Bree is a full-time software engineer who loves arts and crafts, cooking and baking. She is very passionate about keeping a healthy and happy lifestyle. She strives to keep the work-days bright, colorful and enjoyable with delicious, nutritious and cutely designed lunches, and shares these creations on her Instagram account @bentosbybree.
Happy 2018!! I love the start to a new year – it is always filled with so much hope and promise; the opportunity for a fresh start on new and old goals and ambitions, and feeling your spirit soar with motivation! One resolution I always have, and probably many others have, is to continue to improve my health by eating healthy and staying active. In years past, I usually start out really great for the first few weeks of January, and then taper off… but not this year! So I’m going to share some of my tips and tricks for staying on track with healthy eating, and the best way to do that is with meal prepping!
Now, don’t be scared – meal prepping doesn’t have to be a daunting process where you need to plan every single meal for the next two months in advance. It can be as little or as much as you want to and are able to do. At the core, it is simply a means for you to be more encouraged to make healthy choices. For example, I am more likely to fruits and vegetables when I have them in my fridge and pantry. I am even more likely to eat or pack them for lunch in one of my Bentgo containers when they’re washed, sliced and ready to eat. That’s all that “meal prepping” really is to me – just making it easier for you to choose the healthier option when the hunger or cravings kick in!
In order to stick to my goal and kick back the cravings, I try to follow three main steps for meal prepping:
- Buying versatile ingredients
- Preparing as much of the food ahead of time
- Preparing as much of the meals ahead of time
The beauty of these steps is that I can do as little or as much of these tasks as I want because let’s be real, often times things never go according to plan! That’s why I’ve come up with the first step – buying versatile ingredients:
I am a planner. I love to map out my meals for the week. But sometimes I either don’t have the time to do that or my plan for the day changes. So, I like to ensure I have versatile ingredients on hand so I can stick to healthy eating. You’ll have to find what works for you based on what you enjoy cooking and eating, but to share some of my favorites:
- Bell Peppers and Zucchini – I always buy these vegetables because they can be used in a number of meals – for both lunch and dinner. They make great salad fixings, they can be thrown into a stir fry, fajita mix, or sautéed on their own for a quick and healthy dinner, and they can be added to quinoa/pasta salad for a nice crunch and extra nutrients.
- Leafy greens – Greens can be used in so much more than just salads. I love to incorporate these greens into a stir fry, wilted up with some garlic as a nice side dish to a dinner, or thrown in a blender with a frozen banana and some almond milk for a delicious smoothie.
- Quinoa – I like to have quinoa on hand because it’s quick to make, it can be eaten cold or hot, and it can be made sweet or savory. If I’m feeling like I need a hot breakfast, I can warm up some quinoa, add some cinnamon and fruit, and voila! If I have leftover quinoa I can add some cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers and zucchini, equal parts olive oil and red wine vinegar, and bam, I have a delicious, healthy quinoa salad. If I’m looking for something more hearty for dinner – I can warm up quinoa, mix in some wilted garlicy leafy greens, and sautéed zucchini.
- Don’t like quinoa? Oatmeal, rice and shell pasta can be made ahead of time and used for these dishes too!
- Fruit – Bananas and citrus fruits are the easiest items to buy from the store because they require the least amount of prep – just peel and eat. And for someone with a major sweet tooth like me, it’s crucial to have these naturally sweetened, grab-n-go fruits on hand to curb those cravings!
Now that I’ve bought my ingredients, it’s time to prep them! Preparing as much of the food ahead of time is a big step when encouraging myself to grab something healthy out of the fridge, but please remember that it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming ordeal. If you don’t have a lot of time – just prep what you know you’re going to use that day or what you’re going to use tomorrow. For me, it’s usually leafy salad greens and cucumbers, so I always try to wash the greens and slice at least one cucumber so it’s ready for a quick salad. If I know I’m going to use quinoa, I also make that ahead of the time since you can let it cook on the stove while you prep other things. The more you prep ahead of time, the easier it will be to make the meals, in advance or not!
Preparing as much of the meals ahead of time also doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Whether you have a meal plan or none at all, the key comes back to those versatile ingredients, and just making what you’re in the mood for at that moment. The more items you have prepared ahead of time, the easier it is to pack that lunch or make that healthy dinner. I find that a salad is super easy to throw together in my Bentgo Salad container when my greens are washed and my fixings are pre-sliced. If I’m not in the mood for a salad, I go for leftovers, a smoothie or a quick quinoa salad I can make in a jiffy – because my ingredients are either prepared, or at least readily available to me in my fridge and pantry.
Remember – it’s not about needing to plan every meal for every day for the next month, it’s not about needing to prepare every item you buy from the store the minute you come home – it’s simply a matter of doing whatever small steps you can to encourage yourself to eat healthier, wherever you are!
Wishing you all the very best in this bright and promising new year of 2018!! What are some of your tips and tricks to stay on track with your resolutions? Please share in the comments below!