The hustle and bustle of starting the school year coupled with the desire to maintain a healthy diet often leads to confusion around how to make it all possible, while still pleasing the picky eaters in your family! But, by following just three simple steps, you can totally crush it at meal prep each week, making both you and your family members happy, healthy and whole all year. Here's where to start:1. Ask yourself and your family what you actually want to eat!
This is so important in making meal prep enjoyable and is especially worthwhile when you and your loved ones look forward to eating the food you prep. We're fortunate to have so many healthy ingredients to choose from, so we can be a little picky about the meals we choose to make.
Start by asking your family the following questions before your grocery haul and prep period:
- What foods are you craving this week? Divide into the following categories: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, sweet/savory snacks.
- Do you need breakfasts on-the-go this week?
- Does anyone need a packed lunch?
- What will the weather be like? Lighter, refreshing meals can make us feel more energized in the warmer months, whereas hearty stews and stir-fry meals are more crave-worthy in the cooler months.
- What’s in season? Eating produce in season is often more flavorful and affordable.
Use what you learn from the questions asked above to come up with some healthy and satisfying recipes that will please everyone's palate. A good place to start is the Navitas Organics recipe section for a variety of delicious breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, and dessert options to choose from!
A Simple Grocery Shopping Guideline:
- Buy 2-3 types of fruits and vegetables that require no prep to snack on (except washing) – berries, apples, peaches, and bananas are easy-to-eat fruit options. Veggies like carrot sticks, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and celery are also simple to grab and can be paired with a nourishing dip.
- Purchase 2-3 types of nuts and seeds. Cashews, walnuts and almonds are great for snacking on and/or incorporating into meals for some crunch and flavor. A simple recipe to get you started is this Cashew Queso, which makes the best dipping sauce for vegetables, tortilla chips or to pair with a protein.
Protein: For plant-based proteins, I find tempeh, tofu, lentils, beans, and Navitas Organics Essential Blends to be the most versatile.
- Tip: Want to sneak more protein in without extra cooking? The Protein & Greens Essential Blend tastes delicious mixed into hummus and the Vanilla & Greens Essential Blend provides the perfect sweetness when mixed into almond butter – both of these are great for dipping or adding into savory or sweet sandwiches, respectively.
- Greens: If you’re short on time, purchasing precut greens can be a major helping hand in packing lunches or getting dinner on the table.
- Dried Seasonings: Stocking up on dried seasonings is the secret to meal prepping! With a few varieties of seasonings, you can diversify the taste of your vegetables, proteins, and sauces to savor different flavors of the world. Adding seasoning is also a great way to cook with less salt because the food will be more flavorful, which is especially useful if anyone in your family is managing hypertension.
- Italian-inspired: Oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, pepper
- Mexican-inspired: Chili powder, chipotle powder, cumin, garlic, oregano, cinnamon
- Mediterranean: Cumin, coriander, Turmeric, paprika
When doing your grocery shopping, make sure to stock up on the storage equipment you need in your household. Glass containers with lids are usually the best options as they reheat well and can even make for great lunch containers. Mason jars are also useful to store sauces, soups, breakfast parfaits, and on-the-go snacks.
3. Get organized, comfortable, and have fun cooking!
Cooking for the week or next few days might seem stressful, but you got this, and it can actually be enjoyable! These tips will help organize your meal prep (and maintain your sanity):
- Write a list of everything you want to prep/cook and check items off as you finish them.
- Clump your meal prep items together. For instance, if you’re preheating the oven, prep all of the items that will go into the oven first so they can be ready to bake. If you’re planning on roasting vegetables or baking muffins, prep those first so they are ready to go. When it comes to the stove, you may want to boil a dozen eggs, while cooking lentils, and/or searing chicken or tempeh so your attention can be in that area all at once.
- Clean as you go! Cleaning up little by little helps prevent the mess from becoming too overwhelming. Plus, this gives you better oversight of what you’re cooking or have left to cook.
- Have FUN and get the whole family involved! Since you will be cooking foods that everyone loves, give them more reason to get excited about what is being prepared. Put on your comfy clothes, turn up the music, and spend time with your people making delicious food!
Have a meal prep tip of your own? Share it in comments below!Written by Alma Akras, RN from alittledough.com // Instagram: @alittledough.eats