As with most things in life, preparation is everything. If you wait to pack a lunch in the morning as you’re rushing to get ready for work, you’re bound to just toss ramen noodles into your bag instead of a balanced meal, just as you’re far more likely to order take-out than whip up a homemade dinner after a long day. Instead, set yourself up for success by taking a little time to prepare your meals ahead of time. So many things falls to the wayside when you have a busy lifestyle – don’t let something as important as your diet be one of them!
Pick one day of the week and designate it a special time for meal prep for the upcoming week. A laid-back Sunday is the perfect time to hit the grocery store and spend a little while in the kitchen getting your meals ready for the coming week. Your future self will thank you!
To get you started, here are five great meal prep tricks that can help you eat healthier:
- Pack salads strategically
Do you know that you should be eating more salads, find them too messy or difficult to transport to the office? Then it’s time to get a little strategic with structuring your salads. Using a tall lunch container, begin assembling your salad by placing any toppings with a high water content, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and any fruit, at the bottom, then add the crisper vegetables, like peppers and carrots, followed by the lettuce on top. This layering method prevents your greens from becoming soggy by noon. Also, transport the salad dressing securely in a small plastic container with a tightly sealed lid. If it makes things simpler, you can also keep a bottle of olive oil at your desk for easy and mess-free access by lunchtime.
- Hard-boil eggs a whole new way
Eggs are packed with protein, which makes them a filling and nutritious snack or component to a meal. However, hard-boiling eggs in a pan of water on the stovetop is not very appealing to those pressed for time. Instead, The Lean Green Bean blog had the great idea of hard-boiling eggs in the oven. All you have to do is place an egg in a muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. You can hard-boil a large batch of eggs this way, placing one egg in each cup of the tin. After you remove the eggs from the oven, simply place them in a bucket of ice water for 10 minutes. Instead of only having room to hard-boil a couple eggs in a pan on the stovetop, you can have a large batch of eggs ready in no time.
- Use the bowl method
The brilliance of the rice bowl is that it’s infinitely customizable, nutritious and oh-so-easy to assemble. Your rice bowl should have three main components: a protein, a vegetable and of course, a grain. On your designated meal prep day, make large batches of all three of these components. Grilled chicken, pork, salmon or tofu make great proteins, while roasted or stir-fried vegetables like peppers, onions, mushrooms or asparagus add antioxidants and extra vitamins. Brown rice is a perfect base, but if you’d like you can swap it for other grains, like quinoa or farro. Once you’ve cooked up your batches of ingredients, distribute them evenly into containers and store them in the fridge to have easy lunches ready to grab all week.
Some simple meal prep can help you eat healthier all week.
- Simplify smoothies
Smoothies are a delicious way to start off your day on the right foot, but they can involve a lot of complicated prep. Make the whole process easier by making the smoothies ahead of time and then freezing them in muffin tins, suggested the blog Muffin Tin Mania. When it's breakfast time, all you have to do is pop the a few servings of smoothie out of the tin, toss them in your blender and hit the button for a tasty smoothie that will perk up your morning in just minutes. Another option is to slice all the fruits you'll need to make a week's worth of smoothie on your meal prep day and then store the portions in the fridge, which also saves valuable time.
- Embrace the make-ahead-breakfast
If you and mornings just don't get along, you can completely eliminate food prep before you head off to work by embracing the wonders of the make-ahead breakfast. There are so many different morning meals you can create the night before, from overnight oats to mini breakfast frittatas. Just prep it the night - or week - before, set it and hit snooze. Check out this article for some deliciously easy make-ahead breakfast ideas.