We are all getting back on track and into our healthy routines after a long holiday season! Here are some tips for eating well while minimizing time on food preparation.
5 Tips to Save Time While Eating Healthy
1) Limit eating out.
This is the one to prioritize above them all. Making more food at home is single-handedly the easiest way to ensure that every meal you eat is nutrient dense. You can limit fats like oils/butter/cream, focus on lean and plant-based proteins (fish, poultry, tofu, lentils, beans, cottage cheese), achieve 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day, and make sure your grain choices are whole grains. Set a goal to limit eating out to social occasions, and if you find those happen frequently, aim to limit to twice per week and find other fun ways to catch up with friends.
2) Batch cook.
It feels like 2-3 hours is a huge commitment on a weekend or a weekday evening but is definitely the most efficient way to make a lot of food at home fast. Find 3 hours in the kitchen every week so you have one round of dishes and you’re done. If you can prep a crockpot with overnight oats or a chili/stew, a roasting pan with protein/veggies or an egg bake, a pot of whole grains, and a week of quick sandwiches — you are set!
3) Double up on grocery shopping.
If you have the ability in your budget, get extras of the pantry staples you know you’ll use in the week: bread (extra can go in the freezer), canned beans, pasta, canned tuna, eggs, yogurt, olives, potatoes, onions, etc. Buy like you’re planning for 2 weeks, and that way if you run out of anything mid-week you will always have extra and won’t have to resort to ordering out!
4) Fear not the grocery store quick meal.
Accept that for a couple nights each week, you will need a lightning fast meal. Especially on your food prep days! After cooking all day, sometimes you want to save all that you’ve made for later in the week when you’ll need it most. Most grocery store choices are far more nutrient-dense than what you might get from eating out. Look for ready-to-eat sandwiches around 500 calories, frozen pizzas, tamales, burritos, veggie or chicken dumplings, whole wheat mac and cheese, sushi, smoked salmon on a whole wheat bagel with a little low-fat cream cheese, etc. Once again, you’ll have more control over your meals than take out, you’ll have spent less money, and you’ll get it much faster than waiting for delivery.
5) Stock up on snacks.
I find that lunch can be particularly tough to prep for. One way to get through it at the end of the week is to throw together a bunch of snack items that span as many food groups as you can. Keep whole grain crackers, individual cheese servings, yogurts, and cottage cheeses, peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, granola/energy bars, nitrate free turkey jerky (try the Epic brand) whole fruits, whole veggies (grape or cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, petite bell peppers, etc.), and individually packed popcorn. In a pinch, dump a variety into your lunch bag along with a prepped meal to cover you for long days, or to make sure you’re covered before and after the gym.
Bonus cautionary tip: Meal delivery services are often a great option for people tight on time, and will deliver all the ingredients you need right to your door! BUT — often the meals might only cover 3 days of the week, and can actually take quite a while to prep and cook. Directions can be convoluted and land you with a huge pile of unnecessary dishes. They are great to experiment with for fun, but if you haven’t already found a rhythm with them, don’t rely on them to make your meal prep easier!