelon, are not recommended as they tend to become mushy when frozen and thawed. Blanching vegetables for a few minutes before freezing can help. However, if the texture of a frozen food becomes undesirable after thawing, they might still be used in cooked recipes such as soups and stews.

The following are recommended times for various cooked foods that offer the best flavors, maximum nutrients, and food safety.

Refrigeration at 40°F or lower
1-2 days: Cooked ground poultry or ground beef
3-4 days: Cooked whole meats, fish and poultry; soups and stews
5 days: Cooked beans; hummus
1 week: Hard boiled eggs; chopped vegetables if stored in air-tight container
2 weeks: Soft cheese, opened
5-6 weeks: Hard cheese, opened

Freezing at 0°F or lower
2-3 months: Soups and stews; cooked beans
3-6 months: Cooked or ground meat and poultry
6-8 months: Berries and chopped fruit (banana, apples, pears, plums, mango) stored in a freezer bag
8-12 months: Vegetables, if blanched first for about 3-5 minutes (depending on the vegetable)

Ready to get started? Below are some recipes that lend well to bigger batches—and don’t forget that the Healthy Eating Plate can serve as a helpful menu planning guide. Happy prepping!


References

  1. Fryar CD, Ervin RB. Caloric intake from fast food among adults: United States, 2007–2010. NCHS data brief, no 114. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2013.
  2. Lachat C, Nago E, Verstraeten R, Roberfroid D, Van Camp J, Kolsteren P. Eating out of home and its association with dietary intake: a systematic review of the evidence. Obes Rev. 2012 Apr;13(4):329-46.
  3. Nago ES, Lachat CK, Dossa RA, Kolsteren PW. Association of out-of-home eating with anthropometric changes: a systematic review of prospective studies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(9):1103-16.

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HOW TO GET BETTER POSTURE IN 3 WEEKS

Sep 12, 2016 by

Are we texting our way to back pain?   As we spend more and more time hunched over our 1-devices we’ve become a nation afflicted with what is now being called, ‘Text neck.”  Slouching can be a prequel to long-term back, shoulder and neck pain,

Seems our mothers were right when they told us to stand up straight! Not only does good posture help you avoid these pain problems, it can also help improve your digestion, reduce stress and, even give you a shot of confidence.

From health.com, here’s a very do-able and sensible approach to become better aligned.  Try and implement as many of these moves as you can on a daily basis.

sitting_at_computer_cartoonWeek 1:

Good posture may feel awkward at first if you’ve trained your body to slump, explains Rami Said, a physical therapist at Columbia University Medical Center. Take a few moments every day to learn how correct posutre feels.

Stand taller: Evenly distribute your weight between both legs, with your feet parallel under hips and shoulder blades pressing down and back. Engage your glutes and core so your pelvis is stable beneath your ribs but not tucked under.

Sit smarter: Keep your earlobes above shoulders and shoulders above hips; allow a slight curve in the lumbar spine. Your feet should be flat on the floor and lower back against the chair (add a rolled-up towel if your back doesn’t touch).

Sleep straighter: Try to fall asleep on your side or back to help your spine stay more neutral.

 

Week 2: Tweak your routine

“Everyday habits make maintaining good posture much trickier,” says Jill Miller, founder of Yoga Tune Up. Do this instead:

Bag it better: Heavy purse? Change the shoulder you’re carrying it on every 10 minutes.

Ditch text neck: Keep your shoulders back and head lifted when checking your phone by holding it closer to eye level.

Stay down-to-earth: If stilettos put strain on your lower back, wear them for two-hour periods and take sitting breaks.

Week 3: Build strength

Do each of these moves daily to improve your muscle memory and overall alignment.

Shoulder stack: Every 30 minutes, bring your shoulder blades down, then back. Hold for two to three seconds. Repeat five times.

Pillow pose: Lie facedown on the floor and place a firm pillow under your abdomen. Take slow, deep breaths into the pillow for a few minutes.

Proper squat: Stand tall, feet slightly wider than hip-width, then lower into a squat. Extend your arms overhead, palms turned slightly backward to engage your upper back. Do as many 30- to 60-second squats as you can. Do not allow your spine to round or bend.

 

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Harvard University Researchers Find a Link…

Apr 22, 2015 by

zeusd1-KIMR-2695821… Between High Pesticide Residues and Male Reproductive Health!

Another compelling reason to choose organically-grown produce.  There’s a link between consuming fruits and vegetables with higher levels of pesticide residues and low sperm count, lower ejaculate volume and lower percentage of normal sperm.  Click here to read about this new study conducted by the researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health.

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21 days of Blog/Facebook/Twitter Updates: Day 3

Jan 3, 2015 by

DAY 3:  Gaining Weight
gain-weight-2

What Causes Weight Gain?  It’s more than what you eat!
1. Diet: The quantity and quality of food in your diet.
2. Genes: Some people are genetically predisposed to gain weight more easily than others. 3. Physical inactivity: Exercising is a key element of weight control.
4. Sleep: In general, adults who get too little sleep tend to weigh more than those who get enough sleep.
As we age, increased weight gain also increases the chances of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer.

Because most adults between the ages of 18 and 49 gain 1-2 pounds each year, stopping and preventing weight gain should be a priority.

Move more. Eat less. Get a good night’s rest!

Click here to read more about this from The Harvard School of Public Health

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