Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. I could not agree more when it comes to food preparation and eating clean. One of the biggest factors in my weight gain, and not living a healthy life, was that I let life fly by without planning anything for myself. I made plans to get my kids where they needed to be. I made plans to decorate locker rooms, and attend volleyball matches. My husband, Scott, and I made date night plans. But did I ever make plans to eat well? Did I ever give thought to what we would eat for dinner after late volleyball matches? No, I didn’t. So, what did we eat? Fast food. Thrown together, unhealthy meals at home late at night, or worse, concession stand food.
Now meal planning and food prep has become a way of life. I have found that when my meals are planned, and I have the right food in the fridge ready for easy eating, I stay on track. So, what do I do to prepare for a week? It varies from week to week, but I want to share some of my basic planning and food prep that keeps me on track. These are my go-to’s that I have ready and on hand to make for a successful week of clean eating.
These items are almost always in my fridge or pantry:
· Chicken Breast
· Ground Turkey
· Turkey Sausage
· Mrs. Dash (chipotle lime, garlic & herb)
· Fresh Peppers
· Baby Carrots
· Fresh Spinach
· Red Potatoes
· Sweet Potatoes
· Steel Cut Oats
· Egg Whites
· Low Fat String Cheese
· Low Fat Plain Greek Yogurt
· Almond Milk
· Kashi Go Lean Cereal
· Balsamic Vinegar
· Raspberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
I may not use every item every week, but those are my basics. People ask me for recipes quite often. But the truth is, I don’t try a lot of recipes. I have stuck to the basics and it worked for me. It may be boring right now, but it’s safe. So, I haven’t ventured too far out of the box, but over time I look forward to finding other recipes that are “safe” for me. I really have stuck to eating grilled lean protein, green salads, and grilled or steamed veggies for lunch and dinner. It may sound boring, but when you are constantly eating fresh food, in season veggies and fruits, it never gets boring.
To plan and prep easily having good plastic ware and an organized kitchen goes a long way. I always make sure I have baggies, clean plastic ware, and enough room in my fridge for the food I am preparing. A good purge of any old containers buried back in your fridge is always good. I have certainly thrown away my fair share of containers. I was too afraid to open them, for fear of what might lurk inside. Clean out any old produce in your drawers. It always pains me to throw out produce, but I surely don’t want to eat them!
Items I keep cooked and portioned (in 100 Calorie Portions):
Quinoa- I use this often in my favorite fajita salad
Steel Cut Oats- I love these with 1 pack of stevia and a dash of cinnamon.
Turkey Sausage- perfect protein paired with steel cut oats for my mid morning meal.
Grilled Chicken- my go to for lunch and dinner. I use it all the time in fajita salad, and on it’s own with a great salad and grilled veggies.
Onion and Peppers (I don’t portion these, but keep them on hand to top fajita salad or turkey burgers)
Turkey Burgers- 4oz. extra lean ground turkey. Making them yourself lowers the sodium compared to the pre-made frozen patties.
Red Potatoes and/or Sweet Potatoes- I don’t like sweet potatoes, but Scott loves them. We fill a pan with red potatoes and sweet potatoes and bake them in the oven. When we want one with our lunch, we just pop it in the microwave for a quick healthy carb. I typically top my potato with a few shots of spray butter and good old Mrs. Dash.
Other items I prep:
-Wash any fruit or berries. It’s so much easier to grab a piece of fruit when it’s clean and ready to eat.
-Clean and cut veggies- I peel and slice cucumbers. I wash the peppers. You can even portion these out in baggies with baby carrots for an easy on the go snack.
- Use small dressing cups (they sell them at Wal-Mart, 2 oz. size) to portion hummus to pair with your veggies.
- It is less expensive to buy the big bag of almonds. Portion them into baggies. 12-14 almonds= 100 calories.
- Make a big salad. I have salad quite often. Pretty much daily, either for lunch or dinner. Having one made makes it so much easier for me to get dinner on the table. I use my favorite lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and celery. If I am having it for dinner and need a healthy fat, I add avocado to my salad. You can also do an Italian or Vinaigrette dressing as your fat. I often just top it with balsamic vinegar and a bit of Mrs. Dash.
These items may not get you through the entire week, but it’s a great start. Having lean proteins, a good salad, healthy carbs, fruits and veggies ready to go sets me up for a great week. I use a George Foreman grill for the meat. I also use it almost daily to grill asparagus, or squash and zucchini. I also don’t always prep these all on the same day. When we’re low on potatoes, I just bake an oven full. If we run low on proteins, I’ll just grill a large package of chicken to get us through a few days. Same goes for produce. It doesn’t always stay fresh all week, so I consistently prep and have it ready.
But I am continually evaluating what we have ready on hand, and what our schedule looks like. If I know we are going to be on the go for a few days, I make sure we are prepared for that. But, if I know I am home for a couple of days, I allow myself some time for prep during those days. Planning is the key to success. Don’t get caught with an empty fridge and a busy day ahead. You’ll end up making choices on the go, which typically don’t turn out well. Taking a couple of hours each week to prep will save you so much time, so much stress, and will set you up for great success in the coming week.
What can you do today to set yourself up for success this week? What are some of your favorite meals that are healthy and you can pre-make?